Let the campaign begin

Want to see the stuff that many politicians would like to keep covered up? http://tinyurl.com/72pl8z5 Too sexy for print.

It’s already begun. Elected officials are announcing their new campaigns on Twitter, pundits are busily pontificating on who should run for what, and the deadly cocktail party circuit invitations are piling up. Candidates are trying to tie up key endorsements before their rivals have a chance to make the same call. It’s a good time to reflect on what you, the all important voter, might want to look for in 2014, no matter your political persuasion.

What are the first words that come to mind when you think about whom you want to represent you? Honesty and integrity? Someone who agrees with you all the time? A candidate who is running for the right reasons?

Are you concerned about electing candidates with hidden, or not-so-hidden, agendas favoring a special interest group? What about candidates whose political views are so set in stone, their votes are 100 percent predictable? You can almost see the thought balloons over their heads. Taxes = evil. Liberals = whiners. Business = whatever they want.

What questions should you be asking the candidates who will be knocking on your door all too soon? Voters often have a litmus test on a particular issue such as reproductive choice, marriage equality, privacy concerns, or the ever-present instability and insufficiency of Nevada’s tax system.

But some voters are already saying they’re not going to vote for anyone associated with the Republican Party until its members get a grip on their platform and candidates stop spouting anti-women, anti-gay, anti-change rhetoric at every turn. They’re weary of waiting for the party to conquer its extremes and stabilize into a rational conservative philosophy.

Candidates need money to get elected. And while the small donors are important to establish a base of support in any race, most candidates are going to have to reach out to the bigger donors to meet their budget goals.

Depending on the race, there are certain moneyed constituencies who try (and often succeed) in overly influencing election results through the power of the checkbook. In local races, these tend to be developers and unions. In legislative and statewide races, the donor crowd is broader, ranging from casinos to trial lawyers to the mining industry. Ever notice how these lobbyists and their clients often show up at fundraisers for both candidates in a race? It’s called insurance.

Uber-wealthy individuals think nothing of dropping $10,000 into a race and giving more to a PAC that turns around and gives it to the candidates the PAC was organized to support, thus exceeding the contribution limits. Yes, that’s legal, although it shouldn’t be.

You can easily review prior campaign finance reports for state-level officials through the Secretary of State’s website at http://tinyurl.com/72pl8z5. Ross Miller, our current SOS, has improved the website’s search capabilities, making it very easy to use. Try it. See for yourself where the money is coming from to elect your favorite, or not so favorite, official.

While every politician will tell you campaign donations don’t mean anything more than “access,” in many cases access is what sways a vote. Most of the votes in the Legislature aren’t on major policy issues, but smaller parochial concerns creating an advantage for one industry over another (think banks and credit unions), or one profession protecting or expanding its turf (think doctors and nurses). Often, prior monetary support of a candidate does make the difference in pushing a legislator one way or another.

After a little investigating, you may decide you don’t like any of the self-proclaimed candidates, leaving you another option: run for the office yourself. Filing for non-judicial state races begins on March 3, 2014, just six months from now. If you don’t want to run, then donate and volunteer. Otherwise, don’t complain about your choices.