Don't Worry, I Said Hey/ Baby I Got Your Money


Katie Schlieper at takes issue with my column on the mercy killing of public financing.

He trots out the beaten horse of Howard Dean's presidential campaign as proof that the internet provides an effective counterbalance to any iniquity inherent to privately financed elections.

True, then I trot out the much livelier horse of Jim Webb's Senate campaign. And if the article had been filed a few weeks later I could have flogged Barack Obama's incredible 100,000-donor campaign. Anyone from any of those campaigns could tell you that their need to reach out to, and appeal to, the maximum number of voters, had a profound effect on what they focused on in their campaigns.

It takes 96 $25 small-dollar contributors to equal one big-dollar contributor giving the maximum $2,400 contribution in the presidential primary. Is a presidential candidate (already spending half her day fundraising) going to make 96 individual thank you calls, and take 5 minutes to ask each what their concerns are? Or is she going to make one call to that $2,400 giver and take five minutes with him?

First, it's a maximum $2300 contribution. Second, what does Schlieper think would happen in a completely public system? Candidates would flip open a phone book and call the first people in Akron with last names starting with "G"? Of course not. If they could draw on a cornucopia of public funds they'd respond to either 1) no one or 2) a random selection of letter-writers and visitors to their offices.

A privately financed campaign system makes some voters more valuable than others, favors the speech and concerns of a small group of people over those of the vast majority of our population.

I'm still not sure how public financing changes that. Some voters live closer to Washington, DC than others. Some are faster letter-writers. Some will write letters that get read by a communications director, and some will get read by the summer intern who's closing windows to IM with the hawt guy in John Boehner's office. Some will have a cousin who dated that intern's best friend. Some, sadly, will not. The only way that anyone can make sure they get noticed is by sending or withholding the money that politicians need to run their campaigns. It's the model of fairness.