Only the people can take back elections

The Kentucky legislature is considering a measure that would increase campaign donor limits, and supporters say this is one way to tamp down the influence of out-of-state money in elections.

House Bill 147 would double the limit for individual donors directly to candidates, from $1,000 to $2,000 per election, beginning this summer. Also, the annual contribution limit to a party’s state committee would double, from $2,500 to $5,000.

Sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, the bill passed 5-2 this week in the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Similar measures supported by Republicans and Democrats have been introduced previously but failed to pass out of the General Assembly.

There is something to be said for increasing the limits simply as a recognition of inflation. The current limits were adopted 18 years ago.

We are not confident, though, that the increases would have much effect on the influence of out-of-state money. If anything, this would increase spending across the board.

“One of the things wrong with American politics these days is the influx of huge out-of-state, dark money, soft money, whatever you want to call it,” Stumbo said. “What this does is try to level the playing field a little bit. I think it’s only fair that candidates be able to collect a little more money.”

Stumbo is probably overstating the potential impact of HB 147.

Ultimately, the only way to offset the impact of out-of-state money in state elections is for a large number of Kentuckians to take an interest in the races. They will have to make candidates accountable for what they say and promise. They will have to reject sound-bite advertising loaded with attacks on opponents.

Being an informed, thoughtful voter is hard work. It’s been too easy for candidates to swamp campaigns with over-the-top television ads that usually have little to do with explaining or helping solve Kentucky’s challenges.

We don’t need more money in politics. We need more voters who know their power.

Kentucky New Era

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