A posting in local blog Concerned Citizens recently analyzed the District 8 race and endorsed Ron Nirenberg. The posting elicited comments from several readers, including the following one from Alone Star that seemed especially perspicacious:
- Ron Nirenberg knocked on my door one Saturday in February and made a strong first impression with his claim of not being a politician and saying what I wanted to hear about focusing on basic city services. Unfortunately everything I’ve seen him do since then has been the epitome of a politician…the polished web site and videos, heavy hitting endorsements, disingenuous e-mail surveys, etc. He turned me off pretty quick.
- Rolando Briones has all the baggage already cited, so I don’t consider him credible either.
- That leaves Mike Kueber, who I will vote for. I wish he was putting more effort into his campaign. All he is doing is Facebook, his blog, and sending in candidate questionnaires. I didn’t even know he was running until I answered a phone survey and they gave me a choice of “other” besides Briones and Nirenberg. Sadly, most of the electorate will base their vote solely on name recognition. Without a single sign up anywhere in the district and his resolve to not raise or spend any money, Mike’s campaign is bypassing an opportunity to make a real difference in this race.
Alone Star not only correctly perceived that Nirenberg’s kumbaya campaign of transparency and accountability (a resident at the Oak Meadow HOA forum called it a campaign in favor of Mom and apple pie) was nothing more than a superficial marketing ploy, but also correctly noted that my campaign had resolved not to raise or spend money. As I have previously blogged, my three-pronged campaign theme has been (1) experience (a private sector job with lots of responsibility), (2) political philosophy (a genuine fiscal conservative and a social libertarian), and finally (3) the absence of campaign money.
But, as Alone Star points outs, the consequence of not spending money is that a lot of voters don’t know you exist. When this campaign started, I was hopeful that the small number of voters in a City Council race (5,000 or about 7% of the city’s eligible voters) were high-information voters who did not need to be hand-fed information. These voters would base their vote not on street signs, hijacked websites, or negative flyers, but rather on information from websites and the nonpartisan free media.
There is, however, an option to relying on civic-minded people who are interested enough to do their own research on candidates, and that is public financing of political campaigns. Despite being a fiscal conservative, I supported public financing in my blog almost three years ago in a post titled, “Is San Antonio Ready for Public Financing of Political Campaigns.” The post was prompted by an Express-News editorial endorsing a bill that provided for public financing of congressional campaigns. In the post, I said, I agreed wholeheartedly with the premise of the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) – i.e., that the corrupting influence of money in politics will be reduced by public financing of campaigns.
- “The issue of public financing of campaigns was fading from my radar until I saw an article in the NYTimes about NYC’s Campaign Finance Program. The article prompted an obvious question – why not adopt public financing of campaigns for local elections in San Antonio? Voters in San Antonio are so cynical about corruption in city government that they have adopted a draconian term-limits ordinance. Although this has helped some, there is still a prevailing view that people with money have too much influence in San Antonio government. Public financing of political campaigns would potentially minimize that influence.”
At that time, I recall contacting my Councilman Reed Williams about this subject. As is his wont, Reed expressed general agreement with the concept, but indicated there would not be any broad support by the Council.
Since that post, I haven’t heard a lot about public financing of political campaigns. To the contrary, a year and a half ago I blogged about the tendency of the media to elevate candidates who could raise a lot of money:
- “Earlier this week an article in Politico.com reported on the crop of promising political stars who were looking to make a big move up in the next election. What were the criteria for earning a place in this prestigious grouping? Actually there was only one criterion – how much money the candidate had been able obtain raise in the past few months. Thus, Politico could have labeled this group as the greatest money grubbers, but instead it generously adorned them as promising stars.”
Last week, the NY Times reminded its readers of a proposal in New York state for the public financing of political campaigns. The NY proposal calls for the state to multiply private contributions by 6 x 1. By contrast, most of the existing state and local laws provide for public financing to be based on $5 contributions from individuals.
According to various websites, the FENA was reintroduced in 2013, but there does not seem to be any reason that fiscal conservatives will accept this sort of spending. Based on my experience in running for the San Antonio City Council, public financing seems like an excellent means of reducing the influence of moneyed special interests and leveling the playing field for those candidates who are not a part of the establishment.