There’s a piece at Campus Progress, an effort of the Center for American Progress, praising the efforts of young 20-something progressives who run for office, and profiling a few candidates who have run races against established politicians. The funny thing to me about the article is that it fails to discuss these young people filling-out campaign finance paperwork while running for office. The only reference it makes to campaign finance laws at all is in praising Connecticut’s public financing system (which, as readers of this blog may know, the Second Circuit found largely unconstitutional last year). The article acknowledges there are many burdens in campaigning, but implies that when it comes to campaign finance this only falls on the fundraising side: “While their youth provides them with flexibility and a fresh viewpoint, college students still face significant barriers when it comes to asking for votes and, sometimes more important, asking for financial contributions.”
I can attest from personal experience that when you run for office, particularly when you only have a handful of inexperienced people helping you, complying with campaign finance paperwork is a confusing hassle, and often a nightmare. While a college senior in 1997, I ran for St. Paul City Council as basically a paper candidate (I barely campaigned and spent very little money; perhaps just over $100). Even then there were multiple forms I had to fill out, sign, and file. To this day I have no idea if I completely them correctly, although as IJ has demonstrated there’s a good chance that despite my efforts I broke the law in some way.
Perhaps the candidates Campus Progress profiles did not have these troubles because they were helped by friendly organizations with time and resources to help them get their paperwork in order. But that’s the whole point. For citizens running for office that don’t have that kind of assistance—whether they’re young or old—campaign finance laws take away from the time they could be campaigning and may discourage them from running at all.