Every time I hear or read about campaign finance reform on the radio, TV or in a major circulation newspaper, it annoys me to no end. With tears flowing down the reporters cheeks, we are told about the shameless efforts to raise money for political campaigns. It never stops. What disturbs me is that more energy goes into reporting and crying over campaign funds than reporting the real issues of a campaign.
If a candidate wants a headline or editorial, all he or she needs to do is, come out for campaign finance reform. The knee jerk reaction of the media is to cover that story over and over again.
Back in 1988, when I ran for the US Senate against the icon, Pat Moynihan, I came out with a position paper every week on important topics. In addition, I held some 200 press conferences and news interviews in a five month period. Guess what? There was little ever reported on what I said about issues. The question repeated over and over again was, "How much money have you raised?" Starting late, the lack of funds was a detriment to my campaign. But, no one in the media really cared about the issues. Isn't that a double standard? What help is the media to an underdog without a lot of money?
That is why every time I hear a new major media call for finance reform, I have to chuckle. The hysteria over reforms overcomes the responsibility the media has to report on campaign issues and the candidates. In other words, because the mainstream media is not responsible, raising money to get a message out becomes a necessity.
Now, you can argue with me that the current presidential primary debates are being covered. And I would agree with you. But, I will bet that if you added up all the ink and air time for finance reform, contributions for China and Buddhist Temples, it would surpass the effort given to reporting in depth on the issues each candidate stands for.
With all of the coverage, polls show that the public is yawning over reforming the system used to finance campaigns. Proof of that is the fact that very few Americans, including me, check off a presidential contribution on income tax returns. Interestingly, there were not enough funds in that account to give to the various presidential candidates this year the amounts qualified for under the federal program. Still, the drum beat goes on and on.
If the media paid more attention to the issues than they do to how much money a candidate has in the bank, society would be much better off and money would not be the centerpiece of campaigns. And the best solution to campaign finance reform is the immediate reporting of all contributions. Scrutinizing who gives would be better than trying to close a never ending series of loopholes.