Kingman Column: Expect Sanity - in 2016

Every four years, America's presidential campaign season offers an embarrassment of riches.

Literally.

As in, it's embarrassing the way money is flying around.

President Barack Obama and his affiliated PACs and committees have gathered close to $1 billion.

Mitt Romney and his allies aren't far behind. And that eye-popping number isn't new - Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also set a goal of putting $1 billion to work against Obama.

Even the motley crew who failed to get the GOP nomination managed to raise at least $138 million between them, according to the Federal Election Commission. Half of that would be a decent lottery win. One percent of that would set up any reasonable person for the rest of his or her natural life.

To put it all in perspective, the Arizona state budget signed last year contained $1.1 billion in cuts in areas such as health care, education, social services and state parks. In other words, the presidential campaigns will probably raise and spend, in about a year and a half, at least twice as much money as this state needed to keep its books healthy.

Of course, there's not a straight line between a state's budget and campaign spending. It is still relevant.

First, though, I need to walk a tightrope that balances my criticism against the First Amendment and my employer's business interests.

There's nothing inherently wrong with campaign spending. Media organizations, including this one, benefit from campaign ads, and any campaign or group is free to, and should, spread its message via advertising.

Television stations in the so-called "battleground states" are armpit-deep in cash right now, and that keeps people employed and provides money for investing in their businesses. And then there are the profits. Let's not forget sweet, sweet profits.

But I don't like the rules of the road this time around. It bothers me that there are ways to hide behind a wall of anonymity when supporting a campaign. If you believe in it, stand up and be counted.

If you're too chicken for that, stay out of politics.

And without contribution limits, there's no getting around the fact that those who have more money have more free speech - or, at least, more effective free speech. A big bucket of cash allows you to drown out all other messages. Somehow, I don't think that's the "marketplace of ideas" an ideal civic state calls for.

Finally, the behavior of the big donors is appalling.

Many of them will fight tooth and nail against any tax increase, deriding such notions as job-killing attacks on wealth and capital that will force "job creators" to go into some sort of catatonic shock that will break the economy.

And yet they apparently have tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in loose cash sitting around with no other use, so they have no problem pouring it into television ads so repetitive and annoying that you end up wanting to visit unspeakable violence on the ads' creators, even if you agree with them.

So, enough with the complaining. If there's a problem, solve it - and that's what I aim to do.

By the next presidential race, I plan to establish my very own Super PAC. I'll call it Sanity in Campaign and Election Money, or SICEM.

This Super PAC will push for transparency in campaign finance. It will lobby for policies that level the playing field when it comes to public discourse. It will push back against the influence of big money in our political conversations.

But this will be a long, tough road. Many vested interests with deep pockets will oppose this endeavor with everything they've got. It will be nasty, and vitriolic, and sometimes downright unsightly, and we will need resources equal to or greater than what our opponents can bring to the fight.

By the time it's all over, this effort might cost $1 billion.

Can I count on your support?