Paul Jacob

Many would argue this means public financing of presidential campaigns must be beefed up. When Howard Dean first opted out, he insisted that we need a much more robust system, providing "qualified candidates with the public funding necessary to wage meaningful and competitive campaigns. . . ."

However, just how much tax money will it take to enable everyone to run a "meaningful and competitive" campaign in such a system? And won't the incumbents in Congress continue to write the rules so that mainstream candidates are subsidized to a much greater degree than, say, Ralph Nader?

What about voters?

But the real loser, as usual, is us, the voting and taxpaying public, who get stilted elections ? and dunned for a contribution to boot.

Taxpayers aren't very fond of the program. Fewer and fewer check the box on their tax forms to send the presidential candidate welfare fund another $3. In 1980, 29 percent of taxpayers checked the form to send tax dollars to the presidential fund. That number has now dropped to only 13 percent.

"While the rate of taxpayer acceptance of the system has been low," a congressional study finds, "the rate of candidate acceptance has been high." Gee whiz, go figure.

Kay J. Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters, explains the problem with us taxpayers: "Perhaps many taxpayers don't understand how the Fund works. Checking the box will not increase your tax burden or reduce your refund."

Of course, you realize that if this money were going to something with which the League disagreed, they'd be screaming that siphoning off these tax dollars does indeed leave fewer dollars to go toward other programs. Ultimately, it leads to higher taxes.

And it makes you wonder why the League isn't complaining: Increased regulation of campaigns, beginning in 1974, has coincided with increased incumbent re-election rates. These laws are not helping the voters, male or female, that's for sure.

It has gotten so obnoxious that the major parties' lavish conventions are now paid for by hard-working taxpayers ? 13 million bucks for the donkeys and then another 13 mill for the elephants.

Not a shilling for a shindig!

It doesn't have to be this way. At their convention today in Atlanta, delegates of the Libertarian Party will nominate their presidential candidate. Their nominee won't win, that much we know. But their convention and their campaign won't cost me a penny ? or a dime of anyone's taxes. And unlike Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, and even the Natural Law Party, the Libertarians refuse to request or accept public funding.

Three cheers. There should be no welfare for politicians. Amongst so many political groups waddling to the trough, it's nice to see at least one group resist the temptation.

The whole point of free elections is for voters to enjoy freedom of choice when choosing which candidate to trust with their vote, or with their money, and for candidates also to have freedom of choice in running their campaigns. (For ideas on how to put freedom back into our over-regulated elections, read my free Common Sense e-letter.)

Campaigns should be run on freely donated private resources, not a system of government subsidy and regulation.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.