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Debasement of Campaigns

November 05, 1986

Your editorial (Oct. 26), "Television Bashing," on the debasement of political campaigns by TV commercials is well-taken.

Since 1962 I have been directly involved in 10 major statewide political campaigns for governor, U.S. Senate, the attorney general and three initiative measures. In that period there has been a steady escalation of campaign costs and concomitantly greater and greater demands on candidates to spend more and more time on raising money to pay for the huge, mounting TV costs. It's now reached the dimensions of a TV arms race.

Candidates are spending 75% to 95% of their time in endless rounds of fund-raising cocktail parties, breakfasts, dinners and follow-up telephone calls, wheedling money from a "fat cat" special interests and wealthy individuals who are besieged by the constant mail-telephone call campaigns for money.

So, yes indeed, the candidate doesn't have time for debates, community forums, meetings with neighborhood groups and consultation with civic officials about problems that relate to a state political election.

More seriously has been the steady erosion of voter interest and voter turnout in elections. Literally millions of voter-eligible citizens have simply dropped out of the political process, disgusted by the negative campaigns and rightfully feeling ignored by the candidates. Do they relate to the TV advertising campaigns that are now almost totally devoid of serious political debate and which advance no new ideas or challenges?

What's the answer to the problem? First, a more vigorous and tough stance by the news media, both broadcast and print, demanding that the candidates shape up or face the wrath of public opinion; and, second, the organization of groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and others into a nonpartisan, statewide "Voters Alliance" to put pressure on candidates to abandon their negative, misleading and counterproductive TV campaigns.


Pacific Palisades

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