Democracy Endowment

April 3, 2000

Al Gore's prescription for overhauling the campaign finance laws is to create a federal "Democracy Endowment" that would finance general election contests for the House, Senate, and perhaps even the White House. Gore unveiled his proposal during a speech at Marquette University, saying that the $7.1 billion federal endowment fund would be funded through tax-deductible contributions. According to his proposal, any candidate accepting the financing would be prohibited from accepting any other contributions.

Al Gore admits that he is an "imperfect messenger" for this campaign finance reform proposal. And that is an understatement, given his corner-cutting behavior in 1996 and his direct involvement in the Temple Scandal during that same year. One wag recently said that whatever the Chinese word for "chutzpa" is, Al Gore has it.

But let's for a minute evaluate the proposal on its merits. Mr. Gore argues that since the donations go to a non-partisan account rather than to an individual, the connection between money and influence would be severed. But I doubt that big business and big labor will lose their influence in these elections simply because a federal endowment is created. And I am sure there will be loopholes. Look at the loopholes for soft money and other kinds of campaign spending.

And think of the advantages this would give to incumbents. No longer would candidates have to go to the constituents for financial support. No longer would they have to consider if their vote would help finance an opponent. They already benefit from name recognition and easier media access. Now they won't even have to come back to their district to raise money or explain their votes to outraged voters.

Credit Mr. Gore from changing the subject from his own campaign finance abuses to campaign finance reform. But the proposal would probably do more to ensure that incumbents are re-elected and challengers are easily defeated.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.