The Case of Mike Doyle: Representative Government as a Sham & Delusion?
Many libertarians (yes, Virginia, there are a few out there) dislike limitations on campaign financing because they believe, perhaps correctly, that it's a form of restriction on free speech. Many conservatives dislike finance reform because they believe -- incorrectly -- in the myth of the "rich Republicans" who will bail out GOP candidates.
In many races for the House or the Senate Democrats far outspend their Republican opponents.
The current system mainly serves to entrench politicians, some of whom would serve the country better if they were spending eternity in a trench six feet deep.
Some readers have been shocked by the fact that John Murtha spent well over $3,000,000 in his campaign against Diana Lynn Irey. He out-spent her by much more than three-to-one.
If Diana had had $1.854 million rather than $854,000 would she have won. Almost certainly, she would have because she could have done the saturation TV advertising necessary to defeat a powerful incumbent.
But she didn't have the big bucks.
So, here was the campaign: he was corrupt, and she was honest; he was cynical, and she was idealistic; he was a captive of the Beltway, and she was a true daughter of Pennsylvania; he was the same old political stench, and she was a breath of fresh air.
And, in a variation on an old W. F. Buckley line, "he was tall, and she was short; he was fat, and she was thin."
And he won. He buried her in his huge pile of money.
In the current system, where businesses and unions like give money to incumbents, particularly those on powerful committees, the incumbents win. 2006 was not a normal year, obviously, but more than 90% of incumbents still won. Nationwide, not a single Democrat incumbent lost -- not the one (Alcee Hastings) impeached as a federal judge, not the one (Howard Jefferson) with $90,000 in his freezer, not the one (Murtha) who traded his votes to the highest bidder.
Even in races where the incumbents have no money and no hope of getting more than a few votes, the incumbents are flush with cash.
Take Democrat Mike Doyle, an amiable dolt from PA's 14th District who, in 2004, retained his congressional seat in a race against . . . nobody. With no opponent, Doyle collared a Saddam-like 100% of the vote.
Mikes's a big force on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, so apparently PACs ($398,000 in 2004) and individuals ($271,000 in 2004) just love to send him money, race or no race.
In his 2004 "campaign," Doyle rasied more than $670,000. On his campaign, he spent almost $746,000 -- not much less than Diana L. Irey expended in a real race against a real person, Jack Murtha. Doyle ended up 2004 with a big chunk of cash left over.
How do you spend three-quarters of a million when you have nobody to spend it against? Mike's not telling.
How did Mike do in 2006? This time he had opposition, someone named Titus North, representing the ever-popular "Green" Party.
No Democrat challenged Doyle in the primary, and in the general election he had no Republican opposition. The last time Doyle faced a Republican was 2000, and that gentleman got only 31% of the vote.
At one point in 2006, Doyle indicated that he liked it better when he had "competition," such as North.
Some competition. North's declared contributions for the race totaled an impressive zero dollars and zero cents. Mike Doyle's campaign raised more $900,000+, spent $800,000+, and kept around a quarter-million for some future electoral "rainy day."
To Titus North's everlasting credit, he chalked up 10% of the vote. If he tries again, we can almost guarantee he'll get 11%.
This kind of thing goes on all over the country. Although Doyle is Caucasian, his heavy funding and lack of opposition exemplifies the situation with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, almost all of whom waltz their way through one election after another.
In the next election (2008), there will be around 210 Democrats who have safe seats in the House. It takes 218 to control that chamber of Congress, so Republicans don't have a great chance of regaining the House.
Most Americans don't realize this is the situation. They believe they're going out to vote for candidates who are in contested races.
I don't know how to reform campaign finance. What I do know is that if such reform doesn't take place, then our "representative government" is at least a sham, if not a delusion.