Would put it, the more things change, the...


April 15, 1992

AS THE FRENCH would put it, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here's an example from 25 years ago this month, when The Evening Sun editorialized on public financing of election campaigns:

"When Congress enacted the provision permitting citizens to earmark a dollar of their income tax for support of presidential campaigns, the action had all the appearance of a rash and unthinking grab for easy money. There had been relatively little debate. The provision was tacked on as a rider to a tax measure already so amended it had come to be called the Christmas-tree bill. Nobody had any real idea of how much money it might raise -- for the simple reason that taxpayer reaction was a complete unknown. The vague estimates of $30 million for each major party were only guesses, and uneducated ones at that. It seems at the time like a dubiously hasty move.

"There have been six months for reflection and now the provision looks even more dubious. Apart from the continuing uncertainty of its effectiveness as a money raiser, several objections in principle have become clear. Such earmarking sets a highly questionable precedent. If taxpayers are allowed a freedom of choice in allocating their dollars in such a case, why not in others? Remote as the prospect seems, what is to prevent Congress from giving taxpayers a veto power over war spending or foreign aid or agricultural assistance? Second, it singles out the candidates for one office, the presidency, as the exclusive beneficiary of tax dollars. Third, no safeguards of any kind are provided against the possible misuse or flagrant waste of the earmarked dollars. Finally, while one may consider the two party system generally the most stable and desirable, the denial of this largesse to third parties which poll less than 5 million votes gives the two dominant ones an unfair and at some point possibly dangerous advantage.

"Sen. [Albert] Gore [Sr.] wants to repeal the amendment entirely and we think he is right. Other senators seem reluctant to let go of a potential political windfall that they thought they had almost in their grasp and ask simply for modification -- perhaps in the form of straight forward appropriations. We think they are wrong. Congress made a mistake in approving the provision in the first place and the best course is to get rid of it entirely."

A quarter-century later, all we can add is, "Hear, hear!"

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