Let’s say Bad Bart challenges you to a gunfight at the OK Corral. If you beat him you get a chance to clean up the town.
Just one problem. “You get only one bullet in your revolver,” growls bad Bart. “But I get six.” Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?
But six-to-one is better odds than most political challengers enjoy against congressional incumbents.
Incumbents have all sorts of extra ammo, advantages which they voted for themselves and which you pay for. Special interests know which side their bread is buttered on, so most of their cash is showered on the incumbent. Guess who passed the campaign laws that make it tough for challengers to match that fundraising? Yep. Incumbents.
Then there’s taxpayer-funded advertising, like public service ads. Taxpayer-funded recording studios. Taxpayer-funded mail touting the incumbent’s latest pork barrel “accomplishment.” Taxpayer-funded constituent service. Taxpayer-funded travel. Even taxpayer-funded web sites.
All this turf is jealously guarded by those in power. In 1996, the FEC wouldn’t even let CompuServe give free web sites to all candidates for office. That would be an “in-kind” contribution prohibited under law. But taxpayer-funded web sites for incumbents are A-OK.
Why do incumbents stack the deck in their favor in the first place? Well, just like Bad Bart, they like to win. Fair or unfair. Now career politicians say they’re going to even the playing field with campaign finance reform. Yeah, right.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.