Mueller: Campaign finance reform buys voter headaches

By By Lauren Mueller

By Lauren Mueller

Want to run an attack ad during “Dancing with the Stars?” That’ll cost you $196,000. Want to go big and prove that you’re the most manly and affable candidate? You can expose potential voters to your smiling face during “Sunday Night Football” at a cost of $358,000.

Like many Americans, I find it disheartening and out of step with the ideals of a participatory democracy that only the super-rich may campaign for, and subsequently hold positions of, political power. In light of that belief, when legislation is proposed that would limit “big money” from presidential and other campaigns, I’m inclined to support it.

On March 27, 2002, President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold bill into law as the first significant step toward legitimate campaign finance reform since the Watergate era. The bill, although not perfect, eliminated the use of soft money and sought to eradicate non-party organizations from running their own ads to ease the bombardment on the American constituency.

I applaud any effort on Congress’ part to get political campaigns out of the back pocket. In that sense, the bill was a success to me.

The problem that arises is perhaps the unintended consequence of raising funds legitimately and within a stricter rubric-it takes a lot more time. You’ll need more time to court more donors, which will inevitably mean more months on the road, on CNN and in my face.

I consider myself a pretty politically minded and enthusiastic contributor to the democratic process, but this nearly two-year race to the White House has all but disintegrated into a schoolyard tousle. At night, my head swirls with American flag lapel pins and dapper pantsuits in non-confrontational colors.

These candidates have been begging money off voters the honest way since 2006, and with a $2,300 cap on donations, it’s no wonder. I’m not suggesting that we go back to the old way. But when I open up the paper each and every morning to see that so-and-so candidates have “exchanged heated barbs” again, it makes me wish some pharmaceutical executive would just cut a check and declare a winner.

Months of the same questions coupled with intense media scrutiny no doubt take a toll on the candidates, but it takes a toll on me as a voter, too.

I’ve watched with disappointment as what I originally thought was an uncharacteristically impressive pool of Democratic candidates traded in smart policy and fresh ideas for nasty passive-aggression.

The former love of my life, Bill Clinton, has given up on maintaining his distance and his legacy to instead do the attacking his wife is more than capable of on her own.

Let’s face it — Barack and Hillary snip at each other like they had a bad breakup in the 6th grade. They spend more time distorting each other’s records than they do actually preparing for debates and honestly answering questions.

Let it be known that the Republicans are no better. Mitt Romney is apparently the most hated man in politics, and John McCain decided to forego “straight talk” in favor of childish whining a long time ago.

In theory, I was glad when the McCain-Feingold bill forced candidates back into pseudo-grassroots fundraising, but at this point, I could use a breather. If you must appear on my television screen, impress with your forward thinking, not your barbs — whatever those are.

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