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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 17.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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The money trap

Erik Gunn's paean to retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl was an interesting overview, and Kohl brings home a better voting record than I'd have guessed ("A Workhorse, Not a Show Horse," 10/5/2012).

But Kohl's reliance on his own wealth to attain his Senate seat, and keep it, is exactly the wrong prescription for the future of accountable government. His slogan, "Nobody's Senator but yours," makes sense only on the most superficial level. When he ran for the Senate and took no significant contributions from his would-be constituents, he didn't just establish that he wouldn't have to rely on PACs or big donors; he showed his independence from the voters of Wisconsin.

We saw a school board race in Madison this spring in which a candidate spent $128,000 of her own money - more than 11 times what her opponent raised and spent - without taking contributions from the voters of the school district. Should we be surprised if she turns out to be unresponsive to us? She didn't need our financial support to capture a seat on the board, and she won't need us to fund her campaign in 2015 if she seeks another term.

Strict political donation limits, including on self-funding, would go a long way toward allowing people who aren't rich to run for office. Full public financing of political campaigns would be better - after all, we're paying for the results either way.

Norm Littlejohn

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