Monday, April 23, 2012

Campaign Contributions: What Are They Good For?

Do you know who your L.A. County Supervisor is? Most people don't. These little known elected officials wield an enormous amount of power, controlling the nation's largest local government.
In Los Angeles County we have five members of the Board of Supervisors. These five individuals represent portions of our 10 million-person county. The number of people residing in one district outnumbers the number of people who live in more than a dozen small states. These powerful politicians face little competition in elections. Incumbents are rarely challenged. It has been more than three decades since an incumbent lost.
So if incumbents face little, if any, competition at the ballot box, do they nonetheless raise campaign funds?
The answer is a resounding yes. One purpose, the main purpose, of raising campaign funds is to allow candidates to effectively advocate for themselves. Put another way, the idea is that campaign money allows candidates to get their messages to the voters.
But members of the board of supervisors have little need to persuade voters to vote for them, they have no challengers. Yet they -- in particular Don Knabe, Michael D. Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas -- are amassing large campaign war chests, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Who gives campaign contributions to candidates all but guaranteed to win? Not surprisingly those who have business before the county. Knabe, who is running unopposed, has raised more then $350,000 from developers, contractors, and builders, among others. Antonovich has also raised more than $350,000, and much of this campaign cash similarly came from developers and contractors. Ridley-Thomas has outraised both Knabe and Antonovich, raking in almost $450,000.

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