There ought to be a law

The endless campaign season heats up the next few months as local candidates begin planting lawn signs and the national Democratic double feature intensifies. In some cases candidates are raising record amounts of money, which creates high anxiety for hand-wringing journalists and political idealists. There's too much money in politics, is their popular refrain.

There's too much money in government! That money comes from taxpaying individuals and companies who understand the rules they operate under today can change tomorrow with one vote of the legislature or Congress. When the status quo changes it can mean higher taxes, higher costs due to more regulations, or new restrictions and limits.

For many businesses, one of their fixed costs are political donations. Not so much to buy votes, but to support candidates who share their views. Conventional wisdom in the news media seems to be that elected officials vote not based on their values or beliefs, but how they're instructed to by contributors.

Some Acme township officials wonder if the secretary of state and attorney general should be investigating Meijer for its role in an Acme recall election. After all, the retailer, and family members donated to those state officials' campaigns. Are we to believe that Hank Meijer calls the secretary of state and says, "Hey Terry, don't forget we donated nearly $10,000 to your campaign in the last seven years. You owe us. Now go easy on us, or you know what!"

Do you believe that Attorney General Mike Cox and Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land have any less integrity than, say, a newspaper reporter or editor? How can you trust stories about Meijer in a newspaper that receives ad dollars from Meijer? Or maybe they don't get any ad dollars from Meijer, but they get a load from Sam Walton. Maybe he's pulling the strings. Are people who go into journalism more trustworthy than people who run for office?

What if Joe Senator introduced a bill that would require newspapers to list its advertisers and the amount they spend in each edition? I'll bet the newspaper industry would invest a few bucks to fight that proposal, maybe even offer financial support for candidates who oppose the idea. Or could the newspaper industry just buy the votes to kill the bill? They give each representative who favors the Newspaper Disclosure Bill five-hundred bucks to vote against it. Isn't that how it works? I don't think so.

If campaign donations are made to ensure a particular outcome, then why don't more contributors just spread the wealth to every member of the legislature? Big Tobacco could spend a few hundred thousand dollars to create a law that would allow smoking in restaurants. Maybe for enough money they could make smoking required in Michigan restaurants!

Campaign donations are made by individuals, business owners, industry associations, labor unions, professional associations and non-profit groups on a voluntary basis. Why??? Because the tentacles of government are intertwined in every aspect of our everyday life, and any change in policy or new law will affect somebody's bottom line. Example: smoking in restaurants. If you don't like smoke around your meal, go to one of the many restaurants that offer a non-smoking atmosphere. Or, if you don't smoke, don't work in restaurants that cater to heavy smokers. Under this scenario, there is no reason for anyone to donate money to political candidates.

By seeking a government-mandated ban on smoking you threaten the livelihood of some restaurant owners, and take away the freedom they have to make their own rules in that area. An issue has been created, and lawmakers must take a side. To prevent unwanted change restaurateurs choose to support a particular candidate. Public health groups must raise money from their supporters in order to donate to their candidate. Now we have money in politics! Multiply this a few hundred times, and that explains why we have so much money in politics.

It's not right. We need a new law.