Fund-raising ordeal costs GOP a candidate

September 13, 1999

Here is an excerpt of an editorial from the Philadelphia Daily News, which was published Thursday.

SOME people don't believe that New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, in which she was heavily favored, just because of the money it would take to run.

She must have been promised a post in a Republican administration, they say, or maybe there are other personal reasons.

But the reason Ms. Whitman gave at her surprise announcement on Tuesday makes sense to us. She would have needed some $15 million for the race. She would have had to spend most of the rest of her term as governor raising money.

And the length of time it takes to acquire the wherewithal to win a Senate race meant that everything she did as governor from now on would be seen as having ulterior political motives.

The burden of raising money was cited by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, when he announced his retirement last year.

Ms. Whitman's withdrawal has spurred another call for "campaign finance reform," meaning contribution limits and limits on soft money. But one reason raising money for campaigns is so onerous is those very same limits: It takes a lot of $1,000 contributions to get to $15 million. Ms. Whitman had 25 fund-raisers scheduled for just this month.

The astronomical amounts needed to run for office -- so much that a millionaire like Ms. Whitman would have to struggle to raise it -- are corrosive to the political process. But current reform proposals wouldn't change that -- just re-channel it. Full disclosure of contributors would help, but real change might require a restructuring of the system.

In the meantime, Democrats in New Jersey are basking in their surprise good fortune, and Republicans are scrambling to find another candidate.

It's sad: The qualities that would make Ms. Whitman a good senator -- her political courage, her dedication to doing a good job in office -- are just the things that keep her from running.

Pub Date: 9/13/99

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