Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Exercise in Futility

The quote from Council Member Falcone this morning made me wonder whether she really thought campaign finance reform in the city is really just a "great exercise" in futility. Maybe she meant exercise in democracy...maybe she thinks the committee members are just going to run around the block a few times...

The truth is that she is right -- it does "cost a lot of money to buy the media and put the mail out" and I have to hand it to her for doing an excellent job at raising more than enough money to win reelection last fall. If she is better at it than others, for instance, why shouldn't she win?

If you are a good fundraiser should you be held back from raising as much or more than you need? Why should the playing field be made level when, in terms of campaign and fundraising prowess, it really isn't. Is there an "invisible hand" in campaigns that is like the free market and pushes the best candidates to the top? They raise the money and get the most votes so they should win, right? We will be watching this one closely...


Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

I saw this meeting on TV. She did vote yes, but the remarks by Falcone were a bit condescending (in the old style of Iya), perhaps because she will have no trouble raising $100K for her likely run at becoming Mayor in 2009.

If Iya has to limit finances to what the challengers also have for money, she is at a disadvantage without Mario and his large family to help her. Sometimes the simple explanation is the correct one.

Of course, the comments here no doubt will fill up with the tired old arguments about outside expenditures taking over the debate and issues if campaign finance limits exist, and complain about contributions by labor unions versus corporate interests and the like, especially as argued as anonymous commenting by people in the business of raising election campaign money and, more importantly, spending it with a big piece of the action (money) skimmed off for themselves.

Election campaigns are a big business, with winners and losers. Those destined to lose will oppose finance reform, if, for any reason, because they reap huge personal financial gain by the heavy spending on elections.

In the long run, what will be really interesting is how independent expenditures will evolve to fill in the "gap" of spending that will be cut off because candiates no longer will be able to spend directly.

Will local candidates in 2009, or even 2007, then renounce the unregulated, "independent" message or "free speech" of spin and lies and distortion that grow to dominate the election advertising in the New Age of Reformation for local election finance????

When spending by independent expenditure groups starts to take over the advertising, will news and political analysis shift towards how candidates respond or comment on that advertising, or even renounce those ads????

3/22/2006 9:08 AM  
Blogger First District Truthteller said...

Ah yes it is back to the Iya Bashing that Das'crew failed to deliver Channing at Iya's expense they come after her because Mario Borgatello supports her. As if he gave enough money to buy the election. Right.

3/22/2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Clearly Mario didn't but FDS brought up some interesting points that we should be discussing -- what about the effect of reform on independent expenditure groups? Let's veer towards the issues....

3/22/2006 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would really be an important part of any reform would be the rolling back of term limits. It is a failed policy resulting in bad government especially at the State level. At the Council level it has people checking the calendar for the next step and posturing for their next post. Das is a prime example, get to Supervisor and when Pedro times out he is poised for Assembly. Iya and Helene will soon be readying themselves for Mayor. It was a fad that hasn't produced the desired effects.

3/22/2006 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't heard anyone talk about the money Das raised during the most recent City Council race allegedly for the purpose of promoting "his" candidates Channing and House. Now we know why he had all those photos taken from Elings Park with Veronica meadows area in the background. [well some of us figured it out then]
When the Monday morning quarterbacks look back on the 2nd District race, will they look back that far? Creative financing is but one more way the savvy professional candidates pad their pockets while dancing around the "clean campaign" laws.

3/22/2006 8:25 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

Nice TRUTHINESS in there about contributions by Mr. Borgatini. [bonus points for anyone who knows that name reference, who said and where]

Should the example instead have been about Bill Levy and all the contributions by him, his parters, and all their spouses????

And, when losing the argument about influence peddling with campaign donations, just blame term limits instead... anything BUT the corrupting power of money to get elected and how it taints.

Do we really need City Councilmembers more than 8 years there? I know all about the local cult of "Mayor for Life Harriet" but her followers really are not that plenty.

Das is running for Supervisor.

3/22/2006 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Das support's campaign limits and public financing of local campaigns. He feels that would take the corruption out of the process.

3/23/2006 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is that why Das accepted a 25,000 check from a billionaire in the first district who has an open appeal with the COunty? Peter Sperling.Case No.: 05CUP-00000-00046

3/23/2006 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the N-P article this morning on Secord leading 2nd District fundraising. Williams is already touting the $$ he raised last year (allegedly to support Channing and House) as evidence of his 'second place' status as fundraiser in this campaign. Where would THIS action fit in the so-called clean campaign laws??

3/24/2006 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, somebody noticed! The Council Campaign was the kickoff for Das's second district race. Even as he denied it the whole way through. Poor Dianne Channing was kicked to the curb as the Das express rolled through. The money he raised for the Council race was used to finance his vanity piece with the glam shot overlooking the "pristine" Las Positas Valley. The other people in the shot were window dressing. Reform? Are you kidding, watch that money roll in from Sacramento.

3/24/2006 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

These comments here, anonymous or not, do collectively outline some of the tricky issues with election funding reform in City of Santa Barbara. However, challenging issues, procedurally or legally, hardly are reason enough to surrender election campaign funding to labor unions, corporate interests, and land developers as the gatekeepers of free speech and the volumetric access that City Council candidates have to the body politic.

Just in this string of comments, some of the heating issues are:

+ advantages of incumbency and should challengers get some kind of bonus advantage
+ independent, non-candidate expenditures from outide groups
+ transfer of funds from one candidate or incumbent to another candidate
+ rolling over of funds from one campaign to another, such as Council to Supervisor
+ renouncement of independent expenditures, even by a candidate for whom the expenditure supposedly benefits
+ "creative financing" versus actual access for more candidates, per the examples from the Arizona cities where more and poorer candidates could participate and actually get elected
+ conflicts of interest when campaign contributors later are subject to a decision by the recipient of those funds
+ (a new one) alternative public finance of elections where the City directly pays for non-commercial "advertising" with equal time or space for each qualified candidate, such as time on Channel 17 or City TV channel 18, or other non-commercial media; this would allow more access for the money instead of buying time on commercial TV, for instance.

Bashing in Das or Iya is getting a bit tiring and repetitive, and increasingly off-point for the subject of the blog posting. Why not actually discuss the actual issues on why or why not local election funding reform is feasible? The City Council now has a committee to investigate the feasibility, so offer some points or issues that should be in the mix of issues considered.

3/25/2006 11:40 AM  

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