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The numbers game.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Numbers matter in politics. That's true whether the numbers have to do with overriding gubernatorial vetoes or running for elective office. As for the latter, numbers obviously play a pivotal role in determining winners and losers. But they also come into play - sadly, in far too great a way - in the funding of political campaigns.

President Bush's appearance tonight in Portland at a fund-raiser for U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., underscores the importance of cold cash to the country's political system. The same was true with former President Bill Clinton's attendance last month at a fund-raiser for Smith's Democratic opponent, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.

Clinton's appearance netted about $250,000 for Bradbury and other Democratic candidates in the state. Bush's appearance tonight should do equally well, if not better. Consider: It will cost an attendee $1,000 just to get in the door. For a mere $5,000, the guest can attend a roundtable discussion with the president, Smith and Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore. And for a cool $25,000 - think of it, folks, "only" $25,000 - a guest may have his or her picture taken with the president. It may be crass commercialization of the political process, but it brings in the bucks.

But what's truly mind-boggling regarding the Smith-Bradbury race is the prediction that a total of $10 million will be spent on the contest. Smith, who already has raised a whopping $5 million, hopes to raise and spend at least $7 million before the votes are counted. And Bradbury, who has raised about $1 million so far, hopes to top out at roughly $3 million. Predictably, most of Smith's money comes from the business community, while most of Bradbury's comes from organized labor.

Spending $10 million on a single political contest in the state of Oregon is obscene. But unfortunately, that's the way the system is set up and that's the way it's played. While federal law restricts the amount of money individuals or groups can donate to specific candidates, the only limit on the total amount allowed to be spent in a race is in a presidential contest - and then only if the candidates accept campaign funds out of a special pool of money created specifically for that purpose. So Smith and Bradbury, and any other candidates for Congress, can spend whatever amount they're lucky, or talented, enough to raise.

It didn't get as much attention as a presidential visit to Oregon, but there was another news story Wednesday involving numbers, politics, Smith and Bradbury. A poll taken by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed the Smith-Bradbury race to be, for all practical purposes, dead even. Other polls have shown Smith with a double-digit advantage. Which poll, if either, is correct won't be known until election night Nov. 5.

For now, it's simply worth noting that numbers and politics seem destined to be forever intertwined.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:$10 million may be spent in U.S. Senate race; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Aug 22, 2002
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