Take the politicians off welfare

I originally wrote this on October 7, 2008.

I received a mail piece recently from State Senator Vi Simpson regarding how homeowners can avoid foreclosure. This mailer, sent to constituents across the 40th State Senate district, is not unusual. It just happened to arrive several weeks before Senator Simpson is up for re-election.

And there is the problem. In reality, these mailers are little more than taxpayer-financed campaign mailers for incumbent state legislators. In fairness to Senator Simpson, both parties in both houses take advantage of their ability to spend taxpayer dollars budget to send these “informational” mailers to their constituents. But the practice is still wrong, fiscally irresponsible and undemocratic. It needs to end.

We have heard a lot over the last dozen years about “campaign finance reform”, from questions raised about the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 to the abomination known as McCain-Feingold (or MF) that passed the U.S. Senate several years ago. There has been discussion of “campaign finance reform” at the state level as well.

One substantive, fiscally responsible reform would be to eliminate every penny of taxpayer funding for the mail pieces they send to constituents. These mailers are an unfair advantage for incumbents and actually encourage more money being funneled into political campaigns because these tax-funded mailers are one extra advantage that challengers for state legislative districts have to overcome.

Incumbent legislators have enough advantages over challengers without having taxpayers effectively subsidize their re-election campaigns. It is time to take the politicians off welfare and force legislators to fund their own campaigns. If legislators feel there is legitimate information that constituents need to get in the mail, they can send it without the incumbent legislator’s name and full-color photograph.