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Sunday, September 14, 2008

PAC 'em in-- alma matters

So, here's an idea that I've been tossing around, and I've gotten mixed response from the people I've laid it out to:

Let's say that you're a big booster of an elite university that has a terrible track record of electing alumni to Congress, state-wide office and the Presidency.  This paucity of elected alumni makes sense, because, while elite, your university lacks some of the popular cachet (and good-ole-boy-ness) of Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. It also isn't a large public university.  If you're a candidate running for office in Missouri and you've got Mizzou on your resume, you're bound to have thousands of fellow alumni in your district.  That's some good-will and networking that is almost invaluable.  Alumni from this university, while numerous, are dispersed thinly across the breadth and width of the world.  

And not only is alma matter valuable in getting voters to pull levers, led by awe or fraternity, it's useful in getting people to run in the first place.  Fans of the West Wing will recognize numerous scenes in which one of the cast was deployed to convince someone to run  or not run, because they went to the same law school, or dormed together as undergrads.  Social scientists also identify this as one of the major reasons women and minorities don't run for elective office-- there isn't already someone on the inside  with a similar attribute inviting you in.  Women don't get asked to run, minorities don't get asked to run, and alumni of this elite university don't get asked to run.

So, how to jump-start this?  My proposal is to create a PAC whose goal is to "prime the pump" for alumni looking to run for state-wide or federal office.  There would have to be some guidelines for determining sanity and viability, but I would propose it be a non-partisan committee who looked primarily at alma matter.  Alumni knowing that they had one sizable campaign contributor lined up, would be far more likely to explore the possibility of running, and then to run.  Once a significant number of alumni were elected, the door would be open.

Would alumni contribute to the PAC enough to make it viable?
Would it make more sense to have separate Democratic and Republican PACs?  
Hey, aren't you a Campaign Finance Reform geek who hates PACs?

These are all questions to be answered in the comments section, but with this I humbly submit my proposal to you , my readers.

1 comment:

ben RH said...

You emailed me this idea a way back and I liked it then and now.