Ward's personal campaign spending draws questions

Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2004

I read with interest the article under the Peninsula Clarion's headline ("Ward spends big ...") on July 30-31, 2004, of Jerry Ward's averred campaign financing and planned spending to run for a state Senate seat. The question that came to mind was: "Why in the world would anyone spend $140,000 of their own money, plus all the other monies donated to his-her campaign, to obtain a job which pays $24,012 per year?" If I have done the math correctly, the Senate job is a four year term and 4 times $24,012 equals $96,048, or just about $44,000 short of the $140,000 he intends to spend of his own money to get the job. With an arithmetic demonstration like that, who knows, maybe even I could pass the Alaska high school graduation exam? Guess I would tell a class of graduating high school seniors that, if they emulated Mr. Ward, they would be worse than broke in no time, even if they got the jobs they were seeking.

I can understand why candidates spend a great deal of other people's donated monies to get elected, because it essentially is a free ride to a paying, cushy job. But when people take a risk of not unseating the incumbent and will lose a great amount of their own money in the process, even if they are successful in unseating the incumbent, one might wonder if these jobs are more lucrative than the salaries advertised? Even if per diem, travel and housing allowances and other expense accounts accorded legislators make up the $11,000 per year shortfall ($44,000 total shortfall divided by four years) Mr. Ward would experience if he won, he would just break even, i.e., he would still need additional money just to subsist.

So what else, besides salary and fringe benefits, could be motivating factors to seek a job and lose a large quantity of your own money if you get the job? Well, the political ad in the Aug. 3 Peninsula Clarion has Mr. Ward avowing to protect your (his) permanent fund dividend. That's a $1,000 per year right there. Or maybe another factor is altruistic public service? How about power? Being a senator in our legislature right now, the ruling party being completely aligned with our current governor and his political thinking, could be a pretty heady experience. In Washington, D.C., they call it "Potomac Fever." One of the most powerful people in the United States today, aside from the President, is Sen. Ted Stevens. Maybe Mr. Ward aspires, eventually, to replace "Uncle Ted," who might retire in the next 10 to 15 years or so? Of course, all of this is conjecture. Nobody, not even me, could know what would motivate anyone to spend $140,000 of their own money to get a job, lose $44,000 if they get the job, or lose the whole $140,000 if they don't. But I'll betcha a doughnut they don't teach that kind of math in the Alaska high schools.

Richard Hahn


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