Beware the wizard of politics

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

And we obey. But why? We know he’s back there pushing buttons, pulling levers — each motion giving him more control over our election process.

Who is he? He’s Mr. Moneybags, the Jolly Green Giant in a three-piece suit. He’s $15 dollars from you, $400 from your doctor and $1 million from the smiley-faced corporation that owns your groceries.

He’s campaign finance — bloated with power and resistant to change. He affects more of our lives than perhaps anyone else, and he’ll get your money (and your vote) one way or another.

For example: Wal-Mart, the biggest company in the country, was No. 2 in campaign donations in 2004, according to USA Today. Roughly 85 percent of the $1,014,600 it gave to campaigns, including funds from its political action committee, employees and children of founder Sam Walton, went to Republican candidates.

This means that whether they support Republicans, shoppers inadvertently contribute to their campaigns across the country. But Wal-Mart isn’t the only one: Democratic candidates receive just as much from other sources.

With Mr. Moneybags at the helm, candidates and their political parties spend millions of dollars to get your vote. In fact, this election raised the bar for campaign financing, with $412,085,800 donated to candidates as of Jan. 7, according to

The Plain Dealer reported this weekend that while Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton topped the fundraising list nationwide, Republican Mitt Romney raised the most money in Ohio with $1.4 million. Obama and Clinton took in $828,246 and $770,905, respectively.

But as the candidates fold, their money stays in the game. Federal Election Commission regulations require them to return funds tagged for the general election within 60 days of dropping out, which they can fairly easily not do, but the rest is up to them.

According to the Sharon Advocate (which surprisingly, was the only newspaper we could find online that explained the process), rules for leftover primary money are less strict.

Candidates can give the money to:

• A charity as long as the candidate doesn’t draw a salary

• Party committees without limits

• The candidate’s committee for the Senate or House

• Another federal candidate’s campaign committee, up to $2,000

• State and local candidates or to their own state committees, state and local laws permitting

Four years later, George Bush and John Kerry are both still spending their campaign money. As of New Years Eve, Bush still operated an open campaign compliance committee to pay for attorneys and accountants, payroll, etc. and holding $114,832.19, according to the FEC. And Kerry has been slowing transferring money into the Kerry Senate Fund through December 2007, according to his FEC filings.

Voters could put the amount of money spent on candidates who may win or may fulfill their promises to enact change to better use. Try this for perspective: Almost 270 Kent State students could have received a full year’s tuition from the money Ohio has pumped into the elections.

Or look at it globally. With the entire amount this campaign has raised altogether, we could provide 46 years worth of medicine to Nairobi, Kenya.

We need to get that little man out from behind the curtain. Write to your congressmen and senators and demand that they bring the topic of campaign finance reform back to the Capitol and restore some fiscal sensibility to the election process before the situation becomes even worse.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.