Drop big-money focus, look for more small stuff, reformer says
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[April 05, 2014]
SPRINGFIELD — As another set of limits on
giving money to political candidates fails the constitutional test, one
campaign finance reformer says it's time to look elsewhere.
CASH MONEY: Redfield says campaign finance reformers need to move past a
focus on caps.
"You need to figure out ways to get more individual donors, with small
contributions, into the systems," said political science professor Kent
Redfield of the University of Illinois at Springfield. "Rather than assuming
that, somehow, you can build a firewall between private money and public
Redfield said a firewall was never likely and is all but impossible now that
the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down an overall cap on campaign donations.
Redfield has written two books on campaign finance in Illinois and has
served as the director of the Sunshine Project, campaign finance reform
Redfield said the focus need to shift from caps and limits to real
"(U.S. senators) and candidates for the Senate, they're not required to file
their campaign finance reports electronically," Redfield said. "The Federal
Elections Commission then has to input them into a database so (voters) can
get at them electronically."
Redfield said the technology is there, "it's just a matter of political
Instant and complete transparency, Redfield said, would give voters the
information they need: Is a candidate being bought or controlled by a
campaign donor or outside interest.
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"If you're telling me that Joe Blow is a terrible
candidate, it might make a difference to me if the one telling me
that is a big labor union or a big oil company," Redfield said.
Other reform groups in Illinois say caps are absolutely needed.
Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's executive director, David
Melton, says the latest decision from the nation's high court is on
par with decisions on slavery.
"This decision is sure to skew the focus of congressional candidates
towards the interests of the ultra-wealthy in this country and away
from the concerns of its ordinary citizens," Melton said in a
statement. "The majority's failure to acknowledge this fact is
likely to one-day rank with the court's assumption in (Plessy) v.
Ferguson that Blacks received ‘separate but equal' treatment under
Jim Crow Laws, in its cluelessness or disingenuity."
But Redfield counters it's folly to focus on getting money out of
the electoral process.
"This may sound strange as someone who identifies as a political
reformer, but I don't think (getting money out) ultimately should be
the goal," Redfield said. "We need very good disclosure, so that
people know what's going on ... And you can match big money with small
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