Pinpointing the Problem

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An article in The Seattle Times on earmarks for defense spending and its correlation to campaign contributions received by Washington legislators has touched a nerve for readers and sparked this point/counterpoint in the letters to the editor section about the need to address this problem via full public financing of campaigns.

Gary Carver of Washington Public Campaigns, which supports Clean Elections legislation, argues that stories like the one in the paper are the inevitable result of a broken system:

I was heartened a bit to see "The favor factory: $4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted." Even our esteemed national senators have their fingers in this particular pie. And while it's easy to point fingers at the various participants in this and the many other similar bridges-to-nowhere stories that abound, if you look at the larger picture, it seems to me that the only conclusion you can draw here is that true campaign-finance reform is a must. And the only viable form must include some kind of publicly financed campaigns, such as that which has been in effect in Arizona and Maine through several election cycles and is working well.

Mathew McCleary on the other hand is against public financing of campaigns, saying that the problem is the individual legislators in question. If that's the case, then why are these kinds of stories so prevalent? Why are we able to point to case after case where campaign contributions correlate with policy decisions? Every candidate who wants to run for Congress has to raise huge sums of money, and many if not all of those donors want something in return. Electing a new slate of legislators without addressing the issue that leads them all towards the big money game is a wasted opportunity to fix the real problem.