Until there’s realistic campaign-finance reform, potentially great candidates don’t stand a chance | Pittsburgh Left | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Until there’s realistic campaign-finance reform, potentially great candidates don’t stand a chance 

The days of the citizen legislator, if they ever existed, are long gone

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Last year, Murrysville’s Aryanna Berringer was the first Democrat to step up and say she planned on running against Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in 2018. Stack was mired in controversy last year, when he and his wife were investigated for poorly treating state-funded employees assigned to tend to the lieutenant governor’s home, as well as state police assigned to protect them.

Berringer is a progressive Dem and an Iraq War veteran, and she wanted to serve her state.

Honestly, I was likely to vote for her in the primary election. Unfortunately, neither I nor anyone else in the state will get that chance. Crippled by the lack of commonsense campaign-finance laws, Berringer just couldn’t continue. 

She was trying to run a grassroots campaign, but her opponents — Stack and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman — were, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “bankrolled by their mega-wealthy families.” When he ran for the U.S. Senate last year, Fetterman received more than $50,000, as a gift from his parents. Stack recently disclosed a $60,000 loan from his mother and another $25,000 from a PAC with ties to Vincent Fuomo, a corrupt state senator who spent a lenient 55 months in prison for a host of charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Facing that kind of money in a campaign is akin to scaling Everest in flip-flops.

“All this money, they’re going to dump that into TV ads, and people like me are going to get drowned out,” she told the P-G.

That’s the problem with our campaign-finance system. Berringer may be the best person to serve in this position, and she doesn’t get the chance to even have her voice heard because her parents don’t have a spare $100K lying around. That’s not how it should be. The days of the citizen legislator, if they ever existed, are long gone. It’s been replaced by a system that rewards candidates who are either wealthy or willing to be beholden to special interests, in order to afford massive TV-ad buys.

Regardless of your feelings on how good a governor Tom Wolf is, that’s how he got elected. Family fortune was also the reason that Kathleen Kane won the attorney general’s race. Her tenure was a dumpster fire that ended with a two-year prison sentence for perjury.

Aryanna Berringer and others like her don’t get a fair shot to show what they can bring to the table. Her situation is a stark reminder, as if we needed one, that our political system is rigged for the wealthy.


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