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To begin with let me, in the interest of full disclosure, note that my esteemed debating partner recently chaired a workshop of the City Ethics Commission where he and I — and others — discussed these issues. It was, I believe, one of the more informative and cogent discussions which brought to the fore the many sides of these issues. So we have been here before.
Let me start this morning by discussing two statements made by my esteemed debating partner:
No. 1, Gil says:
The theory underlying these limits is that a contributor who provides a high percentage of an individual candidate’s campaign war chest will likely have a big seat at the policy table if that candidate is elected. And even if that donor does not have actual influence, the fact of large contributions creates an appearance of influence that undermines public confidence in the democratic process.
If that is the theory behind limits, then they are a total failure. Does anyone seriously believe, for example, that there are not people today who provide high percentages of a candidate’s war chest by the simple expedient of holding a fundraiser or contributing big sums to political parties for a particular candidate?
I have not seen any comments yet as I write this but I would be willing to bet any amount that people will comment that today’s system is rife with corruption and the influence of money. So what has contribution limits accomplished?
No. 2, Gil says:
“… no limits assumes the people will have a choice between a candidate who takes large amounts of money from the few and a candidate who isn’t as dependent on wealthy donors. I am not convinced we would see that. Indeed, more likely, we would have to choose between two candidates who are funded by opposing special interests and perhaps a third under-funded candidate we would never hear from.
I disagree. No limits does not assume people will have a choice between one candidate who takes large amounts from a few and a candidate who isn’t as dependent on wealthy donors. No limits does assume that in some cases, that will be the matchup. In other cases it would be two well funded candidates; in other cases it will be two candidates not well funded at all. And if it is two wealthy candidates, so what? As long as people know who is putting money into the campaigns n which they do not know now under the current system n the public and the body politic is well served.
I would point out, as I have so often and as I have demonstrated in more than one election, that a candidate does not need the most money. The candidate just needs enough money and taking off artificial contribution limits will level the playing field.
— JOHN KERN