Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz Counties, CA March 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

Campaign Reform

By Debra Whitmore

Candidate for United States Representative; District 17

This information is provided by the candidate
Many Americans wish to reform the financing of campaigns. What we must remember is that the same institution responsible for the reforms consists of the very people seeking to be reelected.
It is extremely difficult to seek public office. Both the media and special interests have a huge impact on campaigns. The media assigns itself various roles including "gatekeeper" (determining which candidates and issues become part of the public agenda), and "scorekeeper" (keeping track of what everyone has done in the past). Although many think that the media presents news as a public service, the reality is that the media is a business and presents the news and candidates that will bring in the numbers or the money. As a result of this, one of my ideas involves the fact that the airwaves belong to the public. Because of this, I would initiate legislation that would require FCC license agreements with radio and television stations to include free air time to all candidates who qualify to be on the ballot during election periods. This would cost the taxpayers NOTHING. Additionally, since the airwaves belong to us (and are leased out at very low fees) we then would be able to use them to become an informed electorate.

In terms of the print media, again, the government could require a minimum of words to be written about each candidate and issue that will appear on the ballot. I am not complaining about the lack of coverage I have received. Of course, I would have liked more, but going into the campaign I knew how hard it would be to receive coverage(as I do teach Advanced Placement Government and Politics and am very aware of the political process).

I also believe that we need to place more limits on the contributions that PACs can make (Political Action Committees). The cost of campaigns has risen dramatically, and it coincides with the first campaign reform acts of 1971-1974. The average cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives was almost $700,000 in 1996, and the cost of a seat in the Senate was over $4,000,000. Because of this, only the wealthy or those sponsored by big money seem to be able to win public office. Yes, I am trying to win this election in spite of these statistics, but it is very difficult.

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