Monday, October 11, 2004
On this day:

Campaign Finance and Disclosure in Alabama

This article in the Oct. 10 Tuscaloosa News provides food for thought regarding Alabama's campaign finance system. It reveals the "shadowy" nature of campaign contributions in which paper trails are difficult to follow, making it easy for large contributors to maintain both influence and anonymity. It refers to a 2003 study ranking Alabama 47th out of the 50 states in the strength of its campaign finance disclosure laws.

State Rep. Jeffrey McGlaughlin (D-Guntersville) may overstate the problem when he equates the system to legalized "money-laundering", but the problems with campaign finance in Alabama are too corrupting to overlook. Some of the possible "cures", though, could be worse than the symptoms. For example, the federal Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCFRA), commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act, should be the last thing Alabama seeks to emulate. McCain-Feingold amounts to an incumbent-protection scheme that limits free speech and discourages participation in the political process.

A better alternative would combine unlimited contributions, full disclosure, and tough rules prohibiting the use of campaign finances for personal gain. Such a formula would inspire greater confidence in the political system by minimizing opportunities for corruption, while allowing the fullest participation in the processes of democracy.