Archive for March 28th, 2010

Testimony Helps Defeat Public Financing

This past Thursday, I had the chance to testify against a HB-1156 that would have provided for limited public financing of state legislative campaigns.  The bill was being carried by Rep. Court, and would have created a 2-for-1 matching system, up to $5,000 in matching funds for a State House of Representatives campaign, and up to $10,000 for a State Senate campaign.  While it’s true that I oppose public funding of campaigns on philosophical grounds, my testimony focused primarily on practical concerns: the bill would have failed even on its own terms.  I’m pleased to say that the committee voted it down 7-4, eventually voted to postpone indefinitely, 8-3.

The full audio of my remarks, and those of Rep. Court, will be available soon, but for the moment, here are the basic points that I made.

  • In a time of fiscal constraints, it makes no sense to be providing welfare for politicians while we’re cutting K-12 education
  • While a taxpayer checkoff would be available, it would likely produce little actual revenue, much like the federal campaign checkoff
  • Funding is not truly voluntary, as the campaign account could be funded by general fund dollars
  • The fund balance is not good measure of voter interest in the idea, since gifts and contributions could also fund the account.  Funding all expenses for a campaign cycle would could somewhat more than $1 million, well within the means of a number of Coloradoans who routinely contribute more than that in independent expenditures
  • There are conflicting provisions for distributing funds if there isn’t enough money to go around.   These provisions produce an advantage for incumbents and those with existing political machines, and do nothing to promote competitiveness
  • Campaigns are expensive because printing, mailing, and airtime are expensive, and since campaigns make up only a small part of the whole media market, they have almost no pricing power
  • If a $400 limit is too low, a better route would be to seek relief under the Supreme Court’s Randall v. Sorrell ruling.  It invalidated Vermont’s $200/person contribution limits, for districts that average 1/17th the size of Colorado’s
  • There is little actual public concern; California turned down a public financing initiative by a 3-1 vote, while Alaska’s voters rejected it 2-1.
  • In fact, according to the Justice Department, the cleanest states, like Nebraska, have few or no limits.  And the best-run states, according to Governing magazine, Utah and Virginia, similarly have no limits
  • Arizona’s public financing has failed to increase the diversity of its legislature, as measured by race, sex, or occupation

The proper response should be for the legislature to raise the campaign finance limits and require greater transparency and immediate reporting of who’s paying.  This will encourage money to flow to campaigns, rather than to unaccountable 527s.

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Norouz Mubarak

It was delightful to be able to spend a little time Friday celebrating Norouz, or the Persian New Year, with Denver’s Persian community.  The Persian New Year is celebrated at the onset of Spring, and, like our own New Year, is essentially secular, celebrated by the entire country.  So when my friend Ana Sami invited me to drop by, it was a no-brainer.  I also had a chance to meet Tim Ghaemi in person, after having interviewed him for the Rocky Mountain Alliance’s Blog Talk Radio show last year.

In addition to the actual food, there’s usually a special table set, with a number of symbolic items:

For some reason, they all begin with “S” in Farsi, but here’s the list:

  • Sabzeh – wheat or lentils grown in a tray or dish prior to Noe-Rooz to represent rebirth,
  • Samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence,
  • Senjed – the dried fruit of the lotus tree which represents love,
  • Seer – which means garlic in Persian, and represents medicine,
  • Seeb – which means apple in Persian, and represents beauty and health,
  • Somaq – sumac berries, which represent the colour of the sun rise,
  • Serkeh – which means vinegar in Persian, and represents age and patience,
  • Sonbol – the hyacinth flower with its strong fragrance heralding the coming of spring, and
  • Sekkeh – coins representing prosperity and wealth

There’s also usually a copy of the community-appropriate religious book, be it a Chumash, a Bible, or a Koran.  This being an inclusive celebration, they had a copy of both the Koran and the Bible on the top shelf there, but the big red book there in the middle is actually neither.  Instead, it is a book listing the 12,000+ vicitms of political executions under the current Iranian regime, a reminder that as is often the case, immigrants to America are freer to celebrate their holidays here than they would be back home.

Norouz Mubarak to Ana, Tim, and the rest of the Persian-American community here in Denver.

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