Be sure to read today’s op-ed piece in the “DM Register” by Barb Kalbach. Also, leave a comment to show your support. It’s pretty clear where our Democrat Leaders stand on VOICE and why. They need to be held accountable for this bill. Between VOICE and CAFO, should both of these bills die in committee, could leave a black stain on the new Dem. Majority’s first session.
Pass public financing for Iowa campaigns
By BARB KALBACH
In his leadership position, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal raises exorbitant amounts of cash and doles it out to candidates as he sees fit.
According to the Institute on Money in State Politics, Gronstal raised more than $500,000 in the 2006 election cycle. More than 75 percent of the money raised for his committee during that period, $426,250, was contributed to the Iowa Democratic Party.
Gronstal’s ability to raise and allocate campaign cash is how he retains his power and influence in the Senate. He raised more money than any Senate candidate in the 2006 cycle – and he wasn’t up for re-election.
Now Gronstal and his colleagues are going to create a 527 committee, named for its designation in the IRS tax code. A 527 is created primarily to influence elections through the use of “issue advocacy” ads that avoid regulation by the Federal Election Commission. These groups raise practically unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations. Since a 527 is not required to report its source of funds to the FEC, the industries and interests giving money to these groups are seldom disclosed.
Gronstal told the Register that he doesn’t approve of 527s, but said, “Even though I don’t necessarily like the rules, I’ll play by the rules as effectively as my competitors.” The competitor he’s referring to is Rep. Christopher Rants, the House Republican leader who has successfully used his Iowa Leadership Council to raise large amounts of money from the beer, tobacco and car-title loan industries, among others.
Our elections don’t have to be this way – high-stakes shoot-outs between wealthy interests. A bill in the Legislature, modeled on the successful Clean Elections programs in seven states and two municipalities, puts the concerns of voters ahead of well-heeled special interests.
Called the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections Act, or VOICE, the bill is championed by Rep. Pam Jochum and Sen. Mike Connolly. VOICE would implement a system of public financing for legislative and statewide campaigns.
Modeled on successful systems in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina, the VOICE Act would provide public funds sufficient to run a competitive campaign to candidates who qualify by showing broad-based community support. That would require collecting a set number of $5 donations. Once qualified, VOICE candidates must agree to adhere to strict spending limits and forgo all private fundraising.
As of January 2007, more than 200 elected officials across the country hold office as a result of a Clean Elections system, including 84 percent of the Maine Legislature and nine of 11 statewide officials in Arizona. Gov. Janet Napolitano has used the system for both of her gubernatorial campaigns.
Clean Elections is also taking hold on the national stage. Last month, bipartisan legislation called the Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa. It would bring full public financing of elections to all congressional races.
Should the VOICE Act bring this opportunity to Iowa, Gronstal and others could spend their time focusing on the concerns and issues that matter to voters instead of dialing for dollars and courting big-money contributors to fill both their candidate and 527 campaign accounts.
BARB KALBACH is president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.Continue Reading...