Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broke GOP AG candidate Barden wants unlimited campaign contributions

It's been a tough time for the GOP in the race against Attorney General Lori Swanson. After months of hemming and hawing and stalling, Chris Barden entered the race and won the GOP endorsement.

Barden's late start hasn't done him any favors in the fundraising department. Barden's campaign finance report indicates that he's flat broke, with $4,700 on hand after loaning his campaign $5,000. Nearly all of his fundraising activity was in June and July, and with that in mind, his $47,000 raised in individual contributions is credible considering the short timeframe. Nonetheless, even with a couple of recent $1,000 contributions he's fishing for coins in the couch.

On the other hand, incumbent Swanson is sitting pretty. She has over in $200,000 in cash on hand. She's raised $140,000 in 2010, nearly $100,000 from individual contributions. She has more cash on hand than any candidate for state office (other than Governor candidates.) For perspective, she's got 2/3rd of Tom Emmer's cash on hand, and more than half of Kelliher's available cash.

All of this made the following press release from Barden's campaign even more confusing:

Rejecting the Limits is Our Path to Victory in November

I believe that accepting the insufficient subsidy funding for the Attorney General race in MN would provide a huge advantage for the incumbent, Lori Swanson, and her entrenched 40 year political machine. Given that the integrity of the Minnesota legal and election system is at stake in this campaign, I will go forward making the significant, serious and unlimited effort required to win this essential race and restore the trust of voters in the Office of Attorney General.

With regard to financing our campaign, we will rely upon the judgment of the people of Minnesota and will not be limited by the government subsidy system.

These are bold words from a campaign that is $200,000 behind Swanson's cash reserves. Even more bold from a campaign that has just foregone at least $81,000 in public subsidy, and increased the amount of public subsidy Swanson's campaign receives. And even more crazy, considering that now Swanson will be freed from the spending cap while still receiving the $95,000+ in subsidy.

The spending cap for the AG race is somewhere between $430,000 and $567,000 if you accept the public subsidy. Since Barden is likely to meet both conditions that increase the cap (first time candidate and closely contested primary), he would have been able to spend $137,000 more than Swanson if he'd accepted the subsidy. As it is, he's removed the more restrictive cap on Swanson's spending. And that, my friends, makes no strategic sense at all. It makes me wonder if Barden's campaign failed to meet the requirements of the public subsidy program and are trying to bluster their way out of the embarrassment.

Well, I hope it's bluster, because if you accept Barden's reasoning on its face, he's pining away for a world of unlimited individual and corporate contributions to campaigns:
Rejecting the limits relies upon the citizens of the state of Minnesota and their unlimited First Amendment right to support the candidate who stands for them, rather than a government-controlled election funding system.

Under our First Amendment Right to Free Speech, voters should decide the limits of political campaigns. Yet under Minnesota's current laws, our campaign faces donation limits on the free speech of individual citizens.

Chris Barden is an unlikely champion of a hyper-Citizens United world where there are no limits whatsoever on campaign contributions. He can barely buy a full-page newspaper ad with his cash on hand. But his argument that there should absolutely no limit on political contributions is far more radical than anyone else on the GOP ticket. Even Stonewall Emmer is for the public subsidy (after he was against it.)

Oh, one more thing. Remember when I said Barden would be in a "closely contested primary?" Well, that's because he faces the inimitable Sharon Anderson, who's run for AG repeatedly. (No, not THAT Sharon Anderson.) GOP endorsed AG candidates ignore Anderson at their peril. She knocked off the endorsee in 1994, and ran relatively close to Jeff Johnson in 2006.

As Spot likes to say, "there's still time for a pool party."

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

1 comment:

s said...

It seems that you are not familiar with integrity.  I respect Barden's choice to not ask taxpayers to pay for his campaign.  I hope that he wins election and changes that aspect of campaign law.  I am opposed to politicians receiving ANY subsidy.
I think people should elect our government officials and not subsidies.