From listening to debate over voter ID, you might get the idea that there's something wrong with voting twice. Or that if a guy is willing to make the drive from Chicago to vote in a Sconnie election, we apparently shouldn't applaud him for taking an interest in the affairs of our great state.
And yet it's perfectly fine for that same FIB to send money to our politicians. Ideally, if you're a candidate for public office in Wisconsin, you won't receive too large a share of their contributions from out-of-state because you want to be able to brag about your "grassroots support" in-district or in-state. But it's not like you're going to return the checks coming in from George Soros or Charles Koch either.
Case and point: Last year, Patrick McIheren, the guy the Journal Sentinel used to pay to be a GOP spokesperson, revealed a terrible secret about a young Democratic Assembly candidate, Dana Schultz. Not only had Schultz apparently dissed on her rural roots while a student at UW-Milwaukee, but candidate Schultz had only received 30% of her contributions from in-district. "Doesn't it look bad having fundraisers in Madison for a candidate from Up North," I asked a Dem activist. "You try raising money in that district," he responded. "It's impossible.
When looking for bucks, the Dems have Madison and the Republicans have Waukesha. That's just the way it works. The result: The entire state is now ruled by Waukesha values.
In the midst of the many byzantine schemes to regulate campaign finance, here's a rather simple proposal: Bar contributions from non-voters. If you can't vote for the candidate, you shouldn't be allowed to contribute to him.
Come on. Don't be naive. A measly vote is nothing compared to a $10,000 contribution to a gubernatorial candidate. It wouldn't completely halt out-of-district influence in elections. People willing to take the initiative could still go knock on doors away from home. But at least then you'd have to explain that New York accent to the people you're trying to influence in Oshkosh.
The counter-argument: But people have an interest in elections all over the country. We are all affected by a Congressional race in Texas or a mayoral race in New York.
And yet we can't vote in those elections. So why should we be able to contribute?
As the recalls demonstrate, restricting the finance of the actual campaigns may accomplish very little in the grand scheme of things. The third party groups are increasingly running the show, and stemming the flow of out-of-state money to them would be much harder legally. But the keeping Wisconsin campaigns Wisconsin-funded would be an important symbolic step towards turning the elections over to the voters of the state, rather than wealthy interest groups.
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