Will Massachusetts Have Clean Elections

Events of 1998 proved that Massachusetts voters do not agree with their elected officials on the role of money in politics. A proposed “Clean Elections” law calling for public financing of candidates was rejected last year by the Legislature. House Speaker Thomas Finneran said it would be a “frivolous” use of taxpayer money to fund political campaigns. Governor Paul Cellucci came out against the Clean Elections idea in his campaign for the corner office. But the law was overwhelmingly approved by the voters as Question 2 on the ballot in November.

The law creates a voluntary system of public financing for candidates who agree to accept no contributions larger than $100 and to abide by total spending limits. Now–because voters cannot force the Legislature to appropriate money to fund the measure–the citizen-backed law goes again before the House and Senate. Supporters have estimated it will require about $14 million a year to provide funds to qualifying candidates. Will the Legislature respect the wishes of the electorate and fund the law? Finneran tempered his opposition in the aftermath of the election and has given signs that the House will vote on an appropriation. And Gov. Cellucci has said he will sign the law if it makes it to his desk.

CommonWealth asked several leading observers and activists to assess the drive for campaign finance reform in Massachusetts. Should the Legislature fund the Clean Elections law? Does the law stand a good chance of “cleaning up” state politics? And where should the reform movement go from here? To spark the debate we asked the writers to review an essay by CommonWealth editor Dave Denison in the Summer ’98 edition. In “A Few Quibbles About ‘Clean Elections,'” Denison suggested the law “will be another partial reform and that it won’t make much difference in Massachusetts politics”–in part because power on Beacon Hill resides more with the House Speaker and the Senate President than with the moneyed interests and in part because public financing “doesn’t come to grips with the way television has changed the democratic process.” (See, “A Few Quibbles About ‘Clean Elections’“, CW, Summer 1998) We present here six comments by supporters of the Clean Elections law, followed by four dissenting opinions.


You’ve got to start somewhere

By Ellen S. Miller

While some of the “quibbles” raised by Dave Denison in his Summer 1998 editorial about the Clean Elections campaign in Massachusetts are worth discussing, I was saddened by the overall thrust of his essay. He argued that activists were in effect wasting their time addressing “brush fires in places like Maine and Massachusetts while forests burn in places like Washington, D.C. and Texas and California.” He suggested that reformers overstated the importance of campaign contributions on politics and thus, that addressing money-in-politics would fail to change governance. He had the audacity, in a journal called CommonWealth, to propose raising the state’s contribution limit “back up to $1,000”–at a time when only one-tenth of one-percent of the population (and a very wealthy elite this is) makes such big contributions. And he concluded by accusing Clean Money activists of attempting to “escape from politics” and of failing to remember that all politics is a contest between organized people and organized money.

Last things first. If a campaign that mobilizes 6,000 grass-roots volunteers and logs 2,300 miles on a bus tour through 30 communities while gathering 50,000 “Dear friend” postcards and over 150,000 petition signatures isn’t an example of “organized people,” I don’t know what is. The main reason the entrenched political culture of Massachusetts is responding to the Clean Elections call–first by the endorsement by the entire state congressional delegation and now by acknowledgment from the state’s top elected officials that they will fully fund the law–is because there is an active, organized civic culture demanding fundamental reform.

Denison is certainly right to call for other changes needed to blaze the democratic trail in Massachusetts. But no one in the Clean Money movement has ever argued that this reform alone will solve all our ills. All we’re talking about is cutting the cost of campaigns, reducing the power of special interests, and making it possible for good people to run viable campaigns for public office without being beholden to wealthy special interests. The public, by the way, doesn’t think Clean Money campaign reform is a panacea either. But it does believe, with good reason, that it will address these core problems. You’ve got to start somewhere!

It’s also true that the cash-stoked fire that is destroying the foundations of our democracy burns brighter in places like Texas and California and Washington, D.C. But if it is wrong for money to speak louder than votes there, it is equally wrong in places where there may be more firefighters, like Massachusetts. There weren’t many people living in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho when these states became the first to affirm women’s right to vote. But those victories were a model and inspiration to reformers in the other states and ultimately spurred the suffrage movement to victory. The victory of Clean Elections initiatives this November in Massachusetts and Arizona have boosted the national movement in the same way. There is of course much more work to be done before we can speak of a renewal of democracy in America. Rather than quibbling, Dave Denison should roll up his sleeves and join the fight. We’d welcome his help!

Ellen S. Miller is the executive director of Public Campaign, a nonpartisan group in Washington D.C. that supports state-based campaigns for campaign finance reform.

Give reform a chance

By Arnold Hiatt

The Clean Elections law passed by voters deserves the full support of lawmakers as a common-sense reform to reduce the influence of special-interest money in politics.

It’s in part because of those special interests that I can say as an “insider” that the democratic process no longer works as it once did. The system is broken and it’s not going to be fixed by those in Washington any time soon.

I call myself an “insider” because I have been involved in a number of presidential elections–starting in 1968 as the treasurer for Eugene McCarthy who challenged President Johnson and the war in Vietnam. Public service then attracted young people who felt they could make a difference. Then came Watergate and disillusionment and campaign finance abuses.

Today, politics has become an arms race – but with money instead of missiles. Candidates are forced to spend almost all their time raising funds–and being compromised. The impact on the electorate is distressing. In a recent poll, voters when asked who really controls Washington answered overwhelmingly “special interests”–not Congress or the President. Unfortunately, they’re right!

Here we are on the dawn of a new century and every issue we face depends on how our democracy works: how we educate our children, care for our sick, elderly, and poor, and protect our environment. These issues are too vital to be held hostage to special interests. These issues are for all of us as free and equal citizens to address.

I see only one way out of this collapsing democratic process: We must end the arms race and establish a system of financing campaigns that reflects the “soul of democracy.”

On election day, Massachusetts voters moved to the forefront of a democratic renewal effort by embracing Question 2. Congress is unlikely to pass comprehensive reform until enough states pass it first. Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Arizona have passed Clean Elections laws and several more will consider the issue in upcoming elections.

These efforts have been heralded as “blueprint[s] for national reform” by The Boston Globe. Let’s see how they work before listening to those who, like Henny Penny, think the sky will fall down because voters made elections more democratic and fair.

As a pragmatic businessman, I cannot afford to spend time or resources on just any good cause. I have chosen to work on this cause because it is central to a more fair and representative democracy. I realize it won’t happen in Congress soon. But it won’t happen at all unless other states follow our lead.

In the past, dedicated people–those very much like the thousands of volunteers who are working on this campaign–have ended slavery, have secured the vote for women, and can now liberate the republic from the destructive money culture in government at all levels.

Arnold Hiatt is the former CEO of Stride Rite Company. He serves on the Advisory Board of Mass Voters for Clean Elections.

Uphold the will of the voters

By George Pillsbury

Voters approved Question 2 by one of the highest margins for a binding initiative in the 80-year history of Massachusetts citizen ballot initiatives. The initiative won every county and almost all of the state’s 351 cities and towns. It earned strong support among voters of all age groups and all partisan beliefs including Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Voters liked the idea of comprehensive rather than incremental reform. They supported the law’s key features, such as spending limits, a reduced reliance on private donations, the opportunity for more candidates to run, more competitive elections, and more choices for voters. Reluctant in the past to support public financing, voters now view public funds as an investment in the infrastructure of democracy in the same way we make investments in the infrastructure of our highways, health care, or education.

In implementing the new law, the Governor and Legislature are not only upholding the expressed will of the voters. They are also providing an important model that can help advance campaign reform in other states and nationally. Given the notable inaction at the federal level, it is vital that states like Massachusetts move ahead with citizen-backed efforts to achieve meaningful and genuine campaign reform.

At the same time, we must view this reform as only a starting point to broader efforts to restore voter faith in elections and government and encourage more citizen participation. For example, campaign reform must address the role of television. Every other modern democracy provides TV time to qualified candidates and parties. It is time to explore similar policies that can mitigate costs, improve access, and perhaps encourage less negativity. There are good recommendations on an approach to television in campaigns from a just-released report by a nonpartisan, blue-ribbon panel of the Federal Elections Commission chaired by Norman Ornstein and Les Moonves. Their recommendations for broadcasters ought to be seriously considered, though only in the context of broader reforms encompassed in the Clean Elections law.

There are also a host of improvements that other modern democracies have adopted with measurable success in encouraging greater voter participation. These include weekend voting, more education starting in the primary grades, nonpartisan redistricting, and modern voting methods that afford voters greater choices while ensuring everyone is fairly represented at the table of government.

But campaign reform must begin by implementing voter-backed initiatives such as the one here in Massachusetts. The Clean Elections initiative is an important, exciting, and hopeful place to start.

George Pillsbury is director of the Massachusetts Money and Politics Project, a nonpartisan research organization based in Boston.

A national problem may need a national solution

By Alan D. Solomont

When the citizens of Massachusetts voted this past November by a 2-to-1 margin in favor of Question 2, the Clean Elections initiative, the message they sent was pretty clear: There is too much money in politics, and money plays too important a role in our democracy.

As someone who devotes more time and energy to political fundraising than most, I concur wholeheartedly. In fact, I supported Question 2 by lending my name to the Mass Voters for Clean Elections Advisory Board and by making a financial contribution. When my two young daughters accompanied me into the voting booth on election day, and I explained the ballot initiatives to them, I voted in favor of Question 2 despite my older daughter’s (age 12) protests that it would put me out of business.

Therefore, I feel qualified to ask whether Question 2 will live up to our expectations and to suggest that despite the impressive victory at the ballot, the Clean Elections initiative does not touch some of the most malignant problems involving money and politics.

A recent newsletter of the Mass Voters for Clean Elections quotes a 19th century political boss, Mark Hanna, who reportedly said: “There are only two important things in politics–the first is money and I can’t remember the second.” Wrong. There is nothing more important in politics today than television, and specifically paid political advertising.

Television makes the huge sucking sound that every candidate hears and which dictates that more time and attention be devoted to fundraising than to any other activity. Television is the dominant medium for delivering a candidate’s message to an increasingly alienated and disinterested electorate. Any attempt to relax the stranglehold money has around the political process must address the role television plays in driving up the cost of campaigns, not to mention its role in lowering the quality of political discourse.

All politics may be local, but money in politics is a national problem. The really big money in politics, and the most damaging, is raised nationally and falls mostly into the category of unrestricted and relatively unregulated “soft money.” Such contributions are made by a frighteningly small number of wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions. Each political party has its cadre of major benefactors (to which I admittedly belong on the Democratic side) who may be passionate about the values and programs of their party, but whose access to and influence over political leaders undermines the confidence of voters in the fairness of our democracy. Whether this lack of confidence is entirely warranted is irrelevant, since the alienation and cynicism that voters exhibit is real.

Not only is the presence of unregulated soft money a problem of national proportions, even the so-called “hard” dollars raised by candidates for federal office is a problem that transcends state boundaries. The cost of running for the United States House and Senate has become so expensive, due primarily to TV advertising, that virtually every candidate for the United States Senate and an increasing number of House candidates must look beyond their own states to find political contributors to support their campaigns.

The success of Question 2 this past November was a good thing. But I wonder if a strategy of state reform won’t, in the end, disappoint when we continue to craft political messages like beer commercials and we depend on a small group of huge national donors to finance both political parties. It might be more effective, in the long run, to build grass-roots support for a national solution–even though this may not feel as good at the moment.

Alan D. Solomont, the founder and former CEO of the A.D.S Group, is a former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He now runs Solomont Bailis Ventures, a health services and eldercare firm in Newton.

One small step for democracy

By Ronnie Dugger

Of course the Legislature should fund the Clean Elections law passed by the voters. And legislators who want it funded, and the press, should demand open-record votes so the voters will know which of their legislators have contempt for their judgment.

I believe Editor Dave Denison is quite right that the Massachusetts Clean Elections outcome is only a partial reform since it does not deal with political advertising on television. Ballot initiatives should deal with this next. We should either prohibit political advertising on radio and TV–there is a very good case for that–or else order the radio and television stations in the Commonwealth to provide equal free time to all ballot-qualified candidates on the stations that broadcast in the geographical regions the candidates seek to represent.

In his “A Few Quibbles about ‘Clean Elections'” in last summer’s issue, though, I think my friend Dave may have mused his way into, but not back out of, one logical thicket. He reasoned there that since state government was more liberal in the ’70s than now, yet money “flowed more freely” then than now, how can we charge the retrogression since then to big money?

First, I doubt money flowed more freely then; it was more underground, but now it’s a continuous monsoon.

Second, I believe that beginning about 1973 there was a closure at the top of the American system against the interests of the citizens. I agree with Ralph Nader that by 1981 that closure–that shutting off the system against the public interest on all basic issues–had become total.

What we are experiencing now is the rigor mortis of our democracy. We still have all the democratic forms, elections, representatives, debates, and votes in legislatures and Congress, but on all fundamental questions what is permitted to pass through those forms into law is bought and paid for by the corporate oligarchy that now governs us. Money flowed in better days, but we the people still had a fighting chance then; now the big corporations and the centimillionaires and billionaires behind them have consolidated their hammerlock on our politics, our governments, and our lives.

State-level reforms cannot, of course, reach the central corruption, which is the corporate control of the federal government–Congress, the President, the regulatory agencies. State-level ballot initiative campaigns, then, in the main are just part of the long-run educational efforts we must make to help each other see the truth free and clear of the mass media’s miasma of mush, gush, sleaze, spin, and materialism. Our goal should be public funding of our own public education (by public funding of all federal elections) linked to equal free radio and TV time for all ballot-qualified candidates. To get that, though, we must organize–our neighborhood, civic, and political organizations, our unions, our congregations, our coalitions, and our selves–into a new people’s movement that is independent, not only of the corporations and the government, but also of the sold-in leaders of the two major political parties.

Ronnie Dugger, the founding editor of The Texas Observer, is also founder and co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.

Better candidates and better campaigns

By Ken Bresler

The first thing that I did as a candidate for state representative was to form a campaign committee so that I could legally raise money. The second thing that I did was write a fundraising letter. I had a campaign treasurer before a campaign manager. My first paid staffer was a fundraising coordinator.

After I lost in the primary last fall, I hauled my campaign literature out to the curb to be recycled–but kept my business reply envelopes to send to prospective donors for contributions to retire my debt.

From my perspective as a former candidate, publicly funded campaigns will improve Massachusetts politics in the following ways, less obvious than eliminating the influence of special interests.

1. Candidates can spend more time raising issues instead of raising money. For two months, I spent five nights a week on the telephone raising money, not researching issues.

2. Campaigns might be shorter. Not only will candidates save the time of raising money, but they won’t be pressured to raise money in the year before an election year. Right now, the maximum donation per person of $500 is for a calendar year, not an election cycle. So candidates try to get contributors to “max out” with a $500 contribution in the year before the election, as well as election year. Shorter campaigns might mean three things. One, voters will pay more attention to compressed campaigns. Two, incumbents can spend more time governing, instead of soliciting contributions. Three, more people will become candidates if they don’t have to neglect their families and livelihoods over the course of more than one calendar year.

3. Publicly funded campaigns will increase the pool of candidates. Right now, most candidates must be affluent or know affluent people. With publicly funded campaigns, we’re more likely to get candidates who are blue-collar workers, students, homemakers–even the unemployed.

Right now, the following kinds of people are practically disqualified from running for office: those who want love from their loved ones, not money; those who resist converting every possible social, neighborly, and professional relationship into a campaign donation; and those who cannot turn a blind eye to the possible special-interest motives of strangers who support their candidacy with money. In other words, the current system discourages people with admirable traits from becoming candidates. Such people could be candidates under publicly funded campaigns.

Finally, of all the skills necessary to be a good candidate, raising money is probably the least relevant to governing. Eliminate the need for that skill, and voters will have a broader range of viable candidates to choose from.

Money is the mother’s milk of politics, as the expression goes. The milk has gone rancid. Toss it out and start again. The Legislature should make sure that publicly funded campaigns are actually funded.

Ken Bresler ran for state representative in Newton and Brookline last year, largely on a platform of campaign and government reform.


But is it constitutional?

By Stephen Roop

The most important issue around Question 2 today is not mechanical but constitutional. There is no question that the U.S. Constitution allows public financing schemes. But it may ban some elements critical to Question 2.

Question 2’s central goal, to “level the playing field” among candidates for a given office, may well be unconstitutional. Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case that still shapes federal court decisions on campaign financing, prohibits such leveling. So, citing Buckley, does a 1994 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court advisory opinion on then-pending campaign finance legislation. Thus the federal public finance system for presidential candidates which Buckley approved, and the state public finance schemes which courts have approved since Buckley, are all resolutely non-leveling. Candidates do not get fixed amounts; instead, their qualifying private contributions, high or low, are matched in public funds by some formula.

In contrast, Question 2 attempts to equalize spending in several ways. In primary races, all candidates who take public subsidies get equal amounts for campaigning, no matter how little or how much in allowed private contributions they’ve raised. In general election races, subsidized candidates who win their primaries get equal amounts for campaigning without having to raise any additional qualifying money. And in any race Question 2 covers, the spending of subsidized candidates and non-subsidized candidates (those who decline or don’t qualify for Question 2 subsidies) is equalized over a broad spectrum: Subsidized candidates, though they alone must observe a spending limit in exchange for their subsidies, get further subsidies – up to twice their initial amount–to match the largest expenditure over that limit by a non-subsidized candidate. Question 2, in its leveling drive, may, on several fronts, push into territory forbidden by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Buckley and subsequent case law also do not bode well for the new $100-per-individual contribution limit Question 2 imposes on subsidized candidates. Since the $100 limit applies to each election cycle, it is equivalent to a $25-per-year limit for statewide candidates, elected on a four-year cycle, and $50 per year for candidates for the Legislature and Governor’s Council, elected on a two-year cycle. Buckley approved a hard-money limit of $1,000 per individual per year in all federal races. Several recent cases, noting how inflation has eroded the purchasing power of 1976 dollars, have looked very skeptically on contribution limits below $1,000, at least in statewide races. Even under a public financing scheme, a $25 yearly limit on contributions to statewide candidates is sure to attract exacting scrutiny if challenged in court.

The principle at stake in these questions is whether the government can limit to this extent the giving and spending–and thus the freedom of expression–of funders and of candidates. Time is wasted debating Question 2’s mechanics if it is constitutionally defective. Thus a Question 2 challenge should be mounted soon and comprehensively. If the courts strike key elements of Question 2, the Legislature should balk at trying too quickly to put Humpty together again, for skeptics abound, more so than ever since the November election. Those of us who support public financing in principle know there is much good work elsewhere from which we could learn. But it may take time to build consensus around a scheme that squares with the Constitution.

Stephen Roop, a former senior official in the Dukakis administration, led the “No on 2” campaign.

Vague, unworkable, and unrealistic

By Michael Goldman and Vann Snyder

In 1799, as George Washington lay dying in his bed, a group of the best and brightest from the medical community of Virginia methodically bled the former president to death in a doomed attempt to save his life.

In 1998, a group of Massachusetts reformers attempted to create an antidote to the influence of special interest money in political campaigns, but like Washington’s doctors before them, ended up creating a worse problem than the one they sought to cure.

This measure, which we fully expect to be overturned on constitutional grounds by either a federal or state court, is vague, unworkable, and unrealistic.

Leaving aside the constitutional problems, let’s look at the practicalities:

Problem one: Funding. While the referendum envisions funding for all qualified candidates, it does not address additional funding for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), which must oversee the distribution of funds and compliance with the requirements. The fact is, without computers and staff to monitor these campaigns, fraud and abuse could well exist without either detection or sanctions.

Problem two: The new threshold for triggering state funds. Under the referendum, to receive public funds a candidate for governor must obtain at least 6,000 contributions of $5 to $100 collected between Aug. 1 and the date nomination papers are due. Bizarrely, each contribution from this period must be accompanied by a signed statement from the giver stating they wish the recipient to be eligible for Mass. Clean Elections funds. The paperwork nightmare of this rule is mind boggling. The oversight necessary by OCPF is mind boggling. The waste of precious campaign resources is mind boggling. Neither Pat McGovern nor Brian Donnelly, legitimate candidates for governor in 1998, had 6,000 financial givers. The truth is that this new law is nothing more than an incumbent protection act. Those with organizations and name recognition can run; those without them can’t.

Problem three: Unrealistic limits on spending. Between them, the two Democratic candidates for attorney general spent about $3.8 million in the primary on electronic media alone. Despite that, fully 25 percent of all primary voters who voted in September had neither seen nor heard even a single commercial for either candidate.

The proposed Clean Elections budget for the attorney general’s primary race is $450,000. Not $450,000 for media alone. But $450,000 to build a statewide organization; to get 10,000 nomination signatures; to collect 3,000 contributions of between $5 and $100; to collect signed letters from the 3,000 contributors stating that they wish their candidate to be eligible for public funds; to get at least 15 percent at a nominating convention; to pay for all the telephones, mailings, headquarters, staff, polling, bumper stickers, signs, and travel. And for television and radio ads that tell the voters who these candidates are and how they differ from one another? It’s not nearly enough money.

Vague, unworkable and unrealistic. Let’s hope the court kills this law before this misguided legislation kills the legitimate candidacy of some future candidate.

Michael Goldman is a Boston-based Democratic political consultant. Vann Snyder is a Democratic fund-raising consultant.

Free the airwaves

By Peter Berlandi

I don’t believe taxpayers should pay for campaigns. I think we pay for enough things, and tax dollars should be used for education, helping the poor, government services, etc., not for electing public officials. I don’t want to have my tax dollars subsidizing campaigns or professional sports teams.

I believe that most voters don’t know what was in the “Clean Elections” legislation. I think they voted for it because it said “reform.” They’re tired of the ongoing fundraising that has taken place. And I’m not sure the Legislature is going to have the desire to try to untangle the problems the new law will create.

Yet there should be some type of campaign finance reform, because the fundraising and length of campaigns have gotten out of hand. Unfortunately the people believe that the way to change the system is to reduce the amount of money that you can collect from each donor. I don’t believe that’s effective. If you look at the 1998 gubernatorial race it was more expensive than the 1994 race, yet the candidates had to raise this money in $500 increments. So what they did is spend twice as much time raising money and ignoring issues.

Part of the problem is the cost of the media. If you take a look at campaigns, 60 to 65 percent of the money is allocated for the media–for media buys, for the production of the ads, and for consultants. I have suggested before that if the television networks agreed to give a certain amount of air time equally to all candidates for, say, a three-week period before a primary and a three-week period before a general election, we would cut down the length of campaigns, and we’d cut the expense factor dramatically.

In my view, the communications industry doesn’t want to do that because the source of income is huge for them. But that’s the only way you’re going to correct the problem. Because when a candidate gets in a race, he or she is in it to win. And therefore, they say, “We need more money.” I’ve sat in the room with these people. The consultants come in and say, “You want to win? You’ve got to get your message across. And to get your message across, Governor, you’ve got to raise more money. We need a million dollars for this media buy. So forget everything else, change your schedule, go out and raise money.” And they do it.

What I favor is bringing down the cost of campaigns without burdening the taxpayers. The only way to do that is to free up the airwaves.

Peter Berlandi is managing partner of Custom House Street Associates, a business and political consulting firm. He served as an advisor and a fundraiser for former Governor William F. Weld.

Solutions in search of a problem

By Rep. Cele Hahn

So, I shouldn’t spend as much time as I do raising money for my next campaign? Hey, I have one big fund- raiser a year. And a small mailing. That’s it. And it pays the bills. Then, why, can you tell me, should we lower the contribution limits? Won’t that cause me to spend twice as much time raising money?

My first race five years ago cost about $22,000, including the primary and the general election. I was politically naive. Over 50 years old and in my first political race, I couldn’t believe it could cost that much. But I raised every dollar–because I had support in the community. And, frankly, I can’t see spending public money for candidates without that kind of broad support.

Now, if I’m going to get $24,000 in public funds and can spend $6,000 that I raise (the amount set for state rep. races), I can spend even more than I did in 1994. But what if I don’t need it? And how about the representative in, say, Boston, where it can cost $175,000 to run? That $30,000 won’t go far.

There are other questions: How many people get the money? How many people across the state do we fund? How far does the estimated $14 million go?

But logic be damned. The voters have spoken. Or, voted. So let’s say we go along with the plan. We fund it. And we limit ourselves to the 30 grand. If we also have to take other expenses out of the $30,000 over a two-year period, what services do we eliminate? Postage? Mailing information to constituents? Christmas cards? Travel to conferences? Donations to charitable events in our district? Dinner tickets at meetings? How about telephones? District offices? Tolls on the Mass Pike? My house is four hours, round trip, from the State House.

But what about other proposed suggestions? Cut down on radio and TV advertising? No. Radio and television are the best ways to get the word out to the public. Free advertising? No. If broadcasters are required to provide free radio and TV time, why not newspapers? Why not free food from grocery stores for those campaign teas, free gas to get around the district, free mailings from printers and post offices?

Meet the Author

Dave Denison

Founding Editor, CommonWealth magazine
You may argue that “radio and television belong to the public. You only use them because we let you use them. They belong to us, the people.” Well, then, you pay the employees, the license fees, the utilities, the mortgage and the insurance, and the network fees and the equipment leases. And you pay to paint the antenna, too. Let’s just let the candidates raise the money from the people who believe in them. And spend the money as they choose.

Now, how do I explain this to the voters?

Rep. Cele Hahn, a Republican from Westfield, until recently owned WNNZ in Springfield, the only locally owned and operated radio station in the market. She has been a broadcaster in the Pioneer Valley for 20 years and a state representative since 1994.