Voices Rich and Poor

By Richard Nelson

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October 9, 2015

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Is it possible these days to make a difference in politics without first breaking the bank on a massive campaign? If the amounts of money being tossed around in Kentucky's political races are any indication, the answer to that question is a resounding “No.” According to data analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity, Kentucky leads the nation for political ad spending in 2015, with most of the dollars being spent on the gubernatorial campaigns of Hal Heiner, Matt Bevin, and Jack Conway. Each candidate has topped the $1 million mark in spending, with Heiner actually crossed the $2 million threshold. Both Heiner and Bevin have also put their own money into their campaigns. While candidates are certainly not prohibited from investing their own funds into political campaigns, one has to wonder if the increasing costs of running for office might discourage those operating solely on contributions from getting into the game. Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer recently bemoaned the “multimillionaire's game,” despite the fact that his own campaign has brought in more than $2 million through fund-raising. The danger here is not so much that candidates are spending more money, but that the impression may be given that the candidates with the most money have the best ideas. The political arena must first and foremost remain open to the concepts, policies, and values that will best serve the voters and contribute to a better society. This is not to say that candidates such as Bevin and Heiner do not possess those, but it is entirely possible there are potential candidates without millions to spend who have ideas which are just as good. Those candidates deserve a place at the table just as much as those who can afford the gourmet meals.

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center