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!"
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!
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
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
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.