Putting a Price Tag on Democracy
With just three months to go before Election Day, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission reveal that the four candidates in the 2005-06 U.S. Senate race in Vermont have already spent approximately $7.4 million. If the current pace of spending continues, this election is on track to be the most expensive in the state's history. In fact, it's predicted that Republican hopeful Rich Tarrant will spend as much as $10 million on the race, making his the most expensive campaign per vote in U.S. history. With this in mind, Seven Days wondered what else could $7.4 million have purchased in the last year? Here's a sampling.
--Almost two months rent (at the statewide median of $723 per month) for each of the estimated 5500 homeless children living in Vermont.
--About 22.2 million pounds of food. The Vermont Foodbank estimates that it could end hunger in the state if it received 14 million pounds of food annually.
--A backpack and a calculator (estimated price: $67) for each of Vermont's 109,813 public schoolchildren.
--A new pair of eyeglasses (estimated price: $90) for every Vermonter over the age of 65.
--Nearly 90 percent of the annual maintenance on Vermont's aging bridges and overpasses.
--A farmer-controlled dairy processing plant at the former Idlenot Dairy Plant in North Springfield, including the cost of the property, equipment, initial marketing and startup expenses. (Estimated price tag: $4-5 million).
--Construction and start-up of the proposed Food Enterprise Center at the Intervale, an ecologically sustainable food processing and distribution center, where the waste from one business would provide the raw materials for another (estimated price tag: $4.25 million).
--About $315 in seasonal home-heating fuel assistance for 23,492 low-income Vermonters.
--A fivefold expansion of Vermont's mobile methadone program for treating the state's estimated 2000 to 3000 heroin addicts.