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Campaign Finance Reform

By Wicket in Op-Ed
Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 01:46:57 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Something needs to be done about how campaigns are financed in the US. Not only are politicians being bought out by large donations, they are only serving their largest contributors and not what is in the best interest for the country as a whole.


Today, Senator John McCain (R - Arizona) and Russ Feingold (D - Wisconsin) hit the road to drum up support for their campaign finance bill, to be debated on the Senate floor starting on Monday, March 19th. This legislation would essential ban "soft money" or the unregulated donations given to campaigns by individuals or powerful corporations and would restrict advocacy advertisements, which are ads paid for by private people/industries, showing their support for a certain issue, but also being used to drum up support for a particular candidate. This money is obviously very important to a candidate in a system that revolves around one's ability to raise funds.

It also can be very damaging to a democratic system in that big donors can "show their support" for a particular issue much more loudly than your regular Jane or Joe and can force the politician to work more for what would benefit the corporation/people doing the donating, as we saw earlier this week when George Bush reneged on a campaign promise to regulate power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide. This was due largely in fact to the large donations and lobbying by the coal and energy companies, major contributors to Bush's presidential campaign and the Republican Party. Having to enforce these restrictions on emitting carbon dioxide would cost these companies, millions, if not billions, so of course they would "make their opinion known", in the form of donations.

Also earlier in the week, the Senate passed a measure that will make it harder for families to receive protection from paying their debts when filing for bankruptcy protection. This will benefit the big lenders in the country, especially credit card companies with consumer debt at an all time high. Senators who voted against it say it is very unfair to those who are poor or suddenly lose their jobs. It's not hard to see who was behind the lobbying, just by looking at who the top contributor was to George Bush's presidential campaign, or who some of the top donors are to the Republican Party, along with the donors to the Democratic Party. It's not hard to see why most of the Senators were afraid to vote against the measure, for fear of angering some of their top donors.

It's not very hard to see how these donations give these companies and individuals so much more power to get the politicians to server their own interests, and not their working class constituents. That's why nearly 8 out of 10 Americans say large donors to political parties and politicians have too much influence in elections, and more than half say elections are "for sale" to the candidates with the most money. If so many people want change, why isn't anything being done? What can be done?

This sort of system makes it hard for people to challenge incumbents and actually have a chance at winning, with so much money already backing them. Does anyone really enjoy the fact that elections and politicians are pretty much for sale to the largest donors?. If this keeps up, we'll see more and more legislation that will be passed that only go to benefit the largest donors, not the average citizen.

Under the present system, individuals citizens can give up to $20,000 a year to a national party committee, $1,000 to a candidate for a primary campaign, another $1,000 for a general election and no more than a total of $25,000 to all candidates combined. However, with the lack of regulations on "soft money", a corporation like Phillip Morris could give an unlimited amount of money to support a "special interest agenda," which in turn is used for campaign ads or other "get out the vote" efforts.

What can be done? There are 3 specific, but different approaches to curbing the campaign contributions.

One approach would be to bring the donors into the open. This would help to curb political corruption by making the donors known to the public. Personally, I don't feel this would do enough, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Another way to reform the campaign financing system would be to increase the average citizens power in affecting politics through term limits and ballot initiatives to help enact laws when candidates won't act on them because of special interest lobbying. If contributions are restricted, that money will only go to other places in politics, and not to cleaning up the corruption. While I think term limits are a good idea (Strom Thurmond is a perfect example of this) to help get fresh ideas into politics, I still don't think this will go far enough in cleaning up elections.

The third approach and the one I've mostly argued for here is to take back the political process from special interests by limiting contributions and banning soft money contributions. This would give public campaign financing for politicians who accept voluntary limits on spending PLUS restrictions on lobbying to prevent special interests from subverting the public interest.

My only hope is that something is done soon, so that events like the past week in which special interests won out over the working class constituents (and so many other laws that are passed every year). The government needs to be taken back from the powerful corporations so the politicians will be serving everyone, not just the highest bidder.

What do YOU think? What would work? How are campaigns financed in other countries?

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Poll
Campaign Finance Reform....
o Needs to be done soon! 81%
o No way! 11%
o I don't care 6%

Votes: 60
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o drum up support for their campaign finance bill
o George Bush reneged on a campaign promise to regulate power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide
o make it harder for families to receive protection from paying their debts when filing for bankruptcy protection
o looking at who the top contributor was to George Bush's presidential campaign
o top donors are to the Republican Party
o donors to the Democratic Party
o large donors to political parties and politicians have too much influence in elections, and more than half say elections are "for sale" to the candidates with the most money
o largest donors?
o individual s citizens can give up to $20,000 a year to a national party committee
o 3 specific, but different approaches to curbing the campaign contributions
o Also by Wicket


Display: Sort:
Campaign Finance Reform | 52 comments (52 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
John McCain... (2.45 / 11) (#1)
by theboz on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 07:12:48 PM EST

This is slightly off topic, but I just want to say that John McCain is the republican that should have been in the elections. He had his faults, but I would have preferred him over Bush or Gore, as most of the country did (from the polls I saw.) Oh well, the fact that Bush was able to beat someone more qualified for the job (although McCain couldn't "call daddy for advice") is just another sign that the process of electing officials is completely corrupt here.

Stuff.

Except for mandatory library Internet filtering... (3.50 / 4) (#10)
by Blarney on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 10:41:22 PM EST

Which was his idea! I wrote an email, well written, with all the reasons why it's a bad idea, got only a form letter back requesting a postal address, which I provided, and got NO ANSWER, just like you might expect.



[ Parent ]

Well, (4.11 / 9) (#2)
by trhurler on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 07:13:33 PM EST

First off, the bill pending is bad. If you look at the draconian impact it has on parties other than the big two, you'll see why. It is nothing more than a way to lock down their control over the US political process, which they find to be necessary because other parties are starting to attract whole number percentages of the votes in various elections.

Second, if you want campaign reform, go to this site, where a group of organizations is raising funds for a legal challenge against the blatantly unconstitutional Federal Election Commission and all its assorted trash.

And third, if you want campaign reform, don't ask people who had to campaign in order to be elected and who benefitted from the present system. I mean, really, you'd have to be pretty stupid. Really, amazingly stupid. Republicrat stupid, even.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

hmmm. (4.00 / 3) (#4)
by ZanThrax on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 07:54:42 PM EST

Well, I'm kinda flattered that you've quoted me in your sig, but I have to wonder how you meant for it to be taken by people reading it... Two ideas spring to mind, you're pointing out that someone has mentioned you in a comment that wasn't about or replying to you, or, you're trying to point out my bias... Anyhow, I wanted to ask you who else you expect to create finance reform if not the legislature?

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Sig, reform (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by trhurler on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 10:41:46 AM EST

The sig amuses me for a couple of reasons that wouldn't really make sense if I tried to explain them to someone who doesn't know me very well, but rest assured that I'm not mocking you.

As for reform, when you see this touted, remember two things: first of all, in Washingon DC, not everything is called by what it actually is, and sometimes issues come up only to be "addressed" by bills that do nothing useful and cause much harm. Both are the case here.

People are upset about so-called "soft money." So, McCain wants to ban it. Think about what this means. It means that you cannot support a politician or a point of view without going through all the disclosure and limitations processes. Granted, it will stop the Democratic and Republican parties from using their substantial wealth to advance their candidates indirectly, which some might view as desirable. However, it also means that if I run an ad on television at personal expense that touts, as an example, gun freedoms, I'm subject to lawsuits alleging that I'm supporting this or that candidate, and if that commercial cost more than $1000, I can go to jail for violation of contribution limits. All because I chose to speak my mind on an issue, without any mention or even allusion to any candidate in any election. Even if I'm not affililated with any party. Even if I've never voted. Even if I haven't ever heard of the candidate. Guilty, thank you, please come again.

This is blatantly unconstitutional. It tramples all over the rights of anyone who wants to speak and doesn't have a nationwide political organization backing him up to fund it after collecting the money according to the laws in tiny amounts from any given person. And that's the whole point - it eliminates the possibility of anyone contending with the big two parties. If you think this legislation is about ANYTHING else, then you've been getting your news in soundbites and photo ops instead of actually looking at legislation and thinking for yourself. This won't change much for the fat cats, but it sure will make it that much harder for everyone else.

My hope is that instead, the anti-FEC lawsuit will succeed. This would remove all limits of all types, eliminate the closed debate structure in presidential elections, and force the big two to compete on level ground with smaller contenders. Granted, it would allow big spenders to buy lots of ads - I frankly don't give a damn. I'm one of those people who actually believes in the first amendment, and who is convinced that rights matter even when you don't like the outcome of enforcing them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Makes sense... (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by ZanThrax on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:37:34 PM EST

What you've said makes sense. If McCain's law is bad, then that is enough to not support it. Can you give me a little more info on this anti-FEC thing you've mentioned? Oh, another question, would you be in favour of laws that prevent (or at least restrict) corporate contributions? I don't actually see a problem with disclosure laws, even if I'm not sure about McCain's law...

Oh, and I wasn't really wondering if you were mocking me (which I don't mind, everyone deserves to be mocked from time to time... keeps them from getting to self-inflated.), I was just worried you were pissed off over that comment.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

anti-FEC (none / 0) (#38)
by trhurler on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:50:01 PM EST

I posted a link a couple of replies back. I'd type it out again, but literally I am in this big a hurry to get my ass out the door. Have a day.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Thanks (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by Wicket on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 08:33:17 PM EST

Thanks for the campaign reform link. It really offers another side to the issue. But that's why I'm glad that it is finally being allowed to be debated on the Senate floor, so atleast it can be debated. /me will be watching C-Span :)


intune.org - music discussion for the soul...
[ Parent ]
republicrat stupid! (4.66 / 3) (#16)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 11:37:57 AM EST

...if you want campaign reform, don't ask people
who had to campaign in order to be elected
and who benefitted from the present system.
I mean, really, you'd have to be pretty stupid.
Really, amazingly stupid.
Republicrat stupid, even.

I like it! Nice bounce, crunchy sound. Plus it's logical; regretfully one expect people in general, base as they are, and especially politicians, to work in their own self interest to the detriment of society.

I just think you happen to be factually wrong. Under some rather rare conditions politicians find themselves climbing on a popular bandwagon even when they know it's gonna hurt. If you can somehow get the voting masses worked up over a political issue - no matter whether serious or trivial, mean or benevolent, feckless or forethoughtful - it becomes possible for them to force U.S. politicians to change their minds; I've seen it at least thrice in my lifetime, civil rights, Vietnam, and term limits.

That the politicians ever reverse themselves on an important issue, that fact constitutes a logical proof. If a policy, any policy, is in a particular politician's interest, then its opposite is opposed to that self interest, right? (Let's assume that the issue at hand is of weight to a politician; your rep could flipflop on some minor bill, like funding a highway somewhere out of state, without it affecting his popularity with the voters at home much. Obviously this wasn't the case with high-emotionality issues like civil rights or Vietnam.) Now whenever you see a politician has changed sides, then either before or after you have to assume he was responding, against his own inclination, to voter pressure. For the obvious reason that the voters at home are all worked up over this issue, and to vote against their inclination means they will resentfully unelect our representative, almost as if they feel he is obliged to, like, represent them.

It's that voter pressure that gives citizens the hope that they can overcome the political caste's built-in bias on issues like campaign reform. If Mr. McCain can exude enough charisma (and he seems to be a fount thereof); if the somnolent DNC can bring themselves to get their disenfranchised 50.1% majority of voters to link in their minds the cancellation of the last election to campaign-bribery fraud (not exactly a logical connection, but what has logic got to do with voter enthusiasm?), if the voters can get half as worked up over camnpaign reform as they are over the usual moronic trivia that determines their votes, then maybe voter pressure will force our various reps to make at least a show of reforming the campaign finance process.

I mean, it worked for things like state congressional term limits. You have to assume that voting for the term limits laws like we've got in 18 states had got to be a painful experience for a state representative. Every one of them dreams about being like those great historical characters, for example Sam Rayburn who was Texas's Rep-for-life, and they know no matter what, under term limits they can never attain the status of a Sam Rayburn; you've got to have decades of seniority to attain that kind of power. Yet to vote against term limits would have been political suicide, so popular were they. "Thank heavens," their brothers in the Federal legislature must say, "for the Supreme Court, which annulled our term limits without us having to get our hands dirty!"

Even the leading functionaries of political parties, whose long term strategies transcend the interests of individuals, find themselves batting their heads in regret over having inflicted term limits as a blow against the opposition. Republicans, appalled by FDR's four terms, rammed through a constitutional amendment limiting presidential terms to two. Whereupon, for the remaining history of presidential elections, from 1947 to 1996, the only presidents who could have been reelected to a third term were all Republicans! (Of course, in 2000, presidential elections were simply abolished, the current Republican placeholder having been installed by coup.) On the converse side, remember it was the liberal branch of the Supreme Court which overturned term limits on Federal representatives in 1995; how they must today regret that decision, as it means that at least a dozen well-settled Republican incumbents would have been booted in '98 and '00, meaning, probably, a Democratic House and Senate, a counter-coup to balance the right-wingers's Dec. 12 coup.

I think term limits are stupid. Imagine the principle applied to any other enterprise. Here, for example, is an esteemed brain-surgeon. In the twelve years since he graduated from med school and took up practice, he has not only saved the lives of hundreds of patients but innovated new techniques. Time's up! And over here is a distinguished and experienced engineer; let's revoke his license after a statutory term, and give him a chance to take up a new field of work. House painters, and hospital nurses, and long-distance truck drivers - all these fields of endeavor could surely benefit from periodic, forced infusion of "new blood," and who's to say that creating the laws by which our nation is run is any more complicated than these professions? Plus, under our current system where what legislation that isn't composed in toto by industry lobbyists is written in congressional committees, any state which enacted term limits for its Federal representatives selflessly ensures that its congressmen will never lead any of those committees.

Rather than punishing the winners in elections, how's about Mencken's excellent suggestion to deal with the losers? Maybe we can get McCain to stump for this proposal:

...But barred out, he (William Jennings Bryan) suffered publicly and damnably, and his sufferings resolved themselves into a serious menace to public order and public decency...

The damage, of course, falls upon the country. It has to pay the cost of all these grotesque and indecent wars of revenge. It is damaged when a Hiram Johnson, boiling inwardly, become useless as a senator. It is damaged far worse when a Bryan hoists the black flag and declares a holy war upon all intelligence and decorum. The damage goes with the Democratic system. But is it inevitable? Is there no way of escape? I offer one at once. Let us have a Constitutional amendment providing that every unsuccessful aspirant for the Presidency, on the day his triumphant rival is inaugurated, shall be hauled to the top of the Washington Monument and there shot, poisoned, stabbed, strangled and disemboweled and his carcass thrown into the Potomac. What we'd have gained if that amendment had been on the books in 1896! and in 1912!

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

The point of term limits (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 07:50:25 PM EST

I think term limits are stupid. Imagine the principle applied to any other enterprise. Here, for example, is an esteemed brain-surgeon. In the twelve years since he graduated from med school and took up practice, he has not only saved the lives of hundreds of patients but innovated new techniques. Time's up!
Your mistake is in regarding a legislative position as having the same principles as any other enterprise. I don't want lawmakers to "get good" at what they do, because what they do is come up with as many things as they can think of to throw me in jail for. What they do is get better and better at taking my money and giving it to others. What they do is get better at buying votes by giving those others the money they've stolen.

Hard as it is to believe, there was a time in the U.S. when a political office was regarded as a service, not a job. There was a time when legislators got paid for the few weeks they spent writing laws, then went back to their jobs to make an actual living. There was a time when politicians didn't have to fret over maintaining two homes and pumping up their pensions, because politics weren't the guiding force in their lives.

Term limits are an attempt by people who still know all of the above to hold back massive government. Your comparison of a politician with a brain surgeon only shows how completely many of us have forgotten priorities. Not to mention the irony, of course ...

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

[ Parent ]

why are short-timers better? (4.33 / 3) (#28)
by anonymous cowerd on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 10:55:13 AM EST

Let's put to one side the issue of competence for a moment - though I do think the job of writing legislation is hardly trivially easy. Why do you assume that a mandatory short-timer is going to be a better representative than a would-be career man? I'd think it's the other way around. Probably the only thing that prevents my elected representative from selling out completely to a.) importunate campaign contributors, each with his own special agenda, b.) wealthy patrons who can offer him plush corporate positions after he retires from public office, and c.) out-and-out under-the-table bribers, is the fact that if he too flagrantly flouts what the voting majority wants, his political career is probably over. That's what keeps him honest; that and, of course, his politician's conscience.

It's the term-limited rep who grants the permit to build the concrete plant across everybody's favorite fishing stream. The guy who's quitting anyway is the one who slips the rider into a bill on road improvements where your insurance company gets to raise your flood insurance rate by 80%; next year he's going to be on an insurance company's board of directors. Look at what happens during the final weeks of a lame-duck President. While his staff gleefully makes off with the "W" key caps on all the White House keyboards, soon-to-be-ex-President Clinton pardons, among others, the charmingly-named securities crook Marc Rich; just as eight years previous, Bush Sr. pardoned, among others, a wholesale heroin smuggler named Aslan Adam. Did they do this while any elections hung on the balance? no, only when they were "lame ducks." Ouch, damn, ouch, these "lame ducks" bite! You've really got to worry about what these bastards will do when they're on their way out the door!

Now you propose to further short-circuit that one and only discipline/reward mechanism we voters can ever wield against our representatives's natural tendency to not represent us. What, besides of course that conscience I mentioned, restrains any term-limited representative's final ("terminal") term for being a free-for-all of gratified anti-social self-interest?

Hey, don't you have children? (Not, I hasten to assure you, that I wish to compare your children, who are probably likeable and admirable, to the likes of politicians, no!) Hey little Johnny, if you do your homework, you can have this candy bar! but no homework, no candy bar! You guys come marching in with a limit and a quota for how many candy bars one may consume in a lifetime. Alas, poor Johnny's motivation suffers!

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

Semi-OT: Term limits (4.50 / 8) (#3)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 07:19:44 PM EST

I'm all for campaign finance reform. But your mention of term limits (which you apparently support) actually makes me pause and think more deeply about finance reform. An idea can seem good on the face of it but then fall apart when examined closely.

The idea behind term limits is, apparently: Force the losers out, dammit. But there are two problems with this:

1) It forces the winners out, too.
2) Those "losers" won a democratic majority in their district. Forcing them out could be seen as "thwarting the will of the people."

You soften the blow by crediting "an influx of new ideas"--but it's the same thing. If Candidate A with "new ideas" can't beat the incumbent, then maybe those constituents don't want the new ideas.

Back on topic: Campaign finance reform seems like a good idea to me--but so did term limits when I first heard about them. I'm not saying then that "by analogy, we must vote down reform"--I'm just saying that we should ponder before declaring what we think we want.

I actually emailed by congress people and asked them to vote for it. I got one letter back (from the person who doesn't support the measure). He offered the usual arguments ("free speech", "no undue influence", etc). He doesn't represent me, I won't vote for him next time. Not a "punishment" just a statement of fact.

Play 囲碁
Term limits are stupid (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by khym on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 09:24:04 PM EST

I've always thought that term limits were stupid. At first glance, they seem to be saying "Help us, help us! We don't want to keep on re-electing these politicians, but we just can't help ourselves! Somebody stop us!". In reality, it's probably something more like "Well, my politician is cool, which is why I keep on re-electing him, but everybody else's politicians are scum balls. So I'm willing to give up re-electing my politician if you're willing to give up re-electing you slimeballs."; if more than 50% of the active voters in a state think like this, voila, term limits. The only problem is that it prevents the less than 50% of the voters who didn't agree to this little pact from voting for their favorite candidate.



--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Power (4.33 / 3) (#9)
by cameldrv on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 10:22:20 PM EST

The problem with long-running congressmen and senators is that they get on all the right committees and are able to wield huge power. Once they have a few terms under their belts, voters have a choice between someone who better represents them, and someone who can bring home the bacon. This was clearly the case with Rostnkowski in Chicago. He was corrupt and everyone knew it, but he could get lots of pork because he was chairman of the Ways and Means commitee.

[ Parent ]
Re: Power (none / 0) (#43)
by vectro on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:25:59 AM EST

So maybe the solution is to abolish this whole senority thing. Then senators that have been in office for 30 years will have the same precedence as freshman senators. It would seem to alleviate the problem of a long-term congressman getting his choice of committees.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Just a few thoughts (3.25 / 4) (#5)
by TheSpiritOf1776 on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 08:21:51 PM EST

There are more than three ways to deal with campaign finance reform. Which another poster has mentioned.

One thing I think you should keep in mind with campaign donations is that the donation does not buy you votes. It only buys things (assuming it is enough to buy anything) that can get your message to a potential voter. Those things can be as varied as newspaper ads, TV ads, radio ads, bumper stickers, etc. Not a single one of them can gaurantee you a vote, or even that a voter will watch them.

"3 ways" (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by Wicket on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 08:29:08 PM EST

What I meant by this are the 3 different ways to reform that have been <i>proposed</i>, but I'm sure there are many more ways to reform it, if only the Senate would allow for debate!


intune.org - music discussion for the soul...
[ Parent ]
First Amendment (3.80 / 5) (#11)
by Bad Harmony on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 12:47:27 AM EST

The rock that many campaign finance reform proposals founder on is the first amendment. Political speech gets the highest level of constitutional protection. While some restrictions on direct contributions to political candidates have been upheld by the courts, restrictions on "soft money" and issue advertising are much more difficult to justify. One person's evil special interest group is another person's grass-roots political organization. There is also the issue that a campaign finance reform law may turn out to be a form of protectionism for the major parties and incumbent officeholders.

5440' or Fight!

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words (4.25 / 8) (#12)
by Lode Runner on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 02:07:37 AM EST

For those of us who like illustrations or who are too busy to read the article and posts, here are some excellent editorial cartoons on the failure of campaign finance reform.



. . . and another (none / 0) (#47)
by Lode Runner on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:51:05 AM EST

Here's one more campaign finance reform cartoon:

[ Parent ]
Publicly Financed Campaigns (4.00 / 7) (#13)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 03:51:23 AM EST

Right now, I think that the only way to really clean up campaign financing and level the playing field is to have publicly financed campaigns, with a ban on soft money.

To receive federal financing the candidate would have to circulate a petition an gather x signatures before a deadline. Then a pot of money earmarked for election campaigns would be devided equally among all the candidates in the election.

This is just an idea that's been floating around in my head for awile. It would need alot of work if it was to ever be implemented.

Public funding? (3.33 / 6) (#15)
by delmoi on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 11:31:34 AM EST

So, the government would get to decide who does and who dosn't get to spend money to try to get elected? That seems pretty counter-intuitive to me, and if you think the govt couldn't make an 'unfair' system, why wasn't Ralph Nader in the debates?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Commission on Presidential Debates (5.00 / 6) (#20)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 01:30:27 PM EST

The presidential debates were not run by an agency of the government, but by a private organization run by prominent leaders of the Republicrat Party and financed by big businesses who, naturally, feel it is in their best interest to suppress third-party candidates in general, and Mr. Nader in particular.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

what about tv ads? (2.80 / 5) (#18)
by alprazolam on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 12:32:37 PM EST

how do you control those?

[ Parent ]
Initial Awareness a Problem (4.00 / 6) (#19)
by ajschu on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 12:41:17 PM EST

The obvious problem with this idea (one that would have to be addressed beforehand) is the initial gathering of signatures.

In order to gain the awareness of voters (potential signers of the petition), some sort of advertising must be used. This costs money. If you have to have the awareness to first get the money, it creates a catch-22, and still strongly favors established politicians.

This isn't an attempt to shoot down the proposal...public funding of elections is really one of the best ideas out there right now. It's just a matter of making it practical.

AJS



[ Parent ]
Another twist on this (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by Philipp on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 04:13:39 PM EST

Since it is quite easy to hire signature-collectors, how about: Every party gets $5 for each vote it got it the last election, if it got at least 0.5% of the votes.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Shouldn't be linear (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by bjrubble on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 06:48:37 AM EST

I think votes would make a good basis for funding, but I'd want some sort of diminishing returns, to weight the funding toward smaller parties.

[ Parent ]
Amazing. (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by dice on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 08:05:48 PM EST

At this point noone has even commented on the most obvious flaw.

I don't want my money going to a party I don't like.



[ Parent ]
Matching Funds? (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 01:33:25 AM EST

I was under the impression that, in the current system, your money still goes to the party you don't like through federal matching funds.

[ Parent ]
Solution! (none / 0) (#36)
by dice on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 12:42:46 PM EST

There's a solution. Government doesn't fund political parties. Not what it's there for.

People complain about feature bloat in software while advocating more government programs.

Weird.

[ Parent ]
Don't check the little box (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by cameldrv on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 05:53:55 AM EST

If you don't want your money going to the matching funds, just don't check the box on your income taxes which gives it to them. The system is totally voluntary, at least in the sense that you control your share of the fund. Of course, if everyone checks the box, then everyone's taxes go up by $3, but it's not a perfect world...

[ Parent ]
Already happens (4.00 / 3) (#26)
by bjrubble on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 06:09:03 AM EST

My money is already going to parties I don't like, through corporate profits.

[ Parent ]
Wow.... (none / 0) (#35)
by dice on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 12:41:24 PM EST

Fixing the fact that corporations are doing something you don't like is amazingly simple.

Don't buy their stuff.

Wanna know the difference from the government?

The government takes your money by force.

One's decision,(and i don't understand why you just don't change your actions) and the other is coercion.

[ Parent ]
Is it so easy? (none / 0) (#44)
by vectro on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 03:00:32 AM EST

Let's say I don't like Microsoft. Fine. I don't buy any of their products.

This is in fact the case; I haven't purchased any microsoft product for about two years; the most recent time being when I paid the Microsoft Tax on my laptop.

Now this is all fine and good, except that any company I do business with almost certainly uses Microsoft products, which means my money would be going to them indirectly. Attempting a secondary boycott on a company like Microsoft essentially means I can't do business with practically anyone, including, incidentally, the US government itself.

Sure it's possible; I could join the Amish, for example. But is it really a reasonable thing to say that it's so easy to fix the fact that a corporation does something unsavory?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Herein lies the problem. (none / 0) (#50)
by dice on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 10:19:40 PM EST

If your ideals mean enough to you, you would make the sacrifice. If they don't, you won't.

It's a reasonable, easy thing to do if you can prioritize your values over convenience.

[ Parent ]
Level? when? (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by darthaggie on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 06:32:40 PM EST

Right now, I think that the only way to really clean up campaign financing and level the playing field is to have publicly financed campaigns, with a ban on soft money.

Um, how, exactly do you level the playing field?

Simply being the incumbent gives one an enormous advantage in name recognition, as well as being able to spam your voters' mailboxes with flyers, leaflets, etc, all on the taxpayer's expanse and seperate from your campaign. How do you adjust for that?

Oh, you expected the incumbents to make a level playing field...


I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

That Pesky First Amendment (4.71 / 7) (#14)
by ajschu on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 10:31:07 AM EST

The biggest stumbling block on the road to campaign finance reform is the First Amendment.

Buckley v. Valeo (1976) is the source of the current limits on campaign contributions, as the Supreme Court's majority decision stated in that case that contributions could be limited to prevent "corruption, or the appearance of corruption." It is this decision that implicitly legalizes "soft money."

It seems to me that the nature of the ruling states that the expenditure of money to facilitate speech is speech. If this ruling were to be overturned, and the expenditure of money was determined not to constitute speech, where could the government go from there?

It would be an extreme, but the government would have the ability not to regulate what you say, but who hears you. For example, anti-[insert cause here] protestors who wish to print leaflets to distribute to disseminate their beliefs could be told by the government that they are only allowed to spend US$5 on the printing process. The government's not telling the group what they can/can't say, but they're making a pretty heavily felt impact on who can hear their message.

For these reasons, I think it's of the utmost importance that the legislature treads very lightly when trying to regulate campaign finance. In my research, it seems that the best chance for reform is voluntary restrictions on finance, like the one proposed by Public Campaign. I'm not saying they have all the answers, but they seem to have a lot of good ideas.

AJS



Money is property; it is not speech (4.85 / 7) (#17)
by meersan on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 11:50:21 AM EST

"Money is property; it is not speech."
- Justic John Paul Stevens

The Supreme Court's first ruling on individual contribution limits to campaigns since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision was Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC. On January 24, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Missouri's campaign contribution limits in in this case. It was a 6-3 decision which reversed a 1995 federal court ruling that Missouri's campaign finance laws werre unconstitutional because the contribution limits were set too low. "In upholding the Missouri's right to establish contribution limits, the Supreme Court dispelled the notion that campaign contributions are a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment." The majority of the justices concurred with Justice Steven's statement (quoted above). Here's a link. Although this decision offers some hope to proponents of campaign finance reform, it is unclear what implications this case holds for Buckley v. Valeo.

[ Parent ]

Money IS property (3.33 / 3) (#23)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 08:01:10 PM EST

"Money is property; it is not speech."
- Justic John Paul Stevens
Ah, so the Supreme Court isn't restricting speech ... merely the transfer of property. Whew. I was worried that I might be allowed to do what I wish with my own property for a second, there.

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

[ Parent ]

What's your point? (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Ludwig on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 07:29:29 PM EST

Wherever did you get the notion that you have a right to do whatever you want with property just because you own it? Are arguing that you should be allowed to bribe public officials? It's only a transfer of property, after all. How about buying weapons-grade plutonium? You're not allowed to engage in that simple exchange of property either. Shooting off a machinegun into the air is transferring your ammunition into the public domain, and you can't do that. You can't even dump toxic waste on your own land as you see fit, and that's just you doing what you want with your own property, without another party even being involved.

[ Parent ]
Excuse Me (2.00 / 3) (#31)
by retinaburn on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 07:50:58 PM EST

I was wondering why you gave this comment a vote of 1 ? Perhaps you should read the voting guidelines.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
[OT] Re: Excuse Me (2.33 / 3) (#32)
by Ludwig on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 08:13:55 PM EST

(I'd reply by email, but you don't seem to have an address listed, so apologies to everyone else for the OT digression.)

Nothing personal, I rated everything in that threadlet -1 as per the guidelines because IMO it consisted entirely of noise comments which added nothing to the discussion at hand. Decss.pl and followups on typos therein have nothing to do with the CoS, as far as I can tell.

[ Parent ]

speaking of typos... (2.33 / 3) (#33)
by Ludwig on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 09:15:22 PM EST

"-1" should of course be "1".

[ Parent ]
Those crazy rights (none / 0) (#41)
by Robert Hutchinson on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 08:04:43 PM EST

Wherever did you get the notion that you have a right to do whatever you want with property just because you own it?
Short of using that property for criminal (or what should be criminal) activity, I got the notion from my understanding of humanity. Natural rights, life, liberty, etc.
Are arguing that you should be allowed to bribe public officials? It's only a transfer of property, after all.
I'm arguing that it is wrong to restrict activity based on possible evils. If I give money to a public official on the condition that he do something wrong, and he proceeds to do it, that should be bribery. If bribery is the problem, it should be prosecuted, but instead we're wasting time with "reform."
How about buying weapons-grade plutonium? You're not allowed to engage in that simple exchange of property either. Shooting off a machinegun into the air is transferring your ammunition into the public domain, and you can't do that. You can't even dump toxic waste on your own land as you see fit, and that's just you doing what you want with your own property, without another party even being involved.
Excepting certain possible problems (the noise pollution of a machinegun, or the toxic waste escaping the confines of one's property), all three of those sound peachy to me. Get back to me when this hypothetical person starts irradiating/shooting/poisoning people.

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

[ Parent ]

What goes up... (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by Ludwig on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 10:52:07 PM EST

I'm arguing that it is wrong to restrict activity based on possible evils.

I agree with you on this, for certain values of "activity." For instance, I don't think I should be prevented from buying drugs just because some people develop a problem with them and commit crimes to support their habits. However, in all the examples given, the risk of harm is substantially greater. We have a significant compelling interest in restricting such activities; we have no compelling interest in allowing their free pursuit. ("Bribery," by the way, isn't limited to paying for illegal actions; it can include paying for legal ones, e.g. voting a certain way or holding a bill up in committee.) You're saying that it's okay to drive drunk as long as you don't hit anyone.

Let me ask you this: Are you generally in favor of more government spending instead of less? I'm guessing you'd say no, but that's exactly the effect of the laissez-faire ad absurdium policy you advocate. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure. And if you think for one second that Monsanto et al. will be footing the bill for their own messes, you are deluded. They may have to pony up a stiff fine, but the costs would be passed on to the farmers dependent on their products, and ultimately on to the rest of us, hidden in our grocery bills.

It's incredible that the principal hazard you see in randomly firing a gun into the air is noise pollution. I sure hope you're trolling.

[ Parent ]

... is high. (none / 0) (#48)
by Robert Hutchinson on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:44:03 PM EST

For instance, I don't think I should be prevented from buying drugs just because some people develop a problem with them and commit crimes to support their habits. However, in all the examples given, the risk of harm is substantially greater.
And who decides what is "substantial?" Millions seem to disagree with you (and me) on how substantial the risk of harm from drug use is.
We have a significant compelling interest in restricting such activities; we have no compelling interest in allowing their free pursuit.
One can say "we" have a significant compelling interest in restricting any activity ... it doesn't mean much without elaboration.
You're saying that it's okay to drive drunk as long as you don't hit anyone.
No ... but only because we have a public road system. I'm completely free to drive drunk on my own property, or with the permission of someone else on their property.
Let me ask you this: Are you generally in favor of more government spending instead of less? I'm guessing you'd say no, but that's exactly the effect of the laissez-faire ad absurdium policy you advocate. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure.
Either I'm missing your point, or you crossed some wires there. Are you suggesting that the government would have to pay for the cure? I've made it quite clear that I think criminals are still responsible for criminal activity.
And if you think for one second that Monsanto et al. will be footing the bill for their own messes, you are deluded.
And what messes are those?
It's incredible that the principal hazard you see in randomly firing a gun into the air is noise pollution. I sure hope you're trolling.
I never said it was the only hazard. Incitement to riot (requiring other concurrent actions) and potential property and personal damage from falling bullets are two others. But this "troll" can read between the lines quite well, thank you. You used firing a gun into the air as an example because you feel that the wrongness is inherent in the action itself.

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

[ Parent ]

Printing presses are property (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by roystgnr on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 01:37:03 PM EST

They are not speech. This is a dangerous road.

It's not an effective road, either. So say you prevent Microsoft from giving money to a political candidate. Are you going to prevent them from directly buying a commercial for that candidate, too? If so, can you honestly argue that such prevention is constitutional? If not, what have you accomplished?

[ Parent ]

Are you so sure, Justice Stevens? (2.00 / 1) (#40)
by darthaggie on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 06:49:13 PM EST

"Money is property; it is not speech." - Justic John Paul Stevens

Interesting concept, but flies in the face of previous opinions upholding the free speech values of flag burning. Is a flag also not property?

I suppose that one might even say "The flag is property; it is not speech."


I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Reform isn't so simple (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by espo812 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:34:26 AM EST

This was due largely in fact to the large donations and lobbying by the coal and energy companies, major contributors to Bush's presidential campaign and the Republican Party.
What about donations from Natural Gas companies? Obviously they wan't coal emmision regulations because that engourages companies to use natural gas. Corruption isn't such a simple issue.

If you don't like parties that accept big money from big business, don't vote for them. You obviously have Internet access, and there are plenty of resources avaliable to you. Vote for someone more in-line with your views.



espo
--
Censorship is un-American.
Yes, we need campaign finance reform. (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by espo812 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:35:26 AM EST

I believe we need campaign finance reform. Here is my proposal:

Have no limit on "hard money" contributions. Have no limit on "soft money" contributions. In fact, have no limits on how anyone spends their money. *gasp* That's horrible you say.

Well it's my money. I don't want anyone telling me how to spend it. If I want to donate to the state party of my choice, that's my buisness. If I want to give the money to a candidate of my choice, my buisness. As well as if I choose to support advocation groups (like the EFF, NRA, ACLU), all my buisness.

I'm still torn on the issue of reporting the contributions. I guess it is useful for my next point.

If you don't like the people contributing to a party/candidate - don't support (vote for) that party/candidate. This is pretty simple. It will encourage candidates to choose who they want to be identified with. Some parties already refuse buisness contributions (I believe the Libertarian Party does).

That's my US$0.02. Feel free to ask for change.

espo
--
Censorship is un-American.
unintended consequences (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by seth01 on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 02:37:16 AM EST

Although I agree with McCain - Feingold in spirit I am concerned about the possible unintended consequences that may occur in our drive to do SOMETHING about campaign finance.

1) By limiting the amount of money a candidate can collect, independently wealthy individuals will have an advantage over candidates who must seak out funds. Thus more wealthy men and women will gain office; closing the door on the majority of americans.

2) Relevant information will not be able to be released about an issue within 60 days of an election unless the news media deems to do so. This creates the possibility of silencing everyone except those corporation who own a major media outlet.

Regardless of these shortcomings, McCain - Feingold will fail in the end to halt the flow of money into political campaigns because, like the war on drugs, it tries to limit the supply while ignoring the fundamental reasons for the overwhelming demand. So long as demand is high, the money will find its way into our system. The only true fix for campaign finance is to limit the demand for money. There are a variety of ways this could be aproached be it public financing of campaigns to shortening the time politicians have for campaigns. I don't pretend to know the best way to go about limiting the demand but the nation should put its energy into finding ways to do so instead of following the carrot of McCain - Feingold

I always find it funny (none / 0) (#52)
by weirdling on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 03:57:46 PM EST

That calls for campaign finance reform are inextricably linked to other platform ideas that the person calling for the reform wishes to see fixed and feels is not being fixed because the person in power is obviously *bought* because no *normal* person would *ever* think like that unless *greedy corporations* paid him to. Half of this post is a rebuke of Bush's policies, not a problem with campaing finance reform. One poster insists that the fact that Bush won over McCain is an indication of the fact that the electoral process is corrupt in this country.
Can you people, you know who you are, possibly believe that there are people with opposing opinions? I slept much easier after McCain conceded the primary precisely because I did not want any of his ideas to see the light of day. His most annoying ideas involved campaign finance reform and gun control, and in both cases, he was against me doing what I want, and I tend not to vote for people like that.
I believe firmly in campaign finance reform. Get rid of matching funds. There's no reason for the government to pay for a person to run for office.
See, in this society, the only true trade is money. I give a lot of money to the Libertarian party (notice my bias?), and campaign finance reform would severely hamper the Libertarian platform, because Libertarian candidates do not accept federal money, so I would be limited in what I can do to help them, which would cause the major two to have an advantage because they have a lot broader base of support. We're already seeing laws that make it harder to be a third party (raising the number of signatures to be on a ballot, &c.), passed by largely Dualopolists. Major parties, ever since Clinton defeated Bush Sr. with help from Perot, have been running scared of the third party growth in the US now.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Campaign Finance Reform | 52 comments (52 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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