Iowa political experts are predicting record-breaking campaign spending for the fall elections. That’s renewing the debate over campaign finance reform. State Representative Pam Jochum says it’s time for reform. The Dubuque Democrat says you can calculate the cost of each vote cast in a race by looking at the campaign spending that preceded it.
In 1998, she says Iowa’s candidates in the legislative and governor’s race spent fifteen-point-nine-Million dollars running for office. Jochum says that comes out to sixteen- dollars-78-cents a vote in 1998. An average house race cost 21-thousand, she says, and a state senate seat 26-thousand. By 2002 that figure had tripled.
Jochum is pushing for legislation that would give public campaign financing to any candidate who promised to refuse money from political action committees or individual donations. She says that would cost every Iowan about five-dollars-30-cents a year. Jochum asks, “How much [tax] money are we spending…on tax breaks that favor a certain group of people?” She says that’s a lot more than it would cost to spend the five-dollars a year to “get rid of all special-interest money and we become real public servants again.”
Jochum says right now there are no limits on how much money a legislative candidate can raise. But that’s not a negative to every observer. The political director for the Republican Governor’s Association, Gentry Collins, says in other states where contributions are capped, the money just goes to third party organizations like “Move On-dot-org” or the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”
Collins says it’s better to have the money going directly to the candidate. Collins says it keeps responsibility with the campaign for the way money’s raised and spent as well as “the tone and tenor” of the campaign. He says it’d prevent a candidate from claiming to have run a clean campaign while outside groups used the money they raised to trash his opponent. The Republicans and Democrats running for Congress in Iowa’s first district have already raised campaign funds that total more than two-Million dollars.
Just last week GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle reported raising more than a million dollars at a single fundraiser where President Bush appeared on his behalf. Collins says Iowa is “an extraordinarily competitive state,” saying each of the last two presidential elections were decided by less than half a percentage point. He says there’s been big growth in “independent-expenditure” organizations and he thinks there are more that support Democrats than Republicans so Nussle has to be prepared for that.
Collins, who is former Executive Director of the Iowa Republican Party, says he expects the governor’s race alone to cost sixteen-million dollars. Collins says capping contributions at the federal level has not stopped corruption in Washington, D.C. so he says Iowa should avoid the temptation to try a simplistic fix.