October 21, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if elections left, we the voters, with a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and belief in the system as well as its candidates?

I hate to say it, but those days are long gone. Sure you will celebrate if your candidate(s) are successful in November, but in today’s world of negative campaigns and over-the-top advertising, most of us will simply be happy when the election is over so we don’t have to listen to the candidates berating each other. If we believe all the ads, no matter who wins, we are going to have terrible representation in Washington D.C. and in Jefferson City for that matter.

I know this is a broken record, and probably a shocker considering most elections do generate advertising revenue for my business, but once again I would like nothing better than to see campaign advertising eliminated. Why should the guy with the most money or the best dirt-digging investigative team, be the winning candidate. Instead we should replace the hours of paid ads on TV with a few televised debates. Place the transcripts of the debates on the radio and in newspapers and magazines. A short, simple list of where the candidates stand on the decisive issues such as the economy, education, and transportation, would be much more valuable to prospective voters.

Instead we are bombarded with countless ads, which instead of telling us why we should vote for one candidate, insist on telling us why not to vote for the other one.

Did you realize that combined the Bush and Kerry campaigns have more than $600 million in their war chests?

Would it surprise you to learn that as of the October quarterly report filed by each campaign, combined the candidates in our own First District have more than $60,000 to spend on the election?

All of this information is a matter of public record and can be viewed courtesy of the Missouri Ethics Commission, an office of the state government.

I found this information particularly interesting. Just visit the website www.moethics.state.mo.us/Ethics/CampaignFinance and you can read about financial reports filed by campaigns across the state. I must admit, I had selfish reasons the first time I viewed this site. A particular candidate had pledged to run advertising with my paper. Later the candidate indicated the money wasn’t there. Guess they didn’t realize that I could look this info up and see how much they spent advertising everywhere but with me.

Expenditures are just one item on the mandated campaign disclosures that every candidate must submit to the state.

Another interesting piece of public information on these reports is where the money is coming from.

You would be amazed at who is supporting who and how much support they are providing. I was amazed to learn that a big chunk of the money available in the First District, actually comes from outside of the five counties served by the representative.

Sifting through local campaigns is relatively easy compared to state offices. Campaign reports from the Berkowitz and Munzlinger campaigns were relatively simple (10 to 15 pages) compared to the Governor’s race. Matt Blunt’s October report was 234 pages long and Claire McCaskill’s was 274 pages.

Blunt has $1 million plus remaining after spending $1.7 million as of October 14. McCaskill had $600,000 left in the war chest after spending an amazing $3 million up to this point. For those of you who believe in the “shop at home” credo, Blunt spent his $1.5 million on media buys with a Missouri consulting firm while McCaskill placed $2,831,000 in the hands of a consulting firm in Virginia, which managed her advertising.

Like I said, there are lots of interesting little tidbits available for voters that want a little education that goes beyond the mudslinging and mailbox filler that many of these dollars are wasted on.

So after a couple of years the astronauts have to toss out a couple pieces of trash, who can blame them?

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