Of all the bad ideas for “cleaning up” elections, the silliest is probably the notion that if only the state, not citizens, financed campaigns, politicians would be more accountable. The latest manifestation of this nonsense is House Bill 250, which would create a public fund from which candidates for governor, Executive Council and Senate could finance their campaigns.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara French, D-Henniker, would provide millions of dollars to unpopular candidates. Candidates would qualify for subsidies if they collect individual donations of less than $2,500 for gubernatorial candidates, $500 for Council candidates and $250 for Senate candidates. And there are limits within those limits. The maximum individual contribution would be $25 for Senate and Council candidates and $100 for governor.
So to qualify for $1.75 million in primary money and $2.25 million in general election money, a candidate for governor would have to get only 25 people to donate $100 to his or her campaign. To whom would this scheme appeal? Fringe candidates with no legitimate prospects of winning over a majority of voters.
In a republic, candidates for office succeed or fail based on their persuasive abilities. That includes winning votes and raising money. Disconnect the candidate from the need to win donations through persuasion, and you don’t get cleaner elections. You get elections cluttered with vanity candidates who run not to win, but because someone else is paying for it. In this bill, that someone else would be the taxpayers. What a terrible waste of money and misuse of state power.