• Reilly Neill

Eliminating Waste from Campaigns: Elevating Ideas instead of Bank Balances

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

We have a real issue in campaign financing and it’s not limited to the dark money flowing into campaigns across the country to elevate religious or corporate agendas. The problem is a candidate’s ability to buy their way into an election and persuade voters to vote for them using advertising agencies rather than hard work.

When my supporters want to give to my campaign, I will accept donations to cover costs or for specific needs but I first encourage them to donate to food pantries and women’s shelters, volunteer and give back to their communities where there is need, not give me $25 to potentiallly hand directly to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

We’re stretching Montanans' wallets and pocketbooks thin with these political campaigns. As the first Democrat to file and stand up to Gianforte’s announcement to run for Governor, I asked for nothing and made nothing. Instead, I decided to start knocking on door across the state, attending events where I was invited by Democrats and going to places like pubs or coffee houses intent on having discussions with folks from all walks of life and political leanings.

Every day, I learn how many people are concerned about climate change, on both sides of the aisle, and the impacts of pollution and toxins of corporations on human health. No one in Montana wants to see repeats of the boom-and-bust economies. I learn that most people want privacy with their doctors and the right for all to have accessible and affordable health care. I hear personal stories from the internet and from people who don't even watch TV or go online. I listen to what they think is important and continue to research how we can address the issues they raise.

At no time has any Montanan asked me to support the Twitter and Facebook platforms with campaign dollars so I don’t spend any money there. I don’t pay to elevate my stories or gain recognition to generate funds to elevate more posts and stories to generate more funds to promote more posts ad nauseam. No candidate likes this vicious cycle, except for the ones who use financial power to avoid having to directly address citizens and potential constituents.

I work efficiently, as I would in the Governor’s office and as I have with my businesses and positions over the years, to be frugal. Most Montanans are frugal; we reuse and recycle and tend to trade services or donate time to others when we can. I am doing the same in my campaign.

I’m aware that campaign dollars fund campaigns, elevate the awareness of the candidate and are practically the only thing the media will accept as seriousness in a race. Whether or not that money comes from within the state or from the candidate’s own pockets has long not mattered until recently when Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney issued a challenge to his opponents to avoid self-funding. I’m aware that, according to nearly all political scientists, in order to win a statewide race in 2019 you must be slick, polished and ready to raise $1 million to sway voters. I think the idea is meant to be challenged by a campaign based on issues, not fund raising.

I may have only raised a small amount of money but I’m running a zero-waste paper campaign. I try to limit travel so I try to spend time in communities, knocking on doors and socializing with organizations in a region where any particular event is held. I utilize the free aspects of social media and maintain a paper-free website rather than print cards or promotional materials.

With recent donations, I’m putting together a traveling public address system to host the Montana Climate Change Town Halls that are being planned for communities across the state. Each dollar in this campaign will be spent with a thoughtful approach. We need to return to this approach in order to combat the waves of commercially-produced propaganda soon to overtake us in the lead-up to November 2020. This propaganda is designed to be effective and it’s undermining our democratic system.

We need to start having serious discussions about money in politics before we completely lose the ability to elevate ideas above campaign funds.

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