Why Are Politicians Always Asking for Money???
It never fails. You're trying to be a responsible adult by educating yourself on your candidates and where they stand. You might attend an event, visit the candidate’s website — maybe even check out what they're saying on social media.
And then, it happens — the campaign asks you for money. No matter how it happens, it can feel forceful, yanking you out of the environment where people are talking about policy and character, and instead they’re talking about donations, finances and expenses. This isn’t what you want to hear in your time off from work and family.
Not surprisingly, people tend to feel a little "put off" by the concept of being solicited for donations. Politics have operated just fine so far without your money, right? Why do those politicians all of a sudden need it now?
Wait — ARE politics operating well without you? You might be surprised by what you find.
From the Pulpit to the Pew
The discomfort of asking for donations is also an issue that many pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders face. The most cynical among us nod skeptically, saying, "Yep, that's where they get you — they’re always coming after your wallet." It's a difficult position to be in, even with something as readily defensible as a church, with lights to keep on, internet to fuel ministries and outreaches, salaries for staff and everything in between. Yet, even with all of these reasonable considerations, there are people who still roll their eyes (and even leave the service early) when the topic of money is mentioned.
Ask any pastor, priest or rabbi you meet. Ask them how their parish or temple responds to requests for donations. Many Christian denominations — especially in the liturgical traditions, such as the case with Catholics and Episcopalians — have two collections per service, the second one often being for a special organization or intention to help ease the suffering of others, beyond simply keeping the church doors open.
If churches get this much pushback from congregations in regards to asking about money, you can imagine the derision that most people have toward people asking for political dollars.
Snake Oil and Righteous Causes
It's a fear of the charlatan that drives this cynicism. All too often on TV, we hear about the megachurch pastor asking for donations to fund a multimillion dollar jet. "It's to spread the word of God," they say, as if a seat on their private jet will move Jesus' teachings closer to the world than the in-person interaction a coach ticket would afford (and at a significantly cheaper price!).
Even though such incidents are in the extreme minority, people make the assumption that everyone in power is abusing donations. People see political scandals blow up all over the news. Sadly enough, all the time, charlatans ask for donations of one sort or another, at the cost of everyone else’s credibility. Even those trying to actually do good in the world.
And the charlatan is often completely unafraid to make the request.
Sunlight to Disinfect
The reason that freedom of information laws are called "sunshine laws" is because of the popular saying from Justice Brandeis, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." It’s in being open and honest with the public that corruption is exposed and prevented.
This is why campaigns and nonprofits have to be open and accountable to the public. This is why election law requires financial reporting. Although not all campaigns operate above board, it's up to you and all of us, the responsible citizens, to hold them accountable. And always feel free to ask what the funds are for.
Why so often?
Here's the news that few people truly understand: campaigns cost a lot of money. Consider the ads that you see on TV and hear on the radio. Think about online marketing, which allows your candidates to find you, and the mailers that come to your door. Your candidates are trying to communicate with you and make you a more informed voter. Every bit of that costs the candidate money.
Running the very website you are reading this article on costs money. Putting together the positions and getting the message from our lips to your ears costs money.
Consider this — most people who pay attention to politics have already made up their minds and political advertising won't really affect their decision. But these people are the minority of voters. The largest voting bloc are not affiliated with either party, perhaps because of several reasons. Some are new voters, some are simply irregular voters, and some vote across party lines, depending on the candidate. This means that, in order to win an election, the candidates have to advertise themselves and their platform. Incumbents have the advantage of name recognition and a pre-existing war chest. New candidates who represent agents of change do not.
Imagine someone in a crowded park trying to be heard. Alone, it's almost impossible. But, if you pull together enough donations to afford a megaphone, all of a sudden, the game has changed and people can finally hear their message.
What Funds Pay For
In my campaign for the Georgia State House, contributions are the lifeblood of our mission. My team and I squeeze as much influence as possible out of every dollar contributed. We waste nothing, but we still need force multipliers to get the message out before the election on November 6, 2018.
I’m working hard to build a movement that can make a true difference for the people of Georgia. But the problem still stands — in order to govern, we must first win. Winning means we have to reach as many of you as possible in our district. We promise to only use your financial contribution on vital resources that will get the word out, inform voters about who I am and hopefully affect positive change in the Georgia General Assembly.
And with that, it's essential that I ask for your help. We need yard signs to increase name recognition, as a surprising amount of voters vote based on that alone. We need mailers to remind people to get registered 30 days prior to election day. We need the ability to advertise what our policy positions are and why I am the best choice for Georgia. Without all of these things and more, our message of fixing traffic or healthcare is dead on arrival.
Thus, I humbly ask you to become a part of my campaign by contributing your financial support. The upper individual limit is $2600, but if your budget is more modest, consider $95 for District 95. Every person who gains coverage under the future Medicaid expansion and every rider on our new and more robust public transit system will be so grateful that your contributions helped to make that a reality.