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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Waste

Goleta Politicians and Others Spend Way Too Much Money on Garbage

By Silvia Uribe

Recently, USA Today reported that the total cost of this year's presidential and congressional elections will reach $5.3 billion according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks money's influence on U.S. elections and public policy. But what we desperately need is a "Center forResponsible Politics," to track how campaigns choose to spend their money, and who or what gets negatively impacted by them.

More than $5 billion seems to me to be an irresponsible expenditure, especially considering the financial situation of our country. Most of this propaganda goes directly to the trash can! At this time, it seems like a slap on the face of those who are facing serious financial hardship. What's wrong with our political parties and their leaders? Leaders are supposed to be level-headed and make sound decisions. Is this how they demonstrate their financial planning skills and responsibility? I'm terrified!

Think about it, these figures reflect only federal races, but what about individual state races, such as the State Senate race between Tony Strickland and Hannah-Beth Jackson, with its preposterous ad battle? They have raised and spent more than $7 million for their campaigns. In the past few days, I've received around four pieces of printed propaganda from each candidate per day. It is ridiculous!

As for the Goleta City Council candidates, the Coalition for a Healthier Goleta, a "mysterious" group that supports Jean Blois and Don Gilman, has not even filed, as of October 28, financial reports as required, hiding from voters what its sources are. This group has already spent approximately $20,000 on printed ads and TV commercials in favor of Blois and Gilman.

I brought my concern to a person involved in campaigns, and his response was, "How else would candidates promote themselves?" Don't get me wrong. I believe in campaigning. I know that it is hard, valuable work and that it is needed. I have volunteered my time for campaigns before. But there's something called limits, you know?

Because it doesn't stop with print media; there's also the so called "robo calls" and the "voter ID calls," notwithstanding the infamous telephone surveys. (Mine being a Latino household, we get all of the above, plus the ones that focus on minorities - woo-hoo!) And let's not forget - how could we - the numerous TV ads. It is not only irresponsible, but quite impolite to jam citizens' minds, mailboxes, and recycling containers full of this stuff. They have already worn everyone out - even political junkies like me! There's something to be said about that.

You may have watched last Wednesday's half-hour "infomercial" that Barack Obama aired on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, BET, MSNBC, and TV One, with which he punctuated his broadcasting strategy. Reportedly, the spots cost him almost $1 million apiece. If this is not extravagant and excessive, I don't know what is.

It begs the question: What about regulations? There are regulations for nonprofit organizations prohibiting their participation in political campaigns; counties can set limits on where political propaganda can be displayed; online political advertising has been regulated, and the contributions made to a campaign are regulated as well. Broadcasting political "issues" and/or candidates has its regulations, as do print pieces regarding their content. But when it comes to setting limits to spending or to bombarding the public, no political party wants to talk about regulations, and so far, the Supreme Court has not taken up this issue either.

For future elections, I propose that at least all printed propaganda should give the public an option to unsubscribe when they don't want to receive more mailers. Each piece should include a telephone number and an email address where people can opt to have their name and address removed. I would've unsubscribed a long time ago if I had been given the opportunity. I don't appreciate when politicians portray themselves as financially and/or environmentally conscientious while they spend valuable resources, and also step over people's boundaries.

The good news is that the election is here! After almost two years of political propaganda, I just want to vote and be over with it!

Please vote!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

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