Political races don’t just require candidates to seek votes. Their relentless chase for money also plays a growing role in the campaign competition.
But this opening sentence of a Post and Courier front-page story last week provided another reminder that even politicians who aren’t on the ballot this year are still at least indirectly involved in the fund-raising quest:
“A political advocacy group created to target political opponents of Gov. Nikki Haley in this year’s elections has reported raising $515,000 in donations from just a handful of contributors.”
The group’s title is A Great Day S.C., in keeping with Gov. Haley’s familiar slogan, “It’s a Great Day in South Carolina.”
However, the ever-intensifying pressure on politicians to raise ever-more campaign money now exerts far too great an impact on our self-governing process.
Yes, it’s reasonable that Gov. Haley wants to help legislative candidates, both incumbents and challengers, who will back her initiatives in the General Assembly.
It’s also fair for her to try to help defeat those who oppose her proposals.
Yet the all-too-direct link between contributions and access to those in power raises serious concerns.
No, taking a contribution doesn’t mean a candidate has to do the donor’s bidding, though common sense tells you that those who contribute expect something in return.
But there can be no doubt about this consequence of the relentless political money race: Candidates spend much more time than they used to raising campaign funds.
That inevitably means that those who win office spend much less time doing the jobs for which they were elected.
The elevated — and often even decisive — priority on campaign money also keeps many good people out of politics while giving incumbents a strong edge.
The solution to this problem, at both the national and state level, is still practical, equitable campaign finance reform.
Unfortunately, congressional efforts to achieve that on the federal front have repeatedly been rejected by the Supreme Court as infringements upon the First Amendment.
Just as unfortunately, state lawmakers in Columbia have been reluctant to produce overdue ethics reform that could minimize the temptation of corruption though the buying of influence.
But just because these challenges haven’t been overcome yet doesn’t mean that they are insurmountable.
So as politicians seek your vote, and maybe even your money, keep in mind which ones favor needed changes in the campaign-finance system.
Then vote accordingly.