Spending rules invite gaming

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By Harold Morgan

The primary election has passed. Political advertising won’t disappear until the end of Election Day, Nov. 6.
Political campaigns are a small business with a heavy marketing orientation. The business has two products—the candidate as an individual and the candidate’s ideas. The business must sell the products to customers—the voters—and distinguish itself from the competition. Discussing the competition’s record and beliefs is called “negative campaigning.”
To make the sale, campaigns must create a movement, a process requiring theater and spectacle. This sales process takes money.
Another trait is writing ever-more detailed laws to regulate human behavior. The federal campaign laws are the immediate fault of Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, whose private sector knowledge comes only from marriage, and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a so-called “progressive.” Finding two people better suited to seeking government solutions would be tough.
Years later, Rick Homans raised the legality question when he ran for mayor of Albuquerque. Homans had the money pay lawyers and got the rules dumped. He also didn’t win, which was good.
Rules snared Public Regulation Commission candidates Karen Montoya and Cynthia Hall during the primary. They played by the rules and used public financing. Their main opponent, Rep. Al Park, used his own money, of which he had plenty. Park seems decent enough, but he attracts campaign donations as inevitably as dust bunnies form under my bed.
Rules kept money from Montoya and Hall for a while. With money, finally, Montoya drew a contrast with Park, citing his money and a no-bid state contract, and putting Park in the ballpark with disgraced former PRC member Jerome Block, Jr. Harsh, indeed.
Aided by good feelings about Montoya’s tenure as Bernalillo County assessor, some name identification, and publicity about Park’s sweetheart legal contract, Montoya won.
Hand wringing from intellectual elites and media greet negative campaigning, as if the point was just being mean. Some, such as the Susana Martinez operative Jay McCleskey, do have the meanness reputation. McCleskey was mean to Pat Woods in the Clovis-area race for state Senate. Woods won.
The three Democratic congressional candidates in Albuquerque offered considerable back and forth discussion (if “discussion” is the right word) about each other, all very entertaining. Winner Michele Lujan Grisham has a thing about property taxes. Eric Griego has a thing about traffic tickets.
Political types seem only to dislike the other guy’s money. Less than 24 hours after the primary election polls closed, the state Democratic party issued a fund-raising email conjuring the specter of Karl Rove and the mega-wealthy Koch brothers of Wichita. Never mind that George Soros, major donor to everything left, is a Wall Street financial type.
What is amazing is that the people figure this out. They sort through the deluge and make a decision. The system works – whining nastiness, entertainment and all.
Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress