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I have to agree with John’s first comment. Last week’s workshop was one of the most helpful and informative discussions I have seen to date on this issue.

Gil Cabrera

The Ethics Commission asked folks of all stripes to join a less formal atmosphere where, in public, we all discussed the numerous issues. I learned a lot and have asked Commission staff to include these informal public discussions in future policy evaluations. Imagine policy being developed after a thoughtful and respectful discussion of all parties involved — what a crazy concept.

I also agree that the goals of contribution limits have not been fully realized. This is partly because of individual and organizational First Amendment rights equating political speech with spending money that John addressed. But, influence has been defused.

Say what you will, the fact is a wealthy individual has to get a lot of her friends to contribute money under a contribution limit system thereby limiting one’s ability to affect politics by herself. This is not a bad thing. Are our limits so low that elected officials are spending too much time raising money and as a result they rely a bit too much on parties and independent expenditures? Absolutely, but eliminating limits isn’t the solution and will only move influence from groups back directly to smaller subset of wealthy individuals.

And you are right John, money doesn’t guarantee victory, but as I said with influence and happiness, money sure does get you pretty far down the path. I suspect blowing open contribution limits will leave us mostly with viable candidates that are either independently wealthy or have friends (or organizations) with lots of money — not exactly a level playing field and not very different from our current situation.

Personally, I think updating the contribution limits and disclosure requirements only solves part of the problem: that candidates are spending too much time fundraising and as such rely more on parties and independent expenditures. Complete reform has to include a voluntary and competitive public finance system that will give candidates and the people the choice between privately funded candidates and publicly funded candidates.

— GIL CABRERA

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