Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Splash


In an attempt to become immersed in local politics, I went to the first outlet I could get my hands on, which happens to be the Post Standard. I've been turned off from local papers for a long time, which may seem odd for someone considering a career in journalism. It seems that every time I pick up a paper, The Post Standard, The Citizen, or The Ithaca Journal, I find rampant grammatical and spelling errors. This probably sounds odd from a denizen of the blogosphere, yet I feel the printed word should be held to a higher standard.

What I did find, however, was a significant thread between the stories presented. One story in particular, entitled, "Congress following a poor example," by Blair Horner, outlined a trend prevalent in New York that may soon be translated to the Federal level. Horner opened his piece by stating:

It's often said that states are the policy laboratories for the nation. Sometimes states develop cutting edge policies that deal with a host of issues, like expanding health insurance to the uninsured, reducing prescription drug prices, prosecuting corporate crimes and protecting the environment.

But sometimes state "laboratories" create monsters - policy
Frankensteins. A good example is in the area of campaign finance, where New York State has been the laboratory.

At issue is the disparity between New York's $50,000 per individual cap on campaign contributions in comparison to, say, neighboring Massachusetts' $500 limit. This significant difference is echoed in a piece of proposed legislation in congress called the "The 527 Fairness Act." In short, the "reform" would actually raise campaign contributions allowing, "individual[s] to contribute more than $1 million to the committees of a political party in a two-year election cycle (or more than $2 million to both parties)," and, "a total of $2 million to federal candidates in an election cycle."

This is a difference of $939,600 and $1,960,000 respectively, basically gutting the McCain-Feingold law. Horner correctly notes that money of that size is hard for up-and-comers to challenge incumbents. The perfect example of this may be found in an article on the next page, an AP story on Tom Golisano. He is the perfect example, bringing $60,000,000 of his own money to the campaign for New York state governor.

My main issue with Golisano has been his continued opposition to wind power in New York state. He claims to be more concerned with the effects turbines used to generate electricity would have on tourism--an industry dependent on upstate's pastoral beauty--rather than the idea of wind power itself, yet ignores the long term damage that hampering development of alternative energy sources would have. Unlike the issue of campaign finance reform, New York state has taken a leadership role nationwide in the development of alternative energy through wind power. This is a technological and economical opportunity no New Yorker would like to see our state take a back seat.

With Golisano's cash and typical pseudo-populist rhetoric about tax cuts for the poor and middle class-even if though these tax cuts (if passed) would go right in the gas tank or up the chimny--he will most likely make a strong run for governor in the next election. The way campaign finance laws are set up in New York gives him as unfair an advantage over new comers in the political realm as an incumbent would have. In the interest of Democracy there should be spending caps on campaigns in order to create a more level playing field where candidates can be judged on their merits, not how much money they bring to the game.