(I think this is #2, anyway.)
First off, I love how public financing of elections is considered to be "clean", as if people spending their own money is somehow "dirty". The whole notion that there's even a problem with campaign spending is absurd, considering that Americans spend about as much on federal elections each election cycle as we do on Barbie dolls. As Edward H. Crane of the Cato Institute argued before the Senate in 1997,
Why is it that Donald Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, or Gary Trudeau, the liberal cartoonist, can lavish virtually millions of dollars of support toward a candidate they support or against a candidate they oppose? And is it bad that they can do so? Of course not. They are part of a healthy open democracy, whether one agrees with them or not. If the answer is that it is because they are in the media and are therefore protected by the First Amendment that they can employ massive resources for and against candidates, then we are misreading the First Amendment. The First Amendment applies to everyone in this room and, indeed, everyone in this country. The media do not have rights that the rest of us don't have.Limits on monetary expenditures are limits on speech. Pure and simple. Spin it any way you like, but by prohibiting a person from spending money to support a candidate you are severely limiting their ability to speak on behalf of their candidate -- speech requires spending money -- and no speech is more important than political speech.
More importantly, the so-called solutions that are being proposed by advocates of campaign finance reform address essentially nonexistent problems. Yesterday USA Today, a great champion (as is most of the major media) of campaign finance reform, breathlessly reported that $260 million had been raised through "soft dollar" contributions in 1996. Let's see, isn't that about $1 per American? For this we want to infringe our rights to spend money as we see fit to promote political views we hold? Americans spend about as much on Barbie dolls each election cycle as we do on federal elections. Who are the self-appointed arbiters of American politics to say what is too little, enough, or too much to be spent on politics?
Bubba at Southpaw gets to the heart of the matter:
I realize there are cogent arguments against such public funding, but I think we all admit that the root of problems in politics is political favors. Common sense and human nature makes it naive for anyone to think that a politician won't feel beholden to his or her campaign donors.But he misses the correct solution. Rather than limiting speech, why not limit the power of the government to perform political favors? And how could that be accomplished? By limiting the power of government, period.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: as long as the government has the power to take money from one person and give it to someone else, people are going to find ways to influence politicians and get special favors. The only way to eliminate corruption in government is to drastically reduce the power of the government. No one will want to bribe an official who doesn't have the power to pay back the bribe with political favors.
What's particularly disturbing is that some groups, like Democracy Matters, are trying to change election laws with the express purpose of influencing the results of elections.
Advocates of public financing of elections have also argued that such a system would increase the number and diversity of candidates for office. And indeed that is precisely what has happened in Arizona. The Clean Elections Institute data show that there are more candidates running for office than before the implementation of the new system, and among these candidates are increased numbers of women and minorities.I don't care how many people of any particular group run for office or get elected to office, and changing election laws to give advantages to certain groups over others is, frankly, outrageous. Affirmative action was a bad idea for business and education, and it's certainly a bad idea for the democratic process. Absent public financing no one is locked out from an election because of their race, gender, religion, or anything else (except age for the young, and nation of birth for Presidential campaigns). If we truly want a nondiscriminatory society we need to realize that inequalities are inevitable when people are allowed to exercise their own free will.
With all of this true, it is hard to believe that in a few years time the substance of Arizona politics will not change as well. On one hand traditionally under-represented groups will possess a stronger voice in the legislature and in the executive branch. On the other hand the influence of private money on the political process will be reduced. It is too early to claim victory, but the evidence to date strong suggests that the Democracy Matters tag line - Change Elections, Change America - may well correspond to what happens when elections are publicly funded.