To the Editor:
In your February 14th issue, There is a letter written by John McLaughry of Ethan Allen Institute fame rebutting a letter I wrote regarding Senator Joe Benning's support of campaign finance regulations that have become nothing more than a system of legalized bribery of our elected officials. I mentioned the Citizen's United decision as having increased the magnitude of the problem. The reality of the problem existed long before Citizens United. I suggested comparing how legislators vote with where their largest contributions come from. I did not direct my comments against one party or the other. My unhappiness with the American system of campaign finance applies equally to all who participate in it.
Anyone who reads Mr. McLaughry's columns in the Caledonian-Record, or researches the philosophy of the Ethan Allen Institute, knows that his positions overwhelmingly favor a free market economy. He also has a talent for using provocative phrases like "government speech police" and belittling organizations which favor liberal policies, regardless that my letter said nothing about any of that. He is however correct about what Citizens United decided.....that any entity has a First Amendment right to take out newspaper, radio, and television ads saying anything it wants about political campaigns and candidates. That was precisely my point. Given that most campaign expenditures are for newspaper, radio, and television ads, a Supreme Court decision like Citizens United provided the wrapping paper and the bow on a gift to political candidates that was already too large and too corrupting.
Reality tells us that it is the large organizations, corporations, and unions that have the ability to make the huge contributions which affect how legislators vote. Quid pro quo becomes a fact of life because so much cash is needed to run a successful campaign. Regular folks who work in routine jobs can't compete with the big guys and lose any leverage they might have had. The widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of us is real. The sad state of our campaign finance laws propagates that reality and continues to chip away at both our democracy and the equal value of every vote. Hopefully folks like Mr. McLaughry and Senator Benning will one day wake up to that fact.
South Ryegate, Vt.