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WI Campaign Watcher: Money Outweighs Voters on Road to Iowa Caucus

January 2, 2008

Madison, WI – On Thursday, the Iowa Caucuses will put the presidential candidates to their first real test, and one Wisconsin observer says dollars are speaking louder than voters in the political race.

Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the impact of big donors is definitely being felt as the election cycle heats up.

"This will probably be the first billion-dollar campaign for president. I think the sad thing is that most of the money goes to a select few candidates, and that weeds out a lot of the others before voters have a chance to weigh in."

McCabe says public financing and campaign reform would put voters back in the driver's seat. His group joined a coalition last fall asking the candidates to spell out their platforms on campaign reform and election laws. So far, only Obama and Edwards have responded.

McCabe says it's hard for voters to know where candidates stand on key issues, partly because they aren't always willing to stick their necks out, and partly because of the focus on fundraising.

"One of the worst things that has happened to politics in recent years is horse race-style coverage in the media, where there's so much emphasis on who's ahead in the polls, and who has the most money."

McCabe says the result is that candidates are being judged more by their ability to raise money than by their stance on the issues.

"We've seen a wealth primary play out, before we ever get to real primaries or caucuses where voters have a say."

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WI