Kevin Price
Public funding of elections leads to predictable results
By Kevin Price
November 27, 2009

Many have been crying for government funding of elections as a vehicle to make elected office more accessible for those who are not rich and to weaken the influence of money on the policy process. A new report by the Goldwater Institute indicates that may not be the case. The Goldwater Institute is a state public policy foundation for the state of Arizona and its recent report shows that public financing has empowered substantially more "big government believers" than supporters of smaller government to the process, according to the Director of its Center for Constitutional Government, Nick Dranias.

The report takes a rather objective look of the impact of public funding on candidates by grading and ranking state legislators based on their commitment to small government as demonstrated by the bills they supported. The institution's philosophy is best described as classical liberal, meaning that government simply should tax, spend, and regulate as little as possible. Like those report cards you received in school, the grading looks familiar — an "A" for those who would vote like the organization's namesake (Barry Goldwater) and an F of those who reflect the views of the current sitting President, Mr. Obama.

Here are some of the facts from the study:

  • As shown in the Institute's report, publicly-financed candidates in both the State Senate and House disproportionately receive failing grades.

  • More publicly-financed candidates rank in the bottom half than in the top half.

  • And publicly-financed candidates that rank in the bottom 10 are nearly double the number of publicly-financed candidates in the top 10.

The report went far and wide in its scope and its grading scale made the legislature's work very clear. The report was also quite thorough, going through over 1,200 bills, memorials, and resolutions introduced this pass session. It gives a solid framework for individuals to determine what work their elected officials are about: protecting taxpayers or exploiting them.

The National Center for Policy Analysis summarized the report by pointing out that, "Scores for the 49th Arizona Legislature remain around the 50 percent mark, indicating a near equal amount of votes that undermined liberty as upheld it. While legislators with the highest scores received a letter grade of A, it should be remembered that this rating represents a percentage score of 80, leaving much room for improvement. Likewise, these scores illustrate legislators' relative commitment to liberty. They are not absolute measures of a legislator's merit, and do not constitute any endorsement, says Dranias."

In my opinion, this study's findings should not surprise anyone. If one uses welfare to get elected (public funding), how can one expect them to hold a tough line on welfare for the general population once elected. That would be the epitome of hypocrisy. The moral legs necessary for supporting smaller government are wiped out by the power of government subsidies for these candidates. Like virtually every other area of discussion, more government in election funding is not the solution to our problems.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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