Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Campaign Finance in SE Texas

Author’s note: Sorry for the hiatus. I’ve had my quarterly battle to log in to my blogs. Between that and Christmas… well I have a life.

While driving home from work today I noticed something. I think it was there before Christmas, but I didn’t pay any attention to it then. Mainly because I only see it on the way home from work and I’m usually pretty beat and just making it home is a small miracle. However, it caught my eye today. It’s a billboard. A big one and in a pretty good spot on hwy 73 westbound. It’s an ad for one my potential opponents (I say potential because the primaries haven’t happened yet). I think his name was Johnson (forgive me if I’m wrong, it’s a Friday).

Anyway, out of curiosity, I did a few seconds of research no billboard advertising and found that it can run from $700to $2500 a month for a billboard. Holy crap, I thought, that’s a lot of money. Assuming it runs until November, say 10 months (for the ease of math) that’s $7000 to $25,000 for that single advertisement.

Now, I have to ask myself (I’ve taken Economics), Why would someone pay that kind of money for one billboard? The reason is simple, they are expecting a return on that investment. After all Jeffco Commissioners make upwards of $85,000 a year, plus a car and, I believe, a phone allowance. That’s not a bad investment. But he is expecting a return on that money, not in votes, but in monetary terms (or power which some believe to be a higher currency than money).

I’m the breadwinner in a single income family (my wife is in graduate school) with a 12 month old son. I’m running my campaign… well… for nothing. If I had a spare dime, then my net worth would be about $0.10.  That single ad would be about 25% of my yearly income.

But you say, what about campaign contributions? Well, let’s apply that Economics again. Say for example that someone gives a political candidate $10,000 for his campaign. Guess what, that contributer is expecting a return on his investment too. It might be just ideological beliefs in common, or it could be “Hey, remember when I gave you $10,000? Well, I need a favor…”

In my opinion, a politician with contributers is bought, at best rented for one important issue. Personally, I refuse to exchange my principles for a batch of signs planted in people’s yards. I may not win, but I can say that I tried on my own merit and not have something bought for me. I can also look at any topic that comes up and say “What is best for the county?” instead of “Would that help me fulfill an obligations that I might have to others?”

Some people (probably most) will call my position on this naive. Fine, I’m naive, I’m an idealist. I’m crazy too. I’m me and I can live with that. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew that I had been bought.

P.S. I’ve gotten a few comments. Thank you everyone. I hope you keep reading. If you like what you hear, please tell someone else who lives in Precinct 3 about me.

January 12, 2008 - Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Politics, Texas

1 Comment »

  1. I think this is a terrible idea. Are you saying that you’re going to be beholden to all your donors? How do you expect to finance your campaign? I saw your blog for the first time today, and I would have likely supported you from the beginning if I had heard of you before.

    The real problem is that (assuming the same rules apply here as they do in federal elections) you cannot accept a $10,000 donation. If I was running as a libertarian and people gave me money to push through my agenda, that of dismantling the government, I would wholeheartedly go along with the wishes of others who shared my goal.

    You’re correct. Your position is naive, but I’m not sure for the reason you imagine.

    Comment by Stephen | May 30, 2008 | Reply


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