RNLA campaign finance blogger Paul Jossey has an opinion piece in the Daily Caller arguing how “outside” money has benefited the voters in the New Hampshire Senate race. Jossey argues outside groups, whatever their ideologies and even those who are involved in the race for cynical or disingenuous reasons provide voters valuable information about the candidates.
Outside money provides three main benefits: (i.) it neutralizes the enormous advantages of incumbency; (ii.) it encourages a better-informed citizenry by enabling outside groups to directly engage adversaries in ways a campaign may not be able (or want) to; and (iii.) it allows all interested parties to speak about political campaigns on their own terms, uncensored by control-freak candidate consultants.
In the case of New Hampshire, the incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has all the advantages of incumbency, including name recognition, paid staff in local offices helping constituents for the last six years, and a built-in donor base.
Outside money allows allies of Republican Scott Brown to counter this advertising on issues specifically to target her weaknesses e.g. her party’s very unpopular president and Granite State angst about the border situation.
This outside money benefits democracy by allowing a multitude of voices into the political marketplace to compete for voter attention. This is true even if those spending the money are using the political stage to cynically promote their own issues. Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC is one such group. Mayday PAC is purportedly supporting Jim Rubens, but it has no desire to actually see him win, as a staffer readily admitted.
Mayday PAC’s main goal is to support its founder Harvard Professor Larry Lessig and to damage Scott Brown for not taking the “People’s Pledge” as he had previously in Massachusetts.
But that experience didn’t live up to the hype reformers had hoped. The race got nasty and was very expensive. The only real benefit came to campaign consultants who were better able to control the messages.
Instead of the staid, scripted Massachusetts campaign, New Hampshire voters are being treated to a multitude of voices who all get their chance to persuade. It may be messy, ugly, and even cynical, but democracy is better for it.