Money doesn't matter

Politics + Other Mistakes  
By AL DIAMON  |  June 13, 2013

We all know what's wrong with state government. It doesn't work because of:

Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, authoritarians, libertines, Bible thumpers, atheists, theocrats, anarchists, pinkos, red-baiters, blue dogs, yellow dogs, communists, fascists, cost cutters, free spenders, left-wing wackos, right-wing kooks, right-to-lifers, right-to-choosers, heterosexuals, homosexuals, immigrants, natives, fat cats, lazy dogs, good old boys, radical feminists, gun haters, gun lovers, one worlders, local controllers, intellectual elitists, backwoods hicks, 1 percenters, 99 percenters, labor, management, the employed, the unemployed, the under-employed, the over-burdened, environmentalists, industrialists, militants, peaceniks, senior citizens, baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, bleeding hearts, and cutthroats.

In other words, special interests.

By which I mean us.

These insidious forces have assumed control of every aspect of the Legislature, the governor's office, and the courts, thanks to a subversive process called representative democracy. Under this misguided system, like-minded people can join together to support candidates who agree with their views, thereby allowing these single-issue constituencies to manipulate powerless politicians and impose their narrow agendas on the rest of us.

Or, as is more often the case, not.

For instance, according to a new report from Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, the tobacco industry spent $539,000 to influence state elections between 2000 and 2012. That comes to an average of $77,000 per election, or about 1 percent of what was spent on all the 2012 state campaigns.

Clearly, this is why smoking is allowed everywhere, and is mandatory in most places, including elementary schools.

Proponents of campaign-finance reform (who, I hasten to point out, can in no way be characterized as a special interest, because their aims are entirely altruistic) claim this influx of tobacco money is one of the reasons Maine has failed for several years to raise the tax on cigarettes. Scientific studies undoubtedly show that reluctance to raise taxes is a lmost always the result of minuscule donations from odious corporate entities.

Of course, the cancer causers weren't the only ones pouring money into Maine elections. During the past dozen years, smoking opponents spent $118,000 in contributions. But Maine Citizens doesn't seem all that concerned about that money, possibly because it's barely enough to buy a couple of state representatives and a box of nicotine patches.

In last year's legislative campaigns, outside groups wrote checks for $3.6 million, which is slightly more than spending by all the candidates combined. In Yarmouth, independent state Senator Richard Woodbury, a publicly funded candidate, was outspent six to one by independent committees supporting his Republican rival. This heavy influx of unregulated spending resulted in Woodbury having to work a little bit harder (and getting some help from his own outsiders). He won by nearly 6 percentage points.

That's right. The big money resulted in the race coming out just about the way it would have if there hadn't been any.

In Bangor, a record amount of more than $450,000 in independent expenditures turned what has traditionally been a Democratic state Senate seat back into a Democratic state Senate seat. Political experts attributed this to the presence of more Democratic than Republican voters and the unpopularity of the GOP governor, whose policies were often backed by the incumbent senator.

Shockingly, this might be an example of the public being influenced by so-called issues.

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Related: Mean everything to nothing, How Brown won, Bay State's top lobbyists, More more >
  Topics: The Editorial Page , state government
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