We were disappointed to read the New York Post’s dismissive response to the dismay many have expressed at the obscene amounts collected by presidential candidates in the first fundraising quarter. They write, “But so what? Americans spent more than $61 billion on snack foods in 2005. What's more important - electing a president or another round of Twinkies?”
The point is that it’s perfectly proper for Twinkies to be for sale, but our lawmakers shouldn’t be.
We shouldn’t sit back and wait for our politicians to become corrupt, as the Post seems to imply with its admonition that "the way to deal with corruption of that sort is to indict, try and incarcerate corrupt politicians." We agree that detailed campaign finance disclosure and rigorous enforcement are essential to a properly functioning system, but we take issue with the idea that they are the only legitimate means of discouraging the improper influence of money over politicians. That’s like saying that doctors should only screen for cancer, not encourage patients to take steps to prevent it.
The Post's position also assumes that all questionable practices will come to light with detailed disclosure. Unfortunately, undue access, which doesn't show up on disclosure reports, can be as corrosive as outright corruption.
What we really need, on top of disclosure and enforcement, is a system of public financing that will restore voters' confidence in the integrity of government. Public financing frees candidates from spending all of their time dialing-for-dollars, allowing them to interact with voters and giving viable candidates with no connections to big donors a real shot at election. Most importantly, it lets lawmakers respond to the full spectrum of voters, not just those with the most Twinkies.