Korobov: Political campaigns, funded by taxpayers


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It’s the climactic end of election season, and it would be impossible for anyone not to know.

Television, radio, billboards, along with many other media are flooded with candidates’ messages hoping to penetrate our subconsciousness. If they can slightly alter our decision on Election Day, then they will have succeeded. It’s all part of our democratic process.

This election season, observers estimate that $4 billion were spent on political advertisements. To put that into perspective, as of September, the United States has spent just over $100 million in aid to fight Ebola in western Africa.

As wrong as that may seem, it is a byproduct of freedom. Individuals have the right to invest their money in whatever cause they want to support. Problems arise, however, when people are forced to promote something they don’t believe in.

Ever since his inauguration at the beginning of this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has released approximately 250 YouTube videos on his channel “NYC Mayor’s Office.” The channel was started by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted to capture press conferences and bill-signings for citizens to watch.

De Blasio’s videos are different, and many of them are eerily reminiscent of campaign advertisements.

Some of the videos are accompanied by dramatic inspirational music praising the mayor’s accomplishments. In one video, a public worker talks about the benefits of a new law covering paid sick leave. He concludes the statement with a dramatic “for that, we thank Bill de Blasio.” In another video, the granddaughter of former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia says, “Mayor de Blasio is a mayor for all New Yorkers.”

The videos are funded by NYC Media, New York’s official broadcast division. Although it is undisclosed how much money actually went to the creation of the videos, NYC Media’s funding is approximately $5.7 million. That’s $5.7 million that hard-working New Yorkers were forced to pay in taxes.

Columbia University Professor Robert Shapiro said, “If it occurred during an election campaign, it would look like a campaign ad.” This is where the problem lies; politicians can typically get away with using taxpayer money for self-promotion as long as it isn’t in the middle of a re-election.

But even during re-election time, politicians have sought ways to use public funding to get their name out there. After Hurricane Sandy, the state of New Jersey received federal funds intended for humanitarian relief. Not all of it was spent on these efforts. At a Homeland Security hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said, “In New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for political office. Do you think there might be a conflict of interest there?”

With so much money being spent on political advertisements, it’s no surprise that politicians are willing to do anything they can to spend more. At the end of the day, this isn’t an issue of partisanship. As Americans, we need to be vigilant about what our tax dollars are being used for.

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