Cash counts

The good citizens at the nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network last week provided a sobering financial analysis of the 1998 election. The bottom line: When it comes to politics money doesn’t just talk, it screams like a banshee, howls like a diablo, and occasionally yodels.

A few factoids: In ’98 statewide legislative races, the candidate who raised the most money won 91 percent of the time. Incumbents raised a hell of a lot more money than challengers, with officeholders raking in an average of $78,343 compared with $17,771 for challengers.

So, term limits are a good thing?

According to the analysis, forcing career legislators to look for new work has “appeared to fuel the money chase.” Slightly more than $117,000 was raised for the average legislative race featuring an incumbent, compared with almost $152,000 for open races.

Although the number of third party candidates nearly doubled from 1996 to 1998, they barely registered when it came to collecting contributions — which, as we have just learned, is the real key to getting elected. Republicans (who could have guessed?) led the way, raising an average of $43,672 per candidate, while Dem candidates managed to bring in an average of $21,141. (Maybe we missed it, but did anyone hear the words “campaign finance reform” uttered at all during the massive, corporate-funded bash put on by the Repubs last week? Now you know why.) Third party candidates, on the other hand, hauled in a whopping $683 on average.

Finally, for those of you bemoaning the unfair role organized labor plays in funding elections, stop paying so much attention to Chamber of Commerce propaganda and look at the hard facts: Unions contributed $2.1 million to state elections in 1998 compared to more than $14.7 million used by business interests to grease the wheels of good government.

Democracy in action — it’s a beautiful thing.

To find out more, visit the Michigan Campaign Finance Network at Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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