"Moves Expected to Bolster Dean Front-Runner Status" (Nov. 8) mentions the urgings of campaign finance reform advocates that Howard Dean, who has now opted out of the federal matching funds program, uphold voluntary campaign spending limits until a nominee is chosen. Their intent is to keep the Democrats' "playing field" level so that, although Dean has more money, it would be the messages, not the advertising avalanche, that would sway the voters.
To me, this is the best of both worlds. Find the contender most favored by the Democrats and then still have enough money to compete against the president.
The letter Dean sent to his supporters asking them to vote on whether to stay in the matching funds program or opt out presents a signed pledge to strongly reform the federal system and fight the influence of special-interest money as one of his top urgent priorities. This issue then becomes a true litmus test of Dean's campaign. If voters are to ever believe him, he must start now and agree to limit his spending voluntarily. If he "puts his money where his mouth is" by not outspending his competition, he might very well win the nomination fair and square, the way elections should be won, by manifesting the principles the public desires in their politicians.
Marina del Rey
John Samples says that Dean's request of his supporters to be released from his pledge to stay within the public financing system for political campaigns will kill that system (Commentary, Nov. 7).
Wrong. What's killing the system is the contempt in which it is held by the ultra-rich. The system must be upgraded to match the current reality that there are those who have $200 million to invest in a candidate and who obviously expect a return on that investment after the election. Yes, it would be more expensive, but if we can spend a few hundred billion dollars to "establish democracy" in Iraq, surely we can spend a fraction of a percent of that amount to insulate our own democracy from corruption.
Re Samples' commentary opining that Dean's decision might sound the death knell for campaign financing: Responsibility should more properly be placed on President Bush, who first decided to waive matching funds and consequently is now forcing other candidates to do the same. It's lamentable, but there it is.