Misdirected funds

An excessive $11.1 million passed through Michigan in the past several months as part of gubernatorial campaign efforts from both Rick Snyder and Virg Bernero. On Tuesday night, Snyder was named Michigan’s new governor, but was the cost worth it?

Snyder spent $9.3 million on his campaign, according to spending reports filed with the Secretary of State Office last Friday. Bernero’s campaign cost $1.8 million.

In a state frozen because of a $2.8 billion budget deficit last year, excessive campaign spending is difficult to justify. The public will elect new officials regardless of how much their promotions cost. Though the money spent on campaigns would not come close to offering a fix-all solution for Michigan’s financial crisis, the additional funds would have some impact in reducing the deficit if candidates chose to redirect the money to bettering the state.

At Grand Valley State University, where the state consistently grants the university thousands of dollars below the state average appropriation for student, the seemingly-frivolous spending is hard to take when the money could be instead invested in higher education.

Campaign funding typically goes to television ads, posters, billboards, phone and letter campaigns, door-to-door recruiting, website upkeep, speeches and other promotions the candidate deems effective. Voters should have education on the candidates’ stances and other topics that will be on the ballot. However, the ads funded by campaign money often cater to a less-than-desirable voting style that often ignores the issues.

From 1968 to 1996, the average amount of air time granted to political candidates has decreased from 42 seconds to 8 seconds, according to “The 2000 presidential campaign” by Robert E. Denton, Jr. The number of lines in the New York Times devoted to direct quotes from candidates went from 14 lines in 1960 to six lines in 1992. It is difficult to address complex issues in six lines, an 8-second sound bite or even in a 30-second TV commercial, so instead candidates spew catchphrases or attack their opponents. The advertising leads voters to base their decision on the perceived character of the candidate rather than on his or her political policy. With all the money spent on these campaigns, the least the candidates could do is to educate the public on issues relevant to the vote. But genuine education is usually neglected.

Why not place a cap on the amount candidates are allowed to invest in their advertising? A limit on spending would level the playing field by giving less-affluent candidates a more equal chance at reaching the public and put the extra money to a more constructive use.

As Michigan concludes yet another election season, voters and legislators alike should re-examine the electoral process and demand some changes to the spending trend.