Published October 1972 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Campaign Costs Must Be Cut The costs of running for public office in the United States have reached shocking proportions; and, unless they arc curbed, our country may find itself in a situation where only extremely wealthy persons can be elected. This possibility should be a matter of utmost concern to all Americans. In the last Presidential election year, 1968, political parties and candidates for Federal offices spent $89 million on radio and television advertising, including production costs. And it is currently estimated that it takes $40 million to elect a President, $200,000, on the average, to elect a United States Senator, and $100,000 to elect a Representative. The advent of television, more than anything else, has changed the style of politics in America. It no longer is possible to effectively campaign via speaking only on the stump and the court house steps. The candidate must buy TV time to reach sufficient numbers of voters. Like everything else in our society, however, the cost of TV time has shot up. Thirty seconds of commercial time on network entertainment shows costs between $26,000 and $43,000, while a 60-sccond spot on a news shows averages $30,000. The~" prices are approximately twice as much as they were 10 years ago; and, if they continue to rise at their present rate, Americans of moderate means could lose all hc.pe of ever attaining a high elective office-no matter what their qualifications may be. For instance, in 1956. the amount spent on political advertisements on television was $6.6 million. By 1964, it rose to $17.5 million, and jumped to $27.1 million in 1968. Just two years later, in a non-presidential election year, almost $40 million was poured into political advertising on television. Already, persons who have a vested interest in political advertising are finding loopholes in an act that Congress passed in 1971-an act that limits campaign spending to 10 cents per voting-age citizen within any given district or state, and restricts the funds that can be spent on radio and television advertising to 60 percent of the total amount. These loopholes must be plugged, and the limitations on campaign spending must be strictly enforced-for it is the average American who will pay the higher price if the election process in the United States is ever restricted to those with unlimited financial resources.