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Opinion
WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

Smith: How Can The State's Successful Campaign Finance Law Be So Unpopular?

Now would be a really great time to re-invigorate the state's campaign finance law. Don't bet on it. 

Public financing of political campaigns might be one of the most successful good government ideas of all time – and one of the least popular.

The idea was to have the voters – not the fat cats – pay for elections. Candidates and elected officials could stop pandering – or selling out – to those who seek favorable legislation. They’d be free to spend their time passing laws. Imagine that.

The office seekers call the begging for campaign contributions a necessity. Maybe in the current system. But it’s shameful. It’s one of the reasons people say we have the best Congress money can buy.

Public financing would attempt to end the shame. Voters show their determination to end the buying and selling. Those of us willing to seek change would check a box on our tax forms.  

But many people choose not to do that – even after success in places like Maryland. Most recently, governor-elect Larry Hogan took the money and won. Del. Heather Mizeur used the money to make her newcomer campaign a force in the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary.

Democrat Mizeur had $800,000 in public money for her party primary. This was far more than a newcomer might have been able to raise.

Republican Hogan spent a total of $4.3 in the General Election -- $3 million of which came from the public funds.  He was outspent by his opponent, Anthony G. Brown, three to one.

What did the voter get other than a new governor? The fund helped Hogan win without as many IOUs. His win put Maryland in range of a two-party system.  Good for the democracy.

Finally. if governors, senators and representatives were financed by the taxpayer, maybe they would have time to think of the taxpayer’s concerns.    

Imagine that.