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To be sure you understand my knowledge base, I should disclose that, in my past, I have made fairly substantial campaign contributions and engaged in fundraising efforts for various candidates. At the time, I knew I could call the candidates who benefited from my contributions and/or fundraising efforts and usually get a phone call back. On occasion, I was patched through directly to the officeholder. I’d like to think every citizen would receive this level of responsiveness, but I doubt that is the case. There is nothing illegal or inherently wrong about this, but the fact is that big fundraisers and big donors get better access and potentially more influence. Personally, I would like to avoid creating situations that increase this possibility.
John writes: “More influence is gained by raising money than simply writing a check. Anybody can write a check. Not everybody can get a roomful of people together to donate money for a candidate. That takes real influence.”
If John is correct, then it seems all the more important for the Ethics Commission and the City Council to require big fundraisers to disclose their activities to the public. Let’s face it, if contribution limits are increased, it could mean that the amounts bundled and delivered by fundraisers will increase in direct proportion. In that case, the appearance that these fundraisers obtain increased access and potentially undue influence with elected officials would be dramatically increased. If the state requires “major donors” to disclose their campaign contributions, perhaps the city should require “major fundraisers” to disclose their activities.
Ultimately, it appears John agrees at some level that those that provide large sums of money (directly or otherwise) to candidates garner some influence. To me this means we should both limit the ability of individuals to directly contribute to some reasonable number and increase disclosure requirements all around.
Regarding public finance … My position on contribution limits applies regardless of whether a public finance system is in place. I believe, however, that a public finance system would improve the quality of candidates, and competition always increases quality in my book. Under a public financing system, candidates could choose to accept public dollars or instead opt out of that system and raise their own money. If they chose to go through the public financing system, there would have to be a qualification threshold to ensure that candidates have a base of support before receiving public funds. Give the people the choice of which candidates to support, test it for ten years, and see if it helps restore the public’s confidence in the electoral process.
— GIL CABRERA