January 21, 2004 01:32 | Culture / NewsPundit

Federal matching funds vs. electability

For some strange reason, some people, who really should know better, are more concerned with some vague notion of "electabilty" rather than the cold hard economic facts of the trap known as "federal matching funds".

Now I think I have got this straight but correct me if I'm wrong. When a candidate accepts the "federal matching funds" package, they essentially accept a cap on how much money they can raise to fund their campaign. The number is around $40 million, if memory serves. Much of that money is spent campaigning in party primaries (read: fighting amongst themselves).

What this means, is assuming a candidate who has been capped this way actually gets the party "ticket", he/she is then left almost penniless to fight "the big one".

In this case, the opponent in "the big one" has around $200 million to spend on campaigning.

So, Clark and Edwards will essentially be broke, and utterly helpless, while W rains down on them $150 million worth of television advertising this summer and fall. The same thing happened to Gore four years ago.

Kerry didn't go for the presidential public financing system. But Kerry's money is all old style "big contributions". $1000 a seat dinner parties and the like. That's alot of dinner parties and handshaking he'll have to do, with the rich people, to even stay above water. Nationwide television advertising is a nasty, expensive proposition.

Dean also didn't take the package. Dean however has an enormous and very effective fund-raising mechanism, not to mention active "grassroots, face-to-face outreach programs, tapping right into the hearts, minds and smaller budgets of everyday Americans who feel they can finally do more than just go vote on election day... if even that. His people call it "The $100 revolution": 2 million Americans x $100 = George W. Bush out of office.

I am not american so I am not really supporting anyone. Just looking at the facts. And there are way more than I care to type up here now that support the idea that if anyone IS electable, it's Dean.

That said, i would like to note also that yes it is illegal for non-u.s. citizens to contribute to any U.S. political campaign... BUT there is no such law against supporting CULTURAL campaigns by anyone who so pleases and feels so compelled. MoveOn.org can do wonders with a few of your dollars, pounds, euros, rupees... They don't care who wins as long as it ain't the Bushies.

Also, a note to the Deansters:
The media and the opponents have distorted Dean's anger at the state of America into just general bad temper. Time to tone down that strategy. Time for the Doctor to start talking about WHAT he would do, HOW he would do it and, fer criminey's sake, what his VALUES are. The dems and the reps are on different playing fields: issues versus values... take the game to them! Issues fall on deaf ears. Values comfort.


I know i shouldn't be online but...i have about 15 minutes until I'm off again...

So....i think B's argument is an interesting one, and if it is completely true, something to ponder. Then again, let's also realize that it's a sad state of affairs for the US if one of the deciding factors in who someone supports is how much money they can raise, but that's a while other, bigger issue concerning the impact of dollars and donors on the democratic process.

Now, in my real quick research, i *think* that this crisis may not be as deep as it seems. Looking at some of the documents online, it seems that if you opt-in to the fund, you can default on it and then have to pay back the fund. Which, to me seems like, if someone really wants to or can raise more money than the fund allows, they can in essence "give it back", and keep on trucking....

Am I reading these documents properly?

Public Funding of Presidential Elections

Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF)

Federal Matching Fund Guidelines

Interesting. How much $ has Dean actually raised so far?

I think it's an unfortunate necessity that he had to opt out of the federal matching funds system: there's simply no way he could go up against the Bush $200M machine. But election reform is part of his (and Clark's) platform, and it would be welcome to see legislation signed if the Dems win 2004.

I'm not that concerned about the Iowa primary results, I'm fairly sure Dean will do well in NH (proximity effect). What is concerning is that Dean seems to have two public images - the impressions of the Dean blogosphere and the Regular Media. Bloggers are an influential minority, and assuming progressive US bloggers all go out to vote (and bring MeetUp friends) in November it might swing the balance a bit, but ultimately it's about winning the hearts and minds of people who aren't online 18 hrs a day.

As a poster to blogforamerica stated, the 1st phase - establishing Dean as different from the rest of the Democratic hopefuls - is done.

The "electability" question is a shallow one - it should be about ideas and policies, not personalities - but an unfortunately important one. The new message going out post-Iowa is about results, which is good, because Dean has an excellent record in that regard (social liberal, fiscal conservative). The image of Dean must be steered back to that of "Dr. Dean" - the caregiver, the healer - to head off the one-dimensional image of Angry Dean the media seems happy to label him with...his humanity, openness and outspokenness is both his strength and a potential weakness, so it behooves him and the campaign to go from strength to strength.

Another poster to blogforamerica noted - and I'm paraphrasing a bit -- "People don't vote for campaigns, they vote for candidates -- and it seems like HQ and Trippi were constantly talking about the grassrouts organization and 'the movement' instead of Dean, his policies and what he stands for."

Winning the progressive blogosphere is all well and good, but that's another double-edged sword - the blogosphere in general is very self-reflexive, somewhat elitist and self-adulatory, sometimes to the exclusion of "the real world."

3- Steve Bissonnette

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