Vermont Public Radio Commentary
INTRO: Commentator Rick Hubbard thinks Vermont voters lose something important when candidates refuse public financing.
In the 2000 election cycle, gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina qualified for public financing by raising funds from what was at the time, the largest number of individual contributors to a single political candidate in the entire history of the state of Vermont! That totaled about thirty-eight thousand dollars in amounts of less than fifty dollars each from more than sixteen hundred Vermonters.
Governor Dean raised the bar further by qualifying for public financing with small contributions that totaled about sixty-two-thousand dollars from more than twenty-two-hundred Vermonters. But Dean decided to forego public financing and went on to run a million dollar campaign, more than six-hundred-thousand dollars of which were contributed by just one-hundred and thirteen out of state contributors. Dean’s Vermont contributors outnumbered out-of-staters twenty to one, yet out-of-staters provided four and a half times more money.
Money from a wealthy few influences the election process. With more money, candidates can buy bigger megaphones to amplify their voices and drown out those of less-well-funded candidates. This discourages many good candidates who lack either the money or wealthy contacts. That gives us fewer choices.
Unfortunately, Vermont’s present law provides much less campaign money than is needed to run a competitive race. That’s probably why current candidates Shumlin, Racine, Douglas and Hogan have all recently decided it’s in their interest to raise campaign contributions privately. It’s also easy to mis-step while qualifying, as Anthony Pollina recently found out.
But properly structured, public financing can increase the number and quality of candidates and create a powerful incentive to involve more Vermonters in the political process. Vermont voters shouldn’t settle for less.
This is Rick Hubbard from South Burlington, Vermont.