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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Not So Poor Richard

I ran across a 2003 list of the wealth of the members of the US Senate. 40 members of the US Senate are millionaires. That number includes 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats and John Kerry topped the list at over $160,000,000.

Alabama's own Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) weighs in at a cool $7,000,000+. It doesn't give financial information on Jeff Sessions (R-Mobile)since he did not make the millionaires list.

Since this list is a couple of years old a few of the numbers will have changed, but it is eye-opening to see the disconnect between the average American and those who represent them.

8 Comments:

Anonymous SouthernLawyer said...

it is eye-opening to see the disconnect between the average American and those who represent them.

The primary reason for this disconnect is the restriction on the size of individual donations that candidates may receive for their campaigns. This is called "reform" to "avoid corruption or the appearance of corruption." But the reality is that such laws do nothing to stop corruption and almost everything to protect incumbents.

If you run for Congress, expect to require $1 million at least to challenge an incumbent effectively. Before campaign finance "reform," if you had a wealthy friend who believed in what you stood for, he could give you a large portion of that amount, making it much easier to raise the rest.

Today, however, you must raise that money in increments of no larger than $2,000 per individial donor per election. That may seem like much, but not when the average donation is more like $50. Without very large donations to help, it's nearly impossible for a challenger to raise enough money to win.

The incumbent, of course, finds it much easier -- probably about 10x easier -- to raise large numbers of smaller contributions as well as large numbers of the maximum now allowed.

The result is that, with rare exceptions, only the independently wealthy can effectively challenge incumbents in office and, even in open seats, the independently wealthy have a huge edge.

This, I think, is the main reason the average Congressman is so much more wealthy than the average American.

And the bad example of Congress is why I am so glad the people of Alabama have so far been smart enough to resist efforts to restrict the size of individual campaign donations in this state.

7:26:00 AM  
Anonymous elliot ness said...

southern lawyer is a weak apologist for the wealthy.

the watergate reforms were tested in buckley v. valeo. they are codified 26 usc 441 a-d.

to suggest the federal election regulations are inferior to alabama's legalized money laundering is to equate don siegelman with integrity.

dont be fooled, the federal election guidelines work properly and were only recently 'upgraded' on the maximum donation per cycle.

However, soft money at the federal level (abramoff's playground) is just like alabama's pac to pac illicit laundering.

dont confuse hard with soft dollars or individual federal hard donations with individual hard donations laundered to soft money thru a maze of crooked lobbyists and shell pacs.

wouldnt a major sting be nice this legislative session? we have such character and integrity in the over 600 lobbyists in montgomery that include several jailbird felons.

yes, its time for sting, and its time for more severe campaign and election regulations that move toward, not away from the federal guidelines.

sunshine is the perfect disenfectant, and alabama is a moldy toilet at best, on the issue of transparency.

10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Spending limits, spending limits, spending limits. You can get all the money you can raise, but you can only spend a certain amount. No dates, no exceptions. For your campaign for the US Senate, you can spend X amount of money. If you go over, you're disqualified. It can be justified under the rule-making clause of the Constitution (Art 1, Sec 8, clause 14).

1:24:00 PM  
Anonymous poor richard said...

dan, florida had spending limits with public matching funds for those that stayed within the limits. governor chiles always stayed within the limits, so did buddy mckay, jeb never did and lost the first time against chiles in 94. jeb bush didnt ignored the limits and match money that mckay chose to honor the second time around, and jeb outraised him almost 3-1 (that includes huge sums of public money mckay earned by staying within the limits)

the point is, limits dont work and might abridge speech issues. money generally equals message once you get outside of the low hanging fruit. if the public likes your message, you will continue to expand your base and increase your capacities.

I agree with elliot that sunshine is the perfect base upon which to build any regulatory structure, particularly those involving the public trust. its hard enough to keep politicians honest with full sunshine, lets not put them in harms way with the current system in alabama or with arbitrary limits. the sky should be the limit, if its within your reach.

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