by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & N & lt;/span & ew Hampshire businessman John Rauh remembers his least favorite part of his 1992 U.S. Senate campaign against then-Governor Judd Gregg, a Republican.
"Fundraising. It's a disgusting, demeaning job, calling people you don't know and asking them for money," says Rauh, a Democrat who lost that election by three percentage points.
Since then Rauh says he has studied federal elections and found that the candidates who spend the most money don't always win. He cites Montana's 2006 U.S. Senate race, in which Democrat Jon Tester defeated the Republican incumbent, Conrad Burns, despite being outspent by about $3 million. "Enough money often is enough, versus too much," says Rauh.
Rauh's organization, Americans for Campaign Reform, believes the federal government, not big money donors, should finance Congressional and Presidential campaigns. "We think those campaigns could be adequately funded with $1.8 billion, just six dollars per person in America," he says. Rauh would raise that money by selling parts of the broadcast spectrum to media companies.
His group supports a bill sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) that would give public money to candidates who pledge not to seek private donations. To qualify, they would be required to collect a certain number of $5 donations and submit them to an independent non-partisan commission that would then determine how much money that candidate would need to run an effective campaign and write a check for that amount to the candidate.
Rauh says public financing works in the two states where it is allowed, Arizona and Maine. (The state of Connecticut will soon also have publicly-financed campaigns.)
"In Arizona, seven of the eight candidates who ran for governor took public financing," he says. "In the general election Janet Napolitano beat the only candidate who raised money privately. She believes her opponent taking special interest money helped her in the eyes of the voters. In Maine, more than 80 percent of the candidates for the legislature run with public money and more than 80 percent of those elected were financed by public money."
The city of Portland, Oregon adopted publicly financed elections in 2005, but it appears the state of Washington isn't yet ready. Several bills were introduced in Olympia this session that would have permitted statewide, legislative, judicial and local candidates to accept public money, but only two even made it out of committee, let alone going to the House or Senate floors for votes.
"I would have thought that we'd at least give this a chance for judicial candidates," says Senator Chris Marr (D-Spokane). "But this is not perceived as being a hot issue."
Chris Marr and John Rauh will participate in a public forum on "clean elections," June 7 at 7 pm in the Barbieri Courtroom at the Gonzaga Law School.