Should Politicians Accept Out-of-State Money?
A few months ago, I asked why Max Baucus accepted so much money from health-care industry players. He's a dominant force in Montana, doesn't have to run for reelection until 2014, and would gain a lot of legitimacy in the health-care debate if he simply rejected the unnecessary funds. Andrew Samwick ran across that post, and has a question of his own.
Why should it be legal to make a political contribution to a candidate who is not running for an office that represents you as a constituent? I do not think it should be. Imagine how different this senator's incentives would be if he could only raise money from the residents of Montana as individuals and not from organized interests.
Putting aside the Buckley v. Valeo concerns, would this be a good idea?
It would rid the system of one of the incentives for hoovering up industry money: Donating to other members of your party. Baucus doesn't keep all those dollars. A fair chunk of them go to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and assorted other party venues. This produces a lot of pressure for the politicians who can raise industry money to do so. After all, if one party is pulling in that cash to fund its campaigns and the other isn't, the other is going to lose.
But it would also increase one of the system's other problems: Parochialism. Baucus might represent Montana, but as Chairman of the Finance Committee, he's legislating on behalf of America. If he wanted to anger some of the conservative interests in his state and take a more national view, he could, in theory, raise national money to fund his reelection campaign and defend himself against state-based interests. Removing that option seems likely to ensure total capture by local powerbrokers, which may indeed be worse, or at least more incoherent, than capture by national interests.
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