Paul Hager for Secretary of State

Libertarian candidate calls soft money ban a "third party killer".

For immediate release, 14 February, 2002.

(Bloomington, IN) Paul Hager, who is seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for Secretary of State, says that the ban on soft money being considered by Congress will increase the power of incumbents and function as a "third party killer." "If you want real electoral reform," says Hager, "the solution is change the voting method we use to elect candidates to office." Hager's proposal is that the state of Indiana adopt a voting method known as approval voting.

Hager cites research on the actual effect of contribution limits, including a recent analysis of state soft money restrictions done by the Cato Institute, to back up his assertion about campaign finance regulations. "The success rate for incumbents has gone up wherever contribution limits have been imposed on political campaigns. This is because incumbents benefit from an established network of contributors and interest groups that can function as ancillary fundraisers. Moreover, a soft money ban means that a fledgling political party will have a nearly impossible time growing because it takes money to build the kind of infrastructure necessary to raise large amounts of money from small contributors. It's a classic catch-22 for a third party."

This is not the first time that Hager has attacked campaign finance regulations. "When I ran for 8th District U.S. Representative in 1998, I called the Shays-Meehan bill an 'unconstitutional gimmick'. At the time I said that the only rational, constitutional way to open up the political system so that independents and third party candidates would be able to fairly compete was to change the voting method we use in elections. It turns out that there is an easy-to-use voting method that would accomplish that goal."

Hager's proposal is for Indiana to switch from the current voting method, technically known as plurality voting, to a method called approval voting. "Approval Voting would allow people to vote for more than one candidate for a given office. All votes would be tallied and whoever got the most votes would win."

"The problem with plurality voting," continues Hager, "is that it breaks down whenever more than two candidates are running for office. Nearly everyone realizes that a vote for someone other than the two candidates rated most highly in the polls is either wasted or runs the risk of electing the candidate they dislike. Anyone who doubts this can look H. Ross Perot's effect on the 1992 Presidential election or Ralph Nader's effect in 2000."

Approval voting eliminates this problem, states Hager, because it allows people to vote for a candidate they really like, and "hedge" by also voting for the lesser evil. "People who liked Perot in 1992 could have also voted for Bush as an acceptable lesser evil." Hager says that approval voting will almost always select the candidate the majority of voters really prefer - "something plurality voting is notoriously bad at doing." In addition, approval voting "allows third party and independent candidates to show their real strength. In 1980, independent John Anderson would have gotten 40% approval, instead of the 7% he got with plurality voting."

What does Hager think his chances are of getting the Indiana General Assembly to adopt approval voting if he is elected? "Excellent. Jesse Ventura faced a similar situation when he was elected Governor of Minnesota. Although he had no members of his party in the state legislature, it gave him the tax rebate he campaigned on because he had the mandate of the voters. If I win, it'll be because Hoosiers want voting reform. The General Assembly won't ignore such a clear statement from the voters."

If elected, Hager proposes to assemble a non-partisan task force whose sole function will be to come up with an alternative to plurality voting. The task force would include representatives of political parties as well as distinguished academics in the field of voting science. One expert who has stated his willingness to assist the task force is Steven J. Brams, professor of politics at NYU.

Hager's campaign web site is at Hager calls attention to the campaign logo on his site, which states "I approve" and shows four boxes with two check marks. "The logo shows how approval voting would actually work. And, it was also done by my (then) nine-year-old daughter." Proud papa Hager says, "I think she did a pretty good job."

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