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Overturning the FEC and CPD

By eries in MLP
Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 10:08:31 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

I just got an email today from the Libertarian Party informing me that they, Harry Browne, and others have teamed up to challenge the constitutionality of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission for Public Debates. Their site is up at: http://www.realcampaignreform.org/. Also, you may want to read this CBS News article about how the major two parties use their governmental influence to force corporations to donate exlusively to those same two parties.

I think this effort is extremely worthwhile, and I thought it might spur some discussion about the best ways to reform our election system. I think in addition to getting the (two-party-controlled) government out if it, the next best thing we can do is start using Instant Runnoff Voting. I also thought that Alan Keyes' take on campaign finance reform was an (albeit very conservative) interesting one.


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o Libertaria n Party
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o http://www .realcampaignreform.org/
o CBS News article
o Instant Runnoff Voting
o Alan Keyes' take on campaign finance reform
o Also by eries

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Overturning the FEC and CPD | 14 comments (8 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Monopoly? (3.28 / 7) (#2)
by SIGFPE on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:32:23 PM EST

Who can compete with these monopolistic [Republican and Democratic] forces?
It's interesting to contrast and compare with Mr. Browne's comments on the operating system monopoly.
Liberatarian ideas (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by delmoi on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 09:19:57 PM EST

I already know the answer to that, actualy. According to true liberatarian/Ayn Rand philosophy, monopolies can only exist when they are added by government force. So your local cable company would be a 'monopoly', IE the cableco has a deal with the City, but Microsoft would not be, since they worked from outside the government.

In other words, the liberaterian belives that power can come only from the point of a gun, and governments are the only ones who have the right to use deadly force.

I happen to think that's stupid...
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Re: Libertarian Ideas (3.50 / 2) (#9)
by Ryan Koppenhaver on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 11:28:11 PM EST

the liberaterian belives that power can come only from the point of a gun, and governments are the only ones who have the right to use deadly force.
That's about as far from the truth as you can get. Libertarians believe that no one has the right to initiate the use of force, but if someone attempts to use force against you, you are justified in responding in kind, even to the point of using deadly force.

[ Parent ]
oops (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by delmoi on Tue Oct 31, 2000 at 01:21:25 PM EST

I guess I was a little ambigous. What I ment was that liberaterians think that the current government claims the right to use deadly force, regardless of wether they actualy have that right or not. Liberaterians want to take most, if not all of that power away from the government.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Huh? (2.00 / 2) (#10)
by aphrael on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 02:41:31 AM EST

I don't understand how there can possibly be a case against the commission for presidential debates --- it's a private entity which doesn't effect ballot access laws at all; the candidates are not compelled to participate. It's no more illegal than the NFL. (Irritating, yes, but not illegal).

Re: Huh? (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by The Jeffersonian on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 03:13:11 AM EST

The main case against the CPD is that it has been granted special exemptions to campaign contribution limits and given special tax breaks that are not given to any other group that wants to run their own presidential debate. Thus they have a virtual monopoly on presidential debates, and they only include those parties that gave them these breaks to begin with (Democrats and Republicans.)

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty
than to those attending too small a degree of it."
---Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791.
[ Parent ]
Rhetoric (3.16 / 6) (#12)
by bobsquatch on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 07:48:51 AM EST

I agree that the FTC and the CPD are deliberately bending the rules to prevent third parties from catching the public eye. The CPD's special election funding status is as bogus as its claim to impartiality.

(Warning! 4AM rant approaching!)

That said, I'm absolutely astonished at some of the crappy, ill-reasoned rhetoric on that page. This is the vaunted Libertarian ueber-rationality at work? These paragraphs in particular stood out as amazing contortions of logic, considering their source:

3.The Democrats and Republicans use their ability to bestow government handouts and to pass harmful legislation, to coerce people into financing their campaigns. As a result, many businesses, wealthy individuals, and special interests make a habit of contributing to both the Democrats and the Republicans. Third party and independent candidates have no ability (and usually no desire) to use government power to reward friends and punish enemies. As a result, they have less ability to raise money.
Well, this reminds me of nothing so much as the workings of a market. If (say) Nader has no service to sell me (namely, the service of creating benevolent policy), why the hell should I pay Nader? If you are really only in the market for favors, of course you won't buy a politician that won't put out.

I abhor that kind of politicking -- but it's what you'll get more of if you allow unlimited private funding of elections. The same party that's bitching about buying off politicians wants to relax legislation and treat that corrupt marketplace as a zone of protected "free speech!" Most astonishing.

4.Many people who want to support non-Democrats and Republicans may decline to do so for fear of being punished by the ruling parties. The law requires the names and addresses of campaign contributors to be reported to the government. Democrats and Republicans have access to these reports and can use them to punish contributors who support their opponents. This has a chilling effect on donations to third parties, independents, and non-incumbents.
No doubt that the "chilling effect" exists, to some extent. It will exist as long as we have a system where contributions are required to get elected, and where the contributions are public.

The Libertarian solution is to make the contributions private -- that will trade the "chilling effect" for the "market effect" I talked about in point #3. Remember, the politician knows who's supporting her, even if she doesn't know who's supporting the other guy; she can always reward, even if she can't punish. (I wonder why the Libs didn't mention the carrot when whining about the stick? Could it be that their platform doesn't solve the carrot problem?)

Another solution, obviously, is to have a system where contributions aren't necessary for an effective campaign -- full public funding fits that bill. There may be other solutions, as well.

BTW, the public reporting of campaign contributions don't just go to Democrats and Republicans in the government. They are also used, to some effect, by third parties and reformers to document the abuses of the political market. Sunshine laws work both ways.

5.The Democrats and Republicans have used their law making abilities to give themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer's money to run their conventions and their presidential campaigns. Equivalent sums are not made available to third parties...
This is a valid complaint. If a candidate has sufficient support to get on the ballot, it should get the same funding any other candidate gets. Unfortunately, point #5 goes on:

...and some third parties refuse, as a matter of principle, to take what little government money is available to them. They believe it is unethical to force taxpayers who may oppose their campaigns to fund them. The third parties that believe the campaign funding system is unethical are placed in a horrible bind. If they accept the government money they look and feel like hypocrites. And if they don't accept it they are placed at an even greater competitive disadvantage. The Democrats and Republicans receive tens of millions of dollars for free, while the principled third parties have to spend a good third of their income on fundraising. Add the costs of fundraising to the costs of ballot access and little remains for campaign outreach.
Nobody forces Libertarians to reject government funds. (If they had access to funds, that is... that's truly unfair.) And yet, the Libertarians want to have it both ways: they want recognition as a "principled" party that's willing to sacrifice for its beliefs, and they want everybody else to change their methods so that sacrifice isn't a disadvantage! News flash, boys -- you can either sacrifice, or not sacrifice; you can't "sacrifice" and demand that everybody else sacrifice too.

"Bobsquatch's Pretzels And Beer Party" has also taken a "principled" stand -- against TV advertising, door-to-door canvassing, and being on the ballot. This "principled" party is also "placed in a horrible bind" -- we shouldn't let any other party take advantage of these unfair advantages either. The Bobsquatch Party put itself in its own bind, but let's not mention that. Instead, let's whine, bitch and moan about how hard it is to be a self-mutilated party.

If this kind of whining argument came from the mouth of a poor person, a Libertarian would sneer something about choices and personal responsibility, and dismiss it.

6.The American people have been deceived into believing the government funds the Democrats and Republicans receive have been voluntarily donated by taxpayers who check-off a box on their tax forms. This is untrue. The taxpayer does not voluntarily give more money to the government so that campaigns can be funded, he just allocates part of the U.S. Treasury's money for that purpose. This is an unconstitutional allocation of the appropriations power of Congress to the small minority of taxpayers who check the box. And if the number of people who check the box declines, as it has steadily since the program was created, Congress simply raises the amount of money transferred by each individual check-off until it matches the amount of funding they think is needed. There is nothing voluntary about this program.
Whoa... it's a staple Libertarian argument to say "I don't want some Congress deciding what to do with my hard-earned money; I want to decide that for myself." So Congress gives us a choice of what to do with $3 of our income taxes -- give it to the election fund or keep it out of the election fund -- and Libertarians complain about that choice! Absolutely astonishing.

Compounding the insanity, they claim that this choice has only been given to the people who chose one side; the people who chose the other side, then, apparently had no choice. Huh?

Oh, wait -- I get it -- the "choice" had nothing to do with your own $3 part; the choice was whether or not there would be an election fund at all. Of course -- that's why Libs are pissed at increases in the funding amount; they don't want *any* money going to government election financing, whether it's their money, or yours. Nevermind that the people choosing (there's that word again) to allocate their $3 for election financing know how much they're allocating, and think it's reasonable; nevermind that Congress itself gave the allocation power to the taxpayer when it passed the relevant legislation; nevermind that in every other case Libertarians support the right to individually choose to contribute or not contribute to a campaign.

No other element of the federal budget has this kind of opt-out mechanism. It's really quite amazing. So, Libertarians, if you don't want your money to go to the election pool, exercise your unusual privelege -- don't check the damn box. But stop bitching about where I put my tax money.

"Nothing voluntary," my hairy ass.

7.A large portion of the money independent and third party candidates have left over after they've paid their ballot access and fundraising costs is consumed complying with the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). These costs are incidental to the Democrats and Republicans, but burdensome to independent and third party candidates, particularly those running for the first time.
This is incredible! Libertarians, the poor party "of principle," are complaining about government-imposed fixed expenses! Moreover, they're complaining with just the same arguments liberals and poor people have used against other regressive fees, like sales taxes and tariffs -- the very types of taxes Libertarians support in lieu of progressive income tax! Now that's chutzpah.

Hey, here's an idea: why don't we get the FEC to do its own auditing, and make each campaign pay a percentage of its income to the FEC to cover the cost of the audit? We could even specify a higher percentage for, let's see, let's call it a "contribution bracket." Would this kind of progressive fee be more acceptable to the poor, poor Libertarian party?

8.The FECA requires candidates to ensure that they do not take contributions from corporations or foreigners, forcing them to inquire if a contributing business is incorporated, and if an individual with a non-generic name is an American citizen. This last question can be highly insulting to some.
And now the Libertarians are complaining that campaign regulations force workers to ask politically incorrect questions! Who knew that the Libertarian Party was so concerned about insulting speech?

9.Any candidate raising or spending more than $5,000 is required to comply with complex regulations and file extensive reports with the government. This burden causes many third party and independent candidates to raise less than $5,000 in order to avoid the government imposed complications. This means that independent and third party candidates accomplish less than they otherwise would in the absence of these burdens.
Hire an accountant. Oh, you can't afford an accountant? Well, as Libertarians are wont to say, you don't have a "right" to an accountant.

10.The names and addresses of anyone who contributes more than $200 must be reported to the government. Many donors who could give more than $200 give less in order to avoid having their name appear in a government report. Contributors to the ruling parties often want their names to be seen, as this can be beneficial to their dealings with lawmakers and regulators. But potential contributors to independent and third party candidates may view it as a liability.
Again, more workings of the political market. Solve it the Libertarian way, you get untraceable money passing in smoke-filled rooms. Solve it the Green way, you get accountable money passing in plain view.

11.Candidates are also required to ask each contributor for the name of their employer as well as their occupation, and to report this information to the government. These questions can have a chilling effect on the desire to contribute.
These questions can also have a chilling effect on corporate (and union) pressure on employees to donate to preferred candidates. It cuts both ways, but (of course) the Libs only complain about their edge of the sword.

16.The law does permit you to make unlimited personal expenditures on behalf of or in opposition to federal candidates, buy only if you do not have any communications about your expenditures with the candidates you support. You cannot tell them what you are doing, ask their advice, or coordinate your message with their message in any way. You may lack expertise in public relations, ad production, or ad buys, but that doesn't matter as far as the law is concerned. You must still communicate your support for your candidate without seeking the candidate's assistance. Or, you can hire consultants to do it for you, even though there may be an absence of people with the political experience required to do a good job. But you must make sure any consultant you hire has never worked for the candidate you support, or you could be charged with collusion.
What? A Libertarian complaining about a market condition? I thought the magic free market was supposed to solve all our problems...

If you really want a decent consultant, you should be willing to pay for one; if there's a short supply and high demand, you should be willing to pay a lot for one. If you can't afford one, you should have worked harder to earn more money. Quit whining, you poor "individual responsibility" party!

17.If you run afoul of any of these complex regulations you will not be tried by a jury of your peers, but by a bi-partisan governmental board called the Federal Election Commission (FEC)... Democrat and Republican party leaders get together and agree on whom the president should appoint. The president then does as the party leaders have asked. This procedure violates the constitutional separation of powers.
The hell it does. The political parties aren't in the Constitution; there's no constitutional separation of power between them and the government any more than there's a constitutional separation of power between K-Mart and the government.

Besides, the parties' recommendations to the President have no binding authority; the Prez can decide to appoint other people, and the Senate can approve/reject, regardless of what the parties demand. Presidents have bucked their party before.

That said, the FEC's makeup and judicial power do disturb me.

18.The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) ... is the cover for a governmental grant of preferred status to the Democrat and Republican parties.
Yes! The Libertarians got this one right! Yay!

19.Who can compete with these monopolistic forces? Only billionaires and celebrities are permitted to use their resources to match the self-conferred advantages of the Democrats and Republicans, and then only if they run for office themselves. They are not allowed to provide financial aid to other candidates beyond the low limits set by law. Grassroots, citizens' campaigns are completely prohibited from marshalling the resources they would need to compete effectively with the ruling parties.
Who can compete with these forces, indeed. The Libertarian answer would seem to be: only billionaires, or collusions of other monied interests. The Libs don't claim that buying politicians and votes is a bad thing -- the Libs merely complain that they can't get enough money, on their own terms, to buy enough votes for themselves.

Who can contribute? (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by reshippie on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 10:07:02 AM EST

The campaing reform website mentions limitations that are placed on private citizens, but I didn't notice anything about corporations.

Everyone knows that companies donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates. That is where the real money is coming from. If you let private citizens donate as much as they want, guess what, the billionaires that own companies which donate massive amounts of money will simply donate it privately.

Personally, I like the fact that people are limited in the amount of money they can contribute to politicians. I think that companies should be outright banned from donating. Or, at the very least, banned from donating to more that one party. Companies support both Democrats and Republicans, thus covering their ass either way.

Of course it would take a massive grass roots effort to get politicians to pass laws that would kill their well established funding sources, but I think it's worth a try. Anyone else with me?

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Overturning the FEC and CPD | 14 comments (8 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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