How Much is Too Much to Pick the State's Chief Executive?

Government reaches into 'almost every corner of the economy and the lives of residents'

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports that $47.6 million was spent on television advertising during the 2014 campaign for governor, which is the second-highest ever. Only the $54 million spent on TV during the 2006 race between Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos was higher.

But Jack McHugh, legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says the figure can only be assessed in the context of what is at stake.

“That $47.6 million is less than a thousandth of what Michigan’s state government spends every year, in an operation that reaches into almost every corner of the economy and the lives of residents, with the power to determine whether we are all more or less prosperous, free and secure," McHugh said. "So how much should be spent to select the chief direction-setter for that operation? The answer depends on the size and intrusiveness of government. If you want less spending and less special interest involvement, then government must be made to matter less to people’s lives and futures.”

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Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said that no public money was spent on TV advertisements during the general election. (Candidates who submit to spending caps can get money from a state income tax checkoff, but this year neither qualified.)

Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said people who give money to political campaigns should be free to spend their money the way they choose.

“You could say, ‘Look at how much people spend on their pets.’ And you could exclaim, ‘If only that money were used on some other noble cause like the homeless, wouldn’t that be a great thing?’" Owens said. "It’s a free society. Nobody is forcing these people to contribute to these campaigns.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, total spending (not just TV ads) by all candidates for federal offices in 2014 was $3.6 billion, which is just slightly more than a thousandth of the amount the federal government will spend this year. By comparison, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, John Lott and Bradley Smith reported that in 2013 Procter & Gamble spent $4.9 billion and GM spent $3.1 billion on advertising.

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Don't Raise Campaign Finance Contribution Limits - Eliminate Them


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