Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oregonian finds new flaw in public campaign financing: Incumbents

In its continuing effort to throw out as many babies as necessary to get rid of the bathwater of voter-owned elections, the Oregonian has found a new culprit to pin all of its darkest suspicions on.

Apparently candidates-who-are-up-to-no-good wasn't getting enough traction as the boogie-man, so now they're warning readers about the dangers of (ready?) office-holders and bureaucrats.

There's no question that Fish and Middaugh are both worthy, public-spirited candidates, and we're not suggesting that Middaugh has done anything improper here. But it probably helps to know the system inside City Hall and, as recent events demonstrate, it certainly helps to have friends there.

When you get into the realm of just whose interests are "special" in city elections, it seems pretty clear that the folks who draw up the rules are pretty special themselves. Maybe recognizing that ought to be part of the tweaking process should the city -- and its voters -- ultimately decide against the evidence and keep "voter-owned elections."

(First candidates, then incumbents. First the wannabes, then the insiders. I predict that, through the process of elimination, by mid-summer the O will be locating the root of all public-financing evil in the only group left to point the finger at: Portlanders who don't hold office and aren't running. Mark my words: somehow, everything will be discovered to be their fault.)

No election finance system is un-gameable. The O surely knows this. (Although, curiously, they continue to show no interest in the gaming of campaign financing laws at the national level by John McCain, whom they've endorsed.) Nor will any election finance system eliminate or neutralize the power of connections. The O knows this, too.

Publicly-financed elections simply change the identity of those to whom candidates will be beholden while running and serving, from a small list of unaccountable check-writers to the voters themselves (hoping to subtly stir up "drown it in the bathtub" sentiments, the O prefers to describe them as "taxpayers").

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