Amazing. It’s happened before. But so infrequently that you want to grab the people involved by the shoulders and shout, “Hey! Good job! That’s what journalism is supposed to do: Report facts!”
I’m talking about an article in the Philadelphia Daily News that explains why it’s so hard to reform the Pennsylvania legislature: Incumbents in Pennsylvania rule the roost virtually unchallenged. The Daily News notes that only five seats out of 203 are now regarded as competitive. The culture of incumbency “breeds an isolated, insulated body eating millions of tax dollars each year, spending billions more without the scrutiny we give TV sit-coms.” Add all the charges and convictions for drunken driving, bribery, spousal abuse and the like, and it’s not a very pretty picture.
How to shake up the status quo? Here’s where the Daily News loses a few of its laurels. The paper says that campaign money is what’s to blame for super-high reelection rates. But Eric O’Keefe, President of Americans for Limited Terms, has studied the election, and he says, “it’s the low spenders who are most entrenched.”
O’Keefe agrees that party bosses can extort money when they have to, and throw it at the few contested races. But the question is, why are so many races uncontested to begin with? The real problem here is the power of incumbents to crimp competition and stave off reform, even without huge campaign coffers. To tackle that problem at the root, you need term limits.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.