End the Election Ads Today: Give the Ad Money to Charity

Dear Senators McCain and Obama,

Is my vote for you worth tens of millions? I guess I’ll soon see. I am, not Joe the Plumber, but Steve the charitable fundraiser. That’s my profession. I’m one of those the press labels an independent because sometimes I vote Democrat, sometimes Republican. This time, however, I still do not know and, frankly, that’s a little frustrating to me because we’re just days away from election.

In the last election, I voted Republican. For reasons beyond the scope of this letter, I have regretted that. The foreign and economic policies have brought our country to its lowest level of international respect in as long as I can remember. Furthermore, the current financial crisis has left me wondering what legacy we’re leaving for our children. I’m fifty-three and I’ve lost nearly half the value of my retirement. I do not know if I have enough years before retirement to recover from this, much less reach my goals. And yet, I am grateful for what we have and I know there are many Americans who are worse off than we are.

In all three debates, I have carefully listened to both of you. I think we need a president who will inspire confidence among Americans for America and restore America to a level of international respect that would make people want to join with us, not destroy us. But, I don’t hear much difference between you and the television ads have sickened me. It is insulting to me that you think, by being negative about your opponent, I am persuaded to vote for you. I am not. The ads are wasteful and condescending, and, when I think of tens of millions you spend caricaturing your opponent while millions of Americans are losing jobs and struggling just to buy health insurance, I am offended.

The media is little help, too. There was a time in American history when I felt I could trust the press to get at the truth of things. I’m not as certain about that anymore. Virtually every night, I channel between ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and FOX News and, unfortunately, very little reporting these days seems unbiased.

Between now and Election Day, I will be reading everything I can about the policies you guys would implement, and I will be offering a few prayers, too. I will vote for the candidate I conclude will put America on a path toward equality and justice for all. I will not make my decision on the basis of whether you agree with my views on abortion, marriage, and so forth. If I believe anything about the God toward whom I offer these prayers, the issues our nation and world face are much more complex than the two or three litmus- test issues that have determined elections in the past. My prayer is only for divine wisdom as I do not wish to make the same mistake in selection I made in the last.

Therefore, I have a challenge for you. I will give my vote to the candidate who stops all TV and radio advertising today, and everyday between now and the election, and who instead directs the tens of millions dollars currently earmarked for advertising to charity. I’ve decided that such an action would do more to tell me about you and the kind of compassionate leadership you would give to this nation than anything else you could say or do. In light of present crisis and the struggles many Americans are facing, the tens of millions you are spending on advertising would be better invested in the charities called upon to support Americans. There are many worthy charities and one of my favorites is ModestNeeds.org.

When I shared this challenge with a friend, she asked, “For whom would you vote if both candidates accept your challenge?”

“Now, that’s a challenge,” I answered, “I, and many Americans, would gladly welcome.”

Dr. Steve McSwain, President
Foundation for Excellence in Giving, Inc.

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