Campaigns cost money. All the flyers, mailings, posters, banners, and buttons add up, not to mention the costs of office staff, campaign headquarters, and countless media slots. So it is no small wonder why candidates up for election put so much energy into raising vast sums to fund their campaigns. They canvas, they host events, they send letters, and money begins to flow in. In 2010, most candidates for governor in Georgia raised several
But who is this money coming from? Was it given by a large sample of the
population, full of diverse ideas, backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses? Or is one
extremely wealthy individual fully funding a candidate’s run? Such a situation would be
extremely problematic because said candidate, in an effort to maintain his or her funding,
would no doubt allot more importance to that billionaire’s ideas and priorities than those
of the other constituents, giving him or her an unfair advantage and a vastly greater share
of political power than any one person should have.
Being a country committed to free and fair elections, we strive to avoid this
problem, and, thus, there are limits to the amount of money a person can donate to a
campaign. The first successful campaign finance legislation at the national level came
in the 1970s in the form of the Federal Election Campaign Act, which limited donations
made to candidates from individuals to $1,000 and those from political action committees
to $5,000, and further reform has been proposed and debated countless times in the
preceding forty years.
Georgia used to have one of the least restrictive campaign finance systems in the
country, but, about ten years ago, calls for reform began to flood the capital and changes
began to take place. Today, no person, corporation, or political action committee is
allowed to give more than $12,200 to a statewide candidate during an election cycle -
$6,100 during the primary and another $6,100 during the general election.
However, the effectiveness of these restrictions can certainly be questioned.
Candidates are required to report all the contributions they receive, and one needs only to
look at the data to see there are numerous cases in which an individual, his wife, his
children, and his business each donate $12,200. Is this unjust? Is it a blatant flouting of
the law’s intended purpose? Or is it perfectly justifiable? Beliefs span across the
spectrum. However, no matter how the issue strikes you, Common Cause is committed
to making sure that Georgians know that it exists. We have developed an online system
called Campaign MoneyWatch, an easy to use tool that tracks the contributions made the
campaigns for each candidate for statewide office, as well as Georgia House, Georgia
Senate, the Public Service Commission, and the Supreme Court and the Appeals Court.
We feel that every Georgian has the right to know who funds the campaigns of his or her
representatives, and that this openness goes a long way towards achieving greater
governmental accountability. If you’re curious (which we hope you are) please check
out MoneyWatch for yourself!
Written by CCGA Intern: Aryn Phillips