Big Contributions Rule

Gubernatorial candidates Bill Ritter (D) and Bob Beauprez (R) have one thing in common: both are raising the bulk of their campaign contributions in big chunks.

That means large amounts. The two of them are collecting most of their money from donors giving $500 to $1000, with $1,000 being the most a person is permitted to give.Of the $1.9 million Ritter has taken from individual donors, $1.2 million, or 64 percent, came from donors giving $500 to $1,000, according to an analysis of campaign finance data downloaded from office of the Colorado Secretary of State.

For Beauprez, $1.5 of the $2 million he has raised from individual donors, or 73 percent came from such donors.

On the other end of the spectrum, contributions under $100 make up a fraction of the cash the two candidates have raised from individuals: $5,433, or 7 percent, for Beauprez, and $6,871, or 5 percent, for Ritter.

?The intention of campaign finance reform is to get the big money out of poitics,? says Colorado Common Cause executive director Jenny Flanagan. ?This shows me that we?re still lacking in this area. You wonder when you see such a small amount less than $100, are they really reaching out to the Coloradans that they well be representing once in office??

Flanagan said that Amendment 27, approved by Colorado voters in 1992, which set individual limits is having ?a positive effect? but that the next step would be to have a system of public financing of elections, like systems in place on Arizona and Maine.

Here I should disclose that I think so too. My day job is working for Public Campaign, a national nonpartisan organization working for public financing of elections. It?s no accident that the top contributing zipcodes to federal elections nationwide are typically Beverly Hills, 90210 and 10021 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

In the 2004 elections, only about one-half of one percent of the U.S. adult population gave a contribution of $200 or more in the 2004 federal elections. Let?s face it, writing out big checks to candidates is just not part of most of our monthly household budgets.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the campaign is starting a small donor program where people will be encouraged to organize house parties that raise about $500 apiece. The program should launch by the end of the month.

  ?Ritter has probably made ten thousand phone calls asking people for money. There is something very wrong about that,? said Dreyer. ?The system we have now is broken. Wouldn?t it be more effective for governance if we allowed candidates to study issues and talk to people about substantive issues and not dialing for dollars??

Dreyer said that Ritter had no specific platform for campaign finance reform.

The Beauprez campaign did not return requests for comment.