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[P]
Why Campaign Finance Reform Will Fail

By Sethamin in Op-Ed
Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:50:58 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

A month ago the House passed the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Act, 248-180, at 2:43 AM after a grueling 16-hour session. A month later, the Senate passed the McCain-Feingold Act, 60-40, the same bill as was passed in the House and avoiding the need for a conference committee. A few days ago, on March 27, Bush finally signed this historic legislation into law.

It is hard to argue that this is not landmark legislation. After 7 years of stalling tactics by its opponents, it is amazing that it came up so fast and passed so quickly. There is wide agreement that there is one big reason for this: Enron. Ironically, most pundits agree that had the scandal not broke loose with a company that contributed so much money to so many lawmakers, this legislation would have ended up where it always seems to end up - the bottom of the pile, destined never to get a vote.

But the most ironic thing here is that, depsite the Herculean effort put into its passage by its supporters, it will not work. It will not work because it does not address the real problem.


It is obvious to everyone nowadays that money has tremendous influence in politics. Just look at the DMCA, the SSSCA (now called the CBDTPA), or the Sony Bono Copyright Protection Act (called the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" by Lawrence Lessig) for evidence of coporate dollars in Congress. Or how about the recent release of documents from the Energy department which showed influence by tons of major energy companies but virtually no consumer or environmental groups? Does anyone else find something very disturbing about a government which seems to value coporate input in almost every respect over average citizens?

It's hard to underestimate how far this influence goes, or really, how much effect it truly has on us. Think about the fight against major coporate legislation and how uphill a bittle it seems. Think about the overwhelmingly negative press that the RIAA and Recording Industry has gotten over their various copyright protection proposals (I have yet to see an article anywhere that praises it), and yet we STILL end up with the CBDPTA being introduced in the Senate? Law professors all over the country talk about the "chilling effect" the DMCA will have on innovation, and the DMCA still passes! It seems to me that if enough major corporations get behind almost any legislation, it is virtually impossible for it to be stopped by average citizens. The only caveat is when the public so worked up that they vote everyone involved out of office - a very rare occurence.

But does that make anyone feel better? That ultimately, citizens still have the absolute power? In the end, corporations get no vote and we do? Well, think again. The basic fact of politics is that it takes money to win elections. Pure and simple. Corporations have more money (at least concentrated in one place) then we as average citizens do, and thus they DO have a vote of sorts. You can have as pure and noble a representative to Congress as you want, but he or she needs money to get reelected, and they know it. You will not get reelected without money. Every politician knows this simple axiom.

So what does this legislation do to stop this? Well, it bans soft money from coporations, unions, and wealthy individuals to national parties. Issue ads would also be banned from broadcasting within 60 days of a federal election and 30 days of a primary, and those ads would have to paid for in "hard money". But it still remains that coporations can give money to candidates. It's just that now they cannot give "soft money" to the national parties (Note: local parties still can get up to $10,000 donations).

Therein lies the fundamental flaw in ALL of our political system: corporations can contribute money to our election process. By what right do corporations get a "vote", or any influence? Corporations are not people. They are just entitites. They only matter to us insofar as they provide jobs to people or creates wealth to give to those people. But in the long run people are the only things that matter. So why should a company (made up of people) be able to contribute money (earned by those people) towards any cause that those people may not (and probably don't) agree with? Why would you believe, as Calvin Coolidge once famously quipped, that "the business of America is business"?

The answer that inevitably will come back is "business need to protect their interests." But what interests? But again, why do we (as a country) care about a coporation's interests? I'll reiterate my point above: it only concerns us insofar as it creates jobs and wealth. Sure, we would all (or most) of us like more money and better jobs, but when it comes down to either YOUR interests versus a corporations ability to MAKE MONEY, which would you want the government to side with? My view is that politicians will naturally try to protect the interests of companies in their districts or in this country, because of their role in creating jobs and wealth. And that make people happy. But when push comes to shove the people should win out, not the corporations. I'm not saying corporations can't lobby Congress and try to make their views known. I'm not saying they must keep quiet and can't take political stances. All I'm saying is that coporations have no right to put money into politics.

It is my view that if we could ever implement and enforce this, we would have a huge democratic surge in America. Think about it: if politicans can't get their money from corporations, then they will be forced to go to individuals. And because of the personal donation limit, they will be forced to go to as many individuals as possible. Which, in turn, means more influence by private citizens. The influence is not concentrated (as the money is) in large corporations, but diffused through many, many people. And isn't that what democracy is all about?

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Poll
Should Corporations be Allowed To Give Political Contributions?
o Yes 24%
o No 75%

Votes: 163
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o the House passed the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Act
o the Senate passed the McCain-Feingold Act
o Bush finally signed this historic legislation into law
o DMCA
o SSSCA
o CBDTPA
o the recent release of documents from the Energy department
o the fight against major coporate legislation
o Also by Sethamin


Display: Sort:
Why Campaign Finance Reform Will Fail | 139 comments (126 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
Free speech (3.91 / 12) (#1)
by greenrd on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:14:21 PM EST

Issue ads would also be banned from broadcasting within 60 days of a federal election and 30 days of a primary,

Doesn't this violate the 1st amendment?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

IANAL (3.25 / 4) (#2)
by phatboy on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:15:56 PM EST

Isn't TV and advertising already regulated wrt content? Free speech protext the content not the context; something many people seem to forget.

[ Parent ]
maybe, maybe not (4.80 / 5) (#4)
by mattw on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:17:08 PM EST

Treading the edge of a slippery slope, one might say that a corporation has no right to free speech. Moreover, they might not have a right to pay for airtime. Certainly, I don't think any law stopping airing ads by private citizens will ever pass constitutional muster (nor should it), but regulating what a corporation can and cannot do seems like it might.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Been there, established that (5.00 / 6) (#9)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:30:03 PM EST

In "Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad", in 1886, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the corporation was a legal person and could not be deprived of its Constitutional rights*. This ruling has never been overturned.

[ Parent ]
Curious (4.00 / 3) (#17)
by Kwil on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:00:05 PM EST

Do you, (or anybody) know if the ruling has ever been challenged? Or can we challenge a Supreme Court Ruling?

[ Parent ]
Congress can pass a new law (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by KilljoyAZ on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:52:01 PM EST

or wait until judges more sympathetic are on the Supreme Court, hope that they'll take a similar case, and overturn the previous Supreme Court ruling. I suggest that you don't hold your breath.

===
Creativitiy cannot be SPELT by over 98% of all American troops. - psychologist
[ Parent ]
Of course we can (none / 0) (#125)
by MrSpey on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 09:09:26 AM EST

In order to challenge a Supreme Court ruling you simply break the law as it was originally interpereted by the Supreme Court, like not treating corporations like people. Every lower court will follow the Supreme Court's ruling so you need to keep appealing until the appeal reaches the Supreme Court. If they decide to hear your appeal they can simply reverse their descision. Hell, some lower court could rule to overturn a Supreme Court ruling and if the Supreme Court decides to not hear the appeal then the lower Court's ruling stands.

Congress could also pass a law specifically overturning the ruling of the Supreme Court. From the U.S. Constitution, Article III Sec. 2:
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
This basically says that except where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction (where it is the first court to hear the case), Congress can say that other courts that it designates are the final appeals court for certain types of cases. Congress could create a new court with only one judge and say that this new court is the final appeals court for all appeals in the united states. Someone could then appeal the Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad through a normal court case and the appeal would reach the new court the Congress made with one judge on it who could then decide to overturn it. Granted, this is a lot of work to overcome a Supreme Court ruling, but Congress and the President (who has to appoint federal judges, I believe) could make the Supreme Court fairly irrelevent if they wanted to.

Mr. Spey
Cover your butt. Bernard is watching

[ Parent ]
Yes, it does (4.80 / 5) (#5)
by elefantstn on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:23:14 PM EST

Which is why this law will only last for as long as it takes for it to get to the Supreme Court. In fact, I've seen pundits surmise that many legislators who actually oppose campaign finance reform specifically voted for this knowing it would eventually be struck down.

[ Parent ]
Amendment... (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by beergut on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:44:24 PM EST

There should be a clause in the Article that describes the Legislature, stating that all bills that issue from that body are non-severable.

Then, when one single part of this steaming, festering pile of shit gets struck down, the whole thing goes with it. Same for every other bill that comes out of that cesspool - every bill has pork attached to it.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

No more than already (4.25 / 4) (#6)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:26:52 PM EST

Issue ads already have certain restrictions. Also there are rules about campaigning within a spatial dimension from a polling booth, a temporal dimension isn't really qualitatively different. Well, OK it kinda is, but I could think of a way to end that sentence.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Issue adds (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Boronx on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:43:02 PM EST

Issue ads are allowed if they don't mention a candidate.
Subspace
[ Parent ]
Let's see if it holds up in court. (4.25 / 8) (#7)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:29:26 PM EST

Does it not seem to you that this legislation abridges to some extent (by the 60 day exclusion rule) the protection of political speech, the concrete, primary reason for which have the First Amendment? Although this article gives some examples of how political influence may or may not have been 'bought' (I would not argue that it is for sale, however), there are plenty of counter-examples where voluminous spending by groups and individuals amounted to nearly nothing. Is that good enough reason to prevent free political expression around the time of elections, when it matters the most?

I know that we all hate the big, bad corporations and such, and that we want their political voice to be muted, but I can really see how these laws could be abused to prevent grassroots politics from carrying momentum into an election. Please, people, let's also consider that these laws apply not only to corporations, but also to organized groups of private citizens with strong political beliefs that may want to publicize their cause.

The only thing these laws will do is to make campaign financing more vague, diffuse, and nefarious than it already is, and there is a significant potential for very sinister interpretations if unchecked (what exactly constitutes an 'issue ad', what activites constitute broadcasting, etc.).



Corporations should be allowed to donate (4.09 / 11) (#11)
by maroberts on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:37:33 PM EST

For one thing a corporation is similar to a person in many aspects of law, and if the interests of a corporation are furthered by donating money then it should be able to do so.

For another thing, if the chairman of the company instead gave a similar amount to a Congresscritter or Senator, it would be much harder to know why an elected representative is pushing an issue. The fact that a company name appears on the donor list does make it easier.
~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
Why? (5.00 / 3) (#53)
by scanman on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:10:48 PM EST

Why do you assume that corporations should be citezens? Why should a citizen, by forming a corporation, effectively become two citezens?

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

That is not the case... (none / 0) (#109)
by maroberts on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 04:22:21 PM EST

..a corporation does not get a vote, so it does not have full citizenship. In addition company board members are responsible for the conduct of the corpoaration, even though it is true that applying the law to the people responsible notoriously often fails.

A corporation has to have some form of 'personhood' - the aims of a company often have to be persued in politics, and merely for the corporation to own anything means it has to have a legal existence.

I'm under the impression that you don't like corporations at all, however without them it would be impossible for any group to persue interests in business without risking everything they owned. Also it would be impossible to allow long term continuation of businesses except in the most traditional passing on from father to son sense. Corporations are necessary and provide a vehicle for a group of people to persue a common [business] aim.

I on the other hand whilst not approving of the objectives of certain corporations, do approve of their existence.


~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
[ Parent ]
Ban electoral advertising (2.57 / 7) (#12)
by ShadowNode on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:38:04 PM EST

I don't see these as a free speach issue. After all, what can you really learn about a candidate's position from a 30 second blurb?

Is it really so much to ask that people do a little research before they vote?

Speech (3.33 / 3) (#36)
by DarkZero on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:40:13 PM EST

How is the restriction of a candidate's speech not a free speech issue? It's not violating copyright and it's not physically endangering the public (yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater), so how does it not fall under free speech?

[ Parent ]
We already accept limitations on advertising... (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by ShadowNode on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:38:05 PM EST

So changing the regulations is not a free speech issue in and of itself, whereas having them at all is. Besides, can you really call a 30 second advert "speech"? You can't really say anything of any importance in that timeframe.

[ Parent ]
Not the candidate's speech (none / 0) (#133)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 12:13:47 PM EST

I'm afraid you're missing the whole point of "soft money".

There are, and have long been, restrictions on the donations made to candidates. It's already illegal for XYZ Corp to donate a zillion dollars to John Q. Graft, candidate for mayor.

However, it has not been illegal for XYZ to donate that zillion to Graft's party, People United for Dictatorship (which of course PUD can then use to advertise on Graft's behalf), nor has it been illegal for XYZ to buy ads stating Graft's and PUD's positions on matters, "issue" ads, provided (I believe) that they don't specifically endorse Graft. These are the "soft money" areas.

Graft, on the other hand, can mouth off whenever and about whatever he pleases, provided only that he has the cash to buy airtime or billboards or town criers or whatever. He can even be interviewed in a polling place, where he is of course likely to speak well of his candidacy, in spite of electioneering restrictions.

[ Parent ]

No. (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:21:42 PM EST

Shouldn't they do some research? Well, no, its not really worth ther time, considering the odds that their vote would accomplish anything, and that they already have to go and actually vote. A lot of them already don't, and more wouldn't if this civic duty was not drilled into their heads in school. To see what happens when its not, look at Europe.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
If they can't bother to be informed... (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by ShadowNode on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:42:11 PM EST

Then they shouldn't vote. By your logic we should skip the time and money consuming process that is an election, and replace it with a random number generator.

BTW, cool sig :-)

[ Parent ]
Open your eyes? (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by darthaggie on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 12:48:59 PM EST

I don't see these as a free speach issue.

Open your eyes. The law resticts my ability to rent a press and publish my views.

Which part of And Congress shall make no law do you and the 308 bozo's on Capitol Hill need explaining?

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

What views... (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by ShadowNode on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:57:17 PM EST

Are you going to publish in 30 seconds? Adverts are for selling things, not political discussion.

[ Parent ]
This always bugs me (3.85 / 7) (#15)
by The Littlest Hobo on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:46:58 PM EST

It always seems to end up with an enormous payout to the "investor" well beyond the typical return on investment.

Clean up your act, America.



Corporations should be allowed.... (2.50 / 6) (#16)
by jeffy124 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 02:48:28 PM EST

... but I feel they should have a cap as to how much they can give (and maybe other limits too, like how many candidates one organization can to donate to). If we were to eliminate corporate campaign donations, guess where the money will come from for the campaigns -- taxpayers.
--
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
Arbitrary (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by Kwil on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:08:55 PM EST

Unless you apply the cap to average citizens as well as corporations, it's just as arbitrary as not letting them contribute at all. As an example, we'll let them donate to a cap of $0. Too low? Okay. A buck then. No? How about three bucks? You see, there's no real point where you can say "under this amount is just a bad limit, but over it is okay." My personal thoughts on the issue are simply that any organization should be allowed to donate any amount of money they want - but only to one party. I have no problem with people or people as corporations supporting a candidate, that's their right, but let's stop the blatant hypocricy of supporting all the candidates.

[ Parent ]
GREAT! WONDERFUL! (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by revscat on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:41:00 PM EST

If my tax dollars are actually going to directly supporting the most fundamental aspect of our democracy -- elections -- then I am absolutely ALL FOR IT. I'd rather see my money fund elections than, say, the corporate largesse de jure [smack that man in the head, too much French for one day].

Hell, I'd rather see it go to elections than NASA, to be completely honest, and I'm a pretty big NASA fan. Let's not buy just one B-2, and with the money we save we'll do publiclly funding campaigns.




- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
du jour (none / 0) (#29)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:18:24 PM EST

is what I am sure you meant. Largesse de jure would be a mixture of French and Latin, meaning something like 'generosity by legal right' (translated loosely). We can't go around lettting corporations be generous, now can we?



[ Parent ]

Your point is...? (4.25 / 4) (#24)
by Sethamin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:44:34 PM EST

The money to finance elections must come from somewhere. Let's face it, running for office is never free nor cheap. Better it come from taxpayers than anyone else.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

my point... (4.66 / 3) (#39)
by jeffy124 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:57:51 PM EST

taxpayers already dont like some of the things they pay for. Beleive it or not, taxes pay for things like politcal parties' nat'l conventions, which are really just one large party and promo of the candidates. I remember seeing a 20/20 Give Me a Break about it a few years ago.

aboloshing corp. donations would raise taxes for everyone overall, which people just plain wont want. in particular, taxpayers would not want to fund the campaign of the guy they wont vote for.

limiting the amount of donations would hinder one group's ability to influence decisions in their favor, as organizations that oppose another's cause (who are often shallow-pocket orgs) would be able to make sizeable donations as well that could cause the candidate to think about who's giving him/her money. This releives the taxpayer from having to pony up more money.

(in addition, the corporation now has more money to use on other things, like investing it toward improving their own products or new products, or making charitable donations)
--
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]
I'd like to see... (2.46 / 13) (#22)
by ti dave on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:32:39 PM EST

the 10 A**holes who voted "Yes" on the Poll, step right up and name themselves.


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

a**hole reporting for duty (nt). (3.75 / 4) (#31)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:22:32 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Thank you... (3.00 / 2) (#33)
by ti dave on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:26:16 PM EST

Care to explain your rationale?

You do realize, of course, that Corporations care not for you,
only for the money they can extract from you.


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Power comes from the end of a gun. . . (4.00 / 3) (#35)
by DigitalRover on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:36:54 PM EST

Nowhere else.

Last I heard, the only entity that can forcefully extract money from me legally was the government. Until GM shows up at my door and forcibly "extracts" $15K from me and leaves behind a Saturn no one can make the argument that they are forcing anyone to do anything. At least with the previous example I get something in return. When the Federal Government takes my money, I usually just end up with less freedom.

[ Parent ]
Problem is... (5.00 / 2) (#58)
by beergut on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:36:38 PM EST

... by buying off your politicians, McDonald's is sticking a gun to your head and demanding that you compensate them for their initial expenditure, and also hand over more money so that they can show a profit on the venture.

McDonald's, you know, receives lots of federal subsidies for things like "overseas product promotion". Why should you be forced to pay for such things? You are forced to pay for them because your politicians have sold you down the river.

Your point is correct. Every tax on your earnings, expenditures, investments, and anything else is an infringement upon your liberty. The question then becomes, "How did McDonald's get its finger in my pie?"

The solution is to gut the government back to its Constitutional duties. If the big federal government has no power and authority to tax you, then there's not enough money there to make it worthwhile to exploit.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Smarty (none / 0) (#116)
by DigitalRover on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 07:46:19 PM EST

I think we're heading for the same destination, just taking slightly different routes.

I whole-heartedly agree that by de-fanging the Federal Government we take away a lot of the reasons why individuals, groups, and corporations feel the need to donate vast sums of money to politicians. If you take away the power of the politicians then no one feels the need to try and influence them.

[ Parent ]
Other Problem Is.. (4.66 / 3) (#69)
by Kwil on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 08:59:28 PM EST

..your viewpoint is too limited if you think showing up at your door is the only way to force you to do anything.

Breathe much lately? Too bad that GM et al lobbied to have enforced MPG limit legislation killed.. they can force you to breathe smog without ever even knowing you.

Monsanto can force you to eat GM foods without having a clue you exist.

Companies can do nearly irreparable damage to the environment that we have to live in or pay to clean up - and it takes no guns whatsoever, just money to make sure nobody looks their way.

[ Parent ]
Let's pick this apart . . . (none / 0) (#117)
by DigitalRover on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:03:32 PM EST

Piece by piece.

Breathe much lately? Too bad that GM et al lobbied to have enforced MPG limit legislation killed.. they can force you to breathe smog without ever even knowing you.

Yes, because CAFE has everything to do with how much pollutants emitted by vehicles. It deals with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy of a manufacturer's fleet. If GM wants to produce a truck that gets 3 miles to the gallon, they can. CAFE forces them to also make available a car that gets 50 mpg (which will disintegrate if it hits the truck). Fact is, even the least fuel efficient SUV emits less pollution than is already present in the atmoosphere.

Monsanto can force you to eat GM foods without having a clue you exist.

Evidently you care deeply about what goes into your body. Yet, you can not be bothered not to buy foods produced by a company whose behavior you disagree with. If you are that scared of GM foods, then shop at the myriad of "organic" food stores around the nation.

Companies can do nearly irreparable damage to the environment that we have to live in or pay to clean up - and it takes no guns whatsoever, just money to make sure nobody looks their way

This last point is laughable. The burden of enforcing federal and state environmental regulation falls squarely on the shoulders of un-elected civil servants. If an elected official from another branch of government is able to prevent a regulator from enforcing a law, it just goes to show that they have too much power. Why give them more by tearing away our freedoms!?

[ Parent ]
why I voted yes (4.60 / 5) (#38)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:49:00 PM EST

You do realize, of course, that Corporations care not for you, only for the money they can extract from you.

Sure, individual people, and groups of people tend to vote and donate money in their own self-interest too. How do you distinguish between a corporation (non-profit or for-profit), and a group of united individuals (say, a labor union or a religious assembly)?

Okay, you resent this power that corporations are supposed to wield, but isn't it the political representatives that make and enact legislation? How can IBM force a Congressman to do something simply by waving a check under his nose (which is not the way it works, BTW). I think people are simplifying the situation as if it were straight-up corruption, when 'buying votes' is usually explained easily by taking a hard look at political reality (e.g., the professional makeup of a given politician's constituency or some imminent political vulnerability). If people want to mitigate corporate influence in government they should try going to the polls at better than the pathetic 50% participation we are currentlly achieving.



[ Parent ]

There's a big difference (4.00 / 5) (#44)
by Sethamin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:41:21 PM EST

Sure, individual people, and groups of people tend to vote and donate money in their own self-interest too. How do you distinguish between a corporation (non-profit or for-profit), and a group of united individuals (say, a labor union or a religious assembly)?

There's a big difference.

A group of united people generally all (or mostly) agree with the cause or candidate being put forth. In other words, the united people are themselves a democratic institution whose membership is voluntary.

A corporation is definitely NOT a democratic institution. Its membership is completely private and invitation-only, and it's leadership is dictatorial in nature (or oligarchical by the Board). The people whom the corporation "represents" - its employees - could have completely different self-interests from their employers, as they get no say in it.

In fact, labor unions in most states (it may even be a federal law) must give the option to its members to elect NOT to have their dues go towards any political contributions. Corporations, of course, have no such requirements.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

re-check your facts WRT organized labor (4.00 / 3) (#47)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:53:47 PM EST

In fact, labor unions in most states (it may even be a federal law) must give the option to its members to elect NOT to have their dues go towards any political contributions.

Labor unions gave $83M in political donations in 2000. That's more than the defense industry, for example, contributed in the entire decade of the 1990's.



[ Parent ]

Read more carefully.. (3.33 / 3) (#64)
by Sethamin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:57:10 PM EST

I didn't say they didn't donate. I said they must give their members the option to withhold their dues from political contributions.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

Paycheck Protection (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by ReverendX on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:14:52 AM EST

Actually, this "Paycheck Protection" as it's called hasn't passed in many areas, due to the lobbying of the union leadership. Bush wanted to include this idea in the Campaign Finance bill, but the Democrats shot it down.

Being able to piss in an allyway is however, a very poor substitute for a warm bed and a hot cup of super-premium coffee. - homelessweek.com
[ Parent ]

How Corporations Work 101 (4.50 / 4) (#70)
by harryh on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:04:59 PM EST

> A corporation is definitely NOT a democratic
> institution. Its membership is completely
> private and invitation-only, and it's
> leadership is dictatorial in nature (or
> oligarchical by the Board). The people whom the
> corporation "represents" - its employees -
> could have completely different self-interests
> from their employers, as they get no say in it.

This paragraph is almost completely false, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of what a corporation actually is. Perhaps this is why you have this misguided beleif that corporations shouldn't be able to contribute to campaigns.

First, corporations are in fact democratic. The shareholders decide how the company should be run. 1 share == 1 vote. Generally the shareholders don't get involved in day-to-day decisions (though they can and do in some instances. See the HP/Compaq merger), instead they elect a board of directors, who in turn appoint the officers of the corporation. The board is no more an oligarchy than the congress of the US is.

Further, for the majority of large corporations anyways, membership among the stock holders is not private and invitation only. Anyone who wants to can buy shares in a company and have a say (however small) in how it is run. That's whay the stock market is.

Additionally corporations do not exist for the benefits of it's employees, but only for the benefit of the shareholders. Why do you think layoffs occur? Those clearly don't benefit the employess, but often benefit the shareholders.

So you see corporatation are indeed democratic enteties that do what the owners of the corporation want it to do, and thus aren't really different from Labor Unions (which in reality are just a specific type of corporation).

-Harry

[ Parent ]
Is this actually democratic? (5.00 / 4) (#87)
by MrMikey on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 03:53:45 AM EST

First, corporations are in fact democratic. The shareholders decide how the company should be run. 1 share == 1 vote.
Wouldn't democratic imply "1 shareholder == 1 vote" rather than "1 share == 1 vote" ?

[ Parent ]
Irrelevant (none / 0) (#118)
by DigitalRover on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:11:04 PM EST

But I really wouldn't want the blue-haired grandmother who owns fifty shares of a corporation to wield as much power as Warren Buffet, who might own millions of shares. Which one of these would you imagine has a better idea about how to properly run the company?


[ Parent ]
Then it ISN'T a Democracy (none / 0) (#124)
by Quixato on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 06:33:46 AM EST

Corporations are a Plutocracy. The most money has the greatest say.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

I'm a Whore. (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by ti dave on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 04:01:40 AM EST

Care to guess who my Pimp is?
I'll tell you.

My Pimp is Carl Icahn.

Think I'm pleased about that? I'm not.

You see, the Corporation that I work for used to be publicly-traded, but thanks to a series of piss-poor management mistakes, my Pimp ownz my Corporation.

Carl Icahn derives much pleasure from my sweat equity, and beyond my meager paycheck, I don't share in his pleasure.

Mr. Icahn is a greedy opportunist, and at the first chance that arises,
I'm out of his "Pay for my Daughter's new Porsche" program.


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
You're right (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by Sethamin on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:24:21 PM EST

You are right. I was thinking about it in terms of employees as members, not shareholders. In that sense, a corporation is a democratic institution (to a degree).

However, the major problem with corporations still remains that they repesent the interests of the shareholders only economically. The corporation is only interested in making money. So in that sense it is only representing the shareholders interests in a very-limited scope. Contrast this to individuals banding together for political reasons, where there true gamut of interests may be represented.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

Re: a**hole reporting for duty (1.00 / 1) (#41)
by Perpetual Newbie on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:26:04 PM EST

Someone has to say it:

How many Assholes we got on this ship, anyhow?



[ Parent ]
I knew it. (none / 0) (#43)
by demi on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:32:28 PM EST

I'm surrounded by assholes.



[ Parent ]

Now to 15 (4.00 / 5) (#34)
by DigitalRover on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:32:04 PM EST

And I'm one of them.

If there is a bill before congress that would adversely affect an industry, why shouldn't those affected be allowed to lobby against it? Ironically, the "evil" industries like Oil & Gas and HMOs aren't the biggest political contributors. That honor would belong to lawyers. They gave more than the aforementioned industries combined.

I can understand your hatred, though, of any sort of corporation. After all they are run by people who have succeeded in life and they help to power the strongest economy in the world.

[ Parent ]
Lobbying yes, contributing no (4.33 / 3) (#42)
by Sethamin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:32:16 PM EST

Lobbying and making your views known is one thing. But why should you be allowed to give money? Shouldn't your views stand on their own merits?

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

Ummmmm.....no. Wow.... (3.83 / 6) (#49)
by morkeleb on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:02:40 PM EST

I can understand your hatred, though, of any sort of corporation. After all they are run by people who have succeeded in life and they help to power the strongest economy in the world.



Do you actually believe that, or were you just being a smart-ass? I don't know why the original poster to your comment has it in for the corporations, but for me I hate them because they represent social structures that control humans that aren't necessarily acting in the best interests of humans. They aren't human. They may be controlled by humans....but they're going to far outlast whatever human masters might have temporary control over them.

I think even the most arrogant laissez-faire liberatarian would hesitate before trying to answer truthfully the direction he saw modern capitalism evolving in. There's no guarantee that it's a good thing.

I kind of think of them as complex computer programs. Some of them act like viruses...and some of them are pretty benign. The point is, they exist beyond control of mere mortals like us. I think that is very ominous. I think any sane person would.
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]
Couldn't resist: (3.50 / 2) (#40)
by Canimal on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:08:31 PM EST

I voted yes just to hack you off. But it's what I would have voted anyway.

Matt


[ Parent ]
Howdy. [nt]. (4.33 / 3) (#62)
by rebelcool on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:44:45 PM EST

Heh.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Simple solution (3.57 / 7) (#26)
by onyxruby on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:54:08 PM EST

This probably will be overturned on 1st amendment grounds. However I do like the idea of campaign finance reform and think it needs a different method of implementation. I have a simple solution to make this happen.

Allow only US Citizens to donate money, time or services to a political campaign or party, up to $2500 per year total. That's it, no PAC donations, no corporate donations, no special interest group donations, only citizen donations. Canidates would then be forced to turn to the people to get money to be re-elected. This would also prevent someone who is quite rich from being able to buy (through overwhelming ad runs that their opponent can't match) their way into office.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

Not only yes, but HELL YES. (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by losthalo on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:04:14 PM EST

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. If citizens want something done to help a candidate, they can do it as citizens. There's no need for campaign finance by PAC, corporation, etc., they've just become politically convenient for the candidates and the special-interest groups at our expense.

Now to pass the law to make it so...

Losthalo

"How many times have I told you not to play with the dirty money?" -Bugs Bunny

[ Parent ]
Not likely (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by glorfindel on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:25:40 PM EST

It is actually improbably that this legislation will be overturned. Campaign finance reform has been upheld by the courts in the past and there is no reason to assume it will be overturned this time.

[ Parent ]
Corporations do have such a right (4.57 / 7) (#27)
by crank42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 03:58:37 PM EST

It is erroneous to state that in the U.S., corporations are not just like people in respect of their rights. In fact, after Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, corporations are natural citizens.

The most important right in this debate (4.16 / 6) (#32)
by imrdkl on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:23:54 PM EST

is the right to vote. Since corporations dont (yet) have that right, neither should they be allowed to influence the campaign.

[ Parent ]
Don't corporations have such a right? (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by crank42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:13:14 PM EST

Votes are not assignable, although some states have, I think, an available proxy system. If corporations are natural citizens, don't they have a right to vote? Isn't the problem just a de facto limitation that they can't vote, since they aren't embodied? (That's not rhetorical: I don't know, and I've never met anyone sufficiently familiar with the relevant statutes to answer definitively).

[ Parent ]
Yeah, and that sucks (4.33 / 3) (#46)
by Sethamin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:48:18 PM EST

I find that to be horrendous that corporations are equal to citizens. Citizens and corporations are VERY different; money is the only factor driving corporations, while people *usually* have a variety of goals.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

Not necessarily: a lawyer in the house? (5.00 / 4) (#71)
by crank42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:09:58 PM EST

What I find interesting is that USAnians haven't used this equality under the law to reform things.

Since the argument in S.C. v. S.P.R.R. is that corporations are just citizens, why are there rules that apply only to corporations, and not citizens? It seems wrong. So, you should pay tax at the same rate as corporations (for instance). Similarly, the "agents of corporations" nonsense should be reformed: either the corporation is a citizen, and therefore an actor, or not. Surely there's a bright lawyer or law student around here who can either explain why the difference can't be overturned, or else take on such a case.

[ Parent ]

Corporate Personhood (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by J'raxis on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 04:09:04 AM EST

Here’s more on that court decision.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

editorial comment (none / 0) (#110)
by highenergystar on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 06:03:38 PM EST

i just read an article (dead-tree) about style in web publishing and found one point interesting, since your's was the first example i saw i thought i would let ya know. apprently (according to the article) links should be to something relevant to the linked page, rather than a placeholder. thus your link would be here's more on the <link> court decision </link>
rather than as above. just a friendly had's up (and one i thought to make some sense), not picking holes...

[ Parent ]
Interesting (none / 0) (#121)
by J'raxis on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 10:49:56 PM EST

I always thought it made more sense that if you use something like here or there in a sentence about a link, put the link around that word. Here’s an example that I think makes my line of thinking clearer. Which sounds better?

You can find more about the court decision over here.

or

You can find more about the court decision over here.

If you completely omit the here or there, then you’re correct, but if you include them, it seems clearer to wrap the link around those words.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

about the two diff styles... (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by highenergystar on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 04:59:59 PM EST

the explanation of the style hint that i read was that the hyperlinked nature of the web avoids the necessity of the 'here' or 'there' directionality is implicit in the link, if one clicks on the link they will go automatically, perforce, here, or there or wherever the link points. It was compared to the sign that pointed to restrooms, where the arrow was painted onto the same sign as the 'men' or 'women'. Reading the sign meant that you knew that the rest room was in the direction in the arrow, the arrow was not a separate entity from the sign that said restroom, likewise the fact that it is a hyperlink implies directionality...
so ideally the sentnce would read
read more of the <link>court decision</link>


[ Parent ]
Incumbent Protection Act of 2002 (4.41 / 12) (#28)
by DigitalRover on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:11:02 PM EST

Let's get one thing straight here, right off the bat. This bill had less to do with "taking money out of politics" and much more to do with protecting incumbent interests.

When the politicians who voted for this bill took away the public's right to make their voice heard they also strengthened their hold on their offices. They have given themselves control over who says what and when. For instance, Incumbent A can talk about how hard he fought for a bill to stop the clubbing of baby seals during his previous term. Yet, he may have in fact not only voted against the bill but also took a short vacation and clubbed a few for himself. If I, as a concerned citizen, wanted to put an ad on radio or TV pointing this out within sixty days of the election I would be violating Federal Election Laws and could go to jail. Does anyone debate that this is a restriction on free speech?

A better solution to the problem of politicians beholden to special interests rather than their constituents and the Constitution is Full Disclosure. Eliminate the distinction between hard and soft money. Political parties fielding candidates in any federal elction must disclose all of their funding sources. Sites like Open Secrets are well on the way to accomplishing this. The solution to the trampling of our freedom by corrupt politicos is not to further limit the freedom of the citizenry, but to free all of us to say what we like, when we like.

So back to our good friend Incumbent A. If we opt for full disclosure rules rather than the current byzantine maze of laws and regulations, I am able to air an ad showing that not only is Incumbent A lying, but that his campaign, as well as his party get huge donations from the baby seal clubbing industry (Big Clubbing). That is true involvement in the political process by every day people. And, it would allow not just wealthy people, but any group to air the same ad. All they have to do is be open and honest about where they received funding.

Cost (4.50 / 4) (#48)
by Weezul on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 05:55:00 PM EST

There are some claiming that the corperations actually back this version of campaign finance reform, as it will reduce their campaign expences.

I'm not shure what I think of the current bill, but it seems clear that complex regulation will make it complex to express your message; limiting speech to those with organizing capacity. I donno..

Anyway, I like your full disclosure idea, but I can do you one better: publically funded debates. Run hour (or half hour) debates on PBS two or three times a week for the 60 days before the election (tellecommute available).

The one good thing about the current style of campaign finance reform is that TV usage really needs to be curtailed. It might be a good thing to just outright ban broadcast TV (radio and cable are more complex) advertisments mentioning candidates or parties (year round), but allow newspapers, internet sites, yard signs, streat preachers, etc.

The thing about it is, the basic uncorruptable unit of campaign advocasy is the unpaid voluntear. The goal of campaign finance reform should be increasing the importence of the unpaid voluntear (be they web site builder, news paper article designer, streat preacher, etc.).

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
Why do you need an ad? (4.00 / 4) (#63)
by imadork on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:55:29 PM EST

If you catch the incumbent in The Big Lie within 60 days before the election, why do you need to take out an ad to tell people?

Why can't you just write a letter to the New York Times, or post it on K5 (we know the secret service reads it, CNN might too). Then, if its really true, a journalist will jump all over it, and you can spend the money you saved by not buying the ad on a cluster of new iMacs!

It seems to me that this law doesn't restrict Speech, it restricts advertising.

Approximately 50% of us are below average..
[ Parent ]

That won't work (5.00 / 2) (#83)
by kcbrown on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 11:53:07 PM EST

The reason you can't just write the N.Y. Times is that the Times is, like most other media, an interested party. If the politician in question happens to be one who is very good to the owners of the N.Y. Times, then the Times will just drop the issue, and the same is true of all the other major corporate media outlets.

Kuro5hin is another matter, but the mainsteam public doesn't read Kuro5hin, so voicing the concern here doesn't matter in the end.

[ Parent ]

so.. (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by VValdo on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 05:28:57 AM EST

I think it would be better to have the issue debated on kuro5hin, the pages of the NYTimes, fox and CNN than via back-and-forth "He said/she said" market-tested, mud-slinging, slick campaign advertisements.

The truth is-- we don't know what's going to happen (whether or not the law survives a constitutional challenge) or who it's going to help, or how the campaign will move into the media. No doubt there will be a lot more money spent on TV-friendly campaign events (if that's possible) but at least the media-- both corporate and not-- will be a gateway-- hopefully some of them will filter the crap out. If a corporation gets involved in its own news division's editorial decisions to try to insert ads or opinions there, no doubt there will be a backlash and their competitors will be pointing it out. So maybe the mud slinging will be between media companies ;)

I will say though, that the next election, I'm gonna have to shut my email off because it seemed from the last one that 99% of the smear campaigning and misinformation was coming in via spam.

W
This is my .sig. There are many like it but this one is mine.
[ Parent ]

why shouldn't I be able to? (5.00 / 2) (#95)
by vmarks on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 11:15:20 AM EST

Why shouldn't I be able to buy an advertisement?

The newspaper isn't obligated to publish my letter to the editor, and they certainly aren't obligated to publish it unedited-- letters I have had published have been re-written by the newspaper editors on more than one occasion, and were twisted away from the meaning I intended to communicate.

Buying an ad is easy: they'll either publish my ad as I please, or not. Why should I be denied the ability to place an ad?

The last sixty days are the days when people are most swayed in their choice for a candidate, and I am now barred from buying a way to reach these people.

[ Parent ]
Tell that to the incumbents (none / 0) (#114)
by dachshund on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 06:47:51 PM EST

This bill had less to do with "taking money out of politics" and much more to do with protecting incumbent interests.

If it's so wonderful for incumbents, why have they been vigorously squashing it for so many years? Why did the various politicians involved only get behind it under extraordinary conditions? This bill has never been popular in Washington, and although what you say may turn out to be the case, those who really stand to benefit have demonstrated nothing approaching your confidence.

[ Parent ]

RE: Tell that to the incumbents (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by DigitalRover on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 07:33:41 PM EST

Who has been "vigorously squashing" this in Washington? Could it be those who understand that the Constitution means something?

The truth of the matter is that most of those politicians who voted for the bill know that it is un-Constitutional and will eventually be thrown out. In the short term they gain the protection afforded to incumbents by the bill's stifling of citizens' right to make their views heard. In the long term they can stand up and self-righteously proclaim that they "got big money out of politics." If it weren't for that pesky Supreme Court throwing out the law, of course.

I think most of the readership here would agree that something must be done to return political power back to the people. However, the answer is not the creation of more laws and the stifling of our freedom of speech. Our freedoms would be better served by removing the reason why all this money flows into campaigns. Namely, Washington's ever increasing power at the expense of the citizenry.

[ Parent ]
Yes, the Constitution is foremost in their minds (none / 0) (#123)
by dachshund on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 12:25:00 AM EST

Who has been "vigorously squashing" this in Washington? ... The truth of the matter is that most of those politicians who voted for the bill know that it is un-Constitutional and will eventually be thrown out.

Parts of the bill make perfect sense and have nothing to do with free speech, so don't tar the entire thing with that brush. A lot of cynical politicians realized this, and tried to stick a non-severability clause into it, to guarantee that the whole thing would go down when the Supreme Court inevitably finds the speech-impairing bits unconstitutional. Fortunately, they failed.

That's a great example of an attempted squashing. There are too many others to count, but you could start with the last few times it (or variations) was voted down in the House and the Senate, you could point to the Bush administration's backroom machinations to see it killed, or-- best of all-- the cynical efforts by various opponents (who are now crying free speech) to stick in wording that would be even more restrictive on speech, and make the bill more likely to run afoul of the courts. (Please just look on Google, it would take more than a K5 post to detail a fraction of this stuff.)

Could it be those who understand that the Constitution means something?

I don't much like the idea of Congress trying to limit speech. But cry me a river about politicians "just trying to protect the constitution". This is the same set of politicians who voted in the DMCA on a voice-vote (a frigging voice-vote, for chrissake!), along with COPA/CIPA and whatever else they felt would get them money or votes. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that this bill gets "corrected" by the SC before it even takes effect, which is a lot more than you can say for the DMCA, which is still unchallenged after years of stifling speech.

Does that make it "right"? Maybe not. But there are a lot of people out there who honestly do not think that power should be "returned" to the people, if it means they'll have less of it. And your criticisms are exactly the tool they're using to make us overlook the fact that a) the bill does some sensible things, and b) it will get the best court oversight that money can buy.

[ Parent ]

You're all wrapped up . . . (none / 0) (#126)
by DigitalRover on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 11:05:04 AM EST

in contradictions.

Parts of the bill make perfect sense and have nothing to do with free speech, so don't tar the entire thing with that brush. A lot of cynical politicians realized this, and tried to stick a non-severability clause into it, to guarantee that the whole thing would go down when the Supreme Court inevitably finds the speech-impairing bits unconstitutional. Fortunately, they failed.

However, Congress didn't pass part of the bill, and the President didn't sign just part of it. That's like saying a bill that authorizes the FBI to conduct random searches and seizures is OK, because it raises fines for violating the speed limit on Interstates. This isn't some sort of mathematical game where parts of new laws are are given positive and negative values and then the sum computed. If there is a provision within the law that impacts my personal freedom, I consider it a Bad Thing. Any other perceived "goodness" is moot if you like the personal freedom to take advantage of them.

I don't much like the idea of Congress trying to limit speech. But cry me a river about politicians "just trying to protect the constitution". This is the same set of politicians who voted in the DMCA on a voice-vote (a frigging voice-vote, for chrissake!), along with COPA/CIPA and whatever else they felt would get them money or votes. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that this bill gets "corrected" by the SC before it even takes effect, which is a lot more than you can say for the DMCA, which is still unchallenged after years of stifling speech.

Ah yes, the DMCA. One of the monumental screw-ups of legislative history. Wait, weren't we discussing campaign finance reform? That line of reasoning is completely irrelevant to the debate. Furthermore, if there is so much information out there regarding attempted "squashing" by anyone, point me to it. After you cite it. I won't do your research for you.

Does that make it "right"? Maybe not. But there are a lot of people out there who honestly do not think that power should be "returned" to the people, if it means they'll have less of it. And your criticisms are exactly the tool they're using to make us overlook the fact that a) the bill does some sensible things, and b) it will get the best court oversight that money can buy.

Let me get this straight:
  • I think that "Campaign Finance Reform" only succeeds in taking power away from the people and horribly infringes the First Amendment.
  • " ...there are a lot of people out there who honestly do not think that power should be "returned" to the people, if it means they'll have less of it."
  • By criticizing this bill I am aiding those who seek to keep the power for themselves?

  • Huh? Will you reread what you posted and please explain whatever twisted and circuitous logic you used to come up with that? By the end of that paragraph you were contradicting the point made in the beginning!

    [ Parent ]
    Reasoning (none / 0) (#127)
    by dachshund on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 01:24:49 PM EST

    Ah yes, the DMCA. One of the monumental screw-ups of legislative history. Wait, weren't we discussing campaign finance reform?

    Actually, we were discussing politician's reasons for opposing McCain-Feingold. You seemed to imply that it was all about their devotion to the Constitution. It seems perfectly reasonable to point out the great concern said politicians have shown to First Amendment issues, and how much this sort of opposition has to do with political expediency. It also seems relevant to point out that the same politicians who now cry free-speech were perfectly happy to pass a bill with more restrictive wording, in an example of their great respect for the mandates of the Constitution.

    Furthermore, if there is so much information out there regarding attempted "squashing" by anyone, point me to it. After you cite it. I won't do your research for you.

    The bill has an enormous amount of opposition, and a lot of people-- including our president's administration-- have sought to weaken or discard it. It ain't exactly the stuff of conspiracy theories. It's certainly no secret that this bill has been killed before (it happened recently), was in danger of being filibustered, and was nearly killed through parliamentary manipulations. Either you're genuinely ignorant of this (which says a lot more about your understanding of the issue than anything else) or you're just being difficult. (Now, if I told you that McCain-Feingold was, say, the result of a Japanese conspiracy to control our political system, it'd be reasonable to demand some links.)

    Let me get this straight:

    * I think that "Campaign Finance Reform" only succeeds in taking power away from the people and horribly infringes the First Amendment.
    * " ...there are a lot of people out there who honestly do not think that power should be "returned" to the people, if it means they'll have less of it."

    I didn't actually say anything about your motivations. It's no great secret that there are influencial people in DC who have made an industry out of purchasing measures that wouldn't stand a chance in an uncorrupted gov't. This legislation hurts them in a number of ways, and despite the certainty that the constitutionally questionable bits will be stripped, they promote the idea that all of M-F is bad. Lots of people buy it. The implication that you're actually one of those people is entirely yours.

    * By criticizing this bill I am aiding those who seek to keep the power for themselves?

    A major thrust of the CFR opponents' strategy is to tar the entire bill as part and parcel with its violations. Let's face it. The bill is already law. The only way that's going to change is a) the court nullifying the speech-inhibiting portions, or b) new legislation counteracting the old. I don't have any problem with new legislation that corrects the flaws in M-F, but I do think we need to isolate those flaws and be specific about what it is we want to fix. Tarring the whole bill helps make it more likely that said corrections will also weaken or wipe out the decent provisions of M-F, and that's a terrible shame, because they are so damned important.

    (Since I brought up the DMCA, I'd like to point out that I feel the vast majority entire piece of legislation is unnecessary, and potentially harmful to us, with little redeeming value-- which is why I feel free to attack the thing by name. This despite the fact that there's essentially no chance that the bulk of the bill will ever be repealed.)

    [ Parent ]

    Speaking of research (none / 0) (#128)
    by dachshund on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 01:48:43 PM EST

    Just because I thought this one was interesting: A New Day or a False Dawn?
    Time magazine article wherein a liberal Senator's attempt to add a powerfully speech-limiting amendment suddenly finds strong support with two of CFR's most ardent critics, Senators McConnell and Gramm.


    [ Parent ]
    Half a loaf, buddy, half a loaf (4.28 / 7) (#55)
    by glorfindel on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:22:21 PM EST

    Will the new campaign-finance regulations take big money out of politics? Will it make politicians more interested in the views of the little people? Of course not.

    However, this does not mean the legislation is irrelevant. If it were, big business and the Republican Party wouldn't have fought so hard against it. Soft money (money donated to the party rather than the candidate, on which there are no caps) is largely considered to be the great loophole in the campaign reform laws enacted after Watergate.

    What the new law means, is that corporations (and rich people) can no longer donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

    Does this mean money won't be a factor in politics? Of course not. Does it mean that rich people and corporations won't have more weight than the average Joe? No. Afterall, how many of us can afford to contribute $10,000 each election cycle?

    What it does accomplish however, is preventing individual corporations from having undue influence through financial contributions.The author argues that corporations shouldn't be allowed to contribute at all -- they aren't citizens, they can't vote, they aren't people, so why should they? However, under our legal system, corporations have many of the same rights as individuals and therefore, the right to influence the political process. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- afterall, business must abide by the decisions made in Washington.

    Now, thanks to Enron and the dogged persistance of legislators in both houses, corporations will not be able to count MORE than other people. If this results in fewere negative television ads and less of a disparity in fundraising between candidates, the American political process is well served by this legislation.

    Will corruption and money always be a part of politics? Inevitably. That does not mean we shouldn't fix the problems we can.

    relevance (3.00 / 3) (#65)
    by leifb on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 08:13:11 PM EST

    However, this does not mean the legislation is irrelevant. If it were, big business and the Republican Party wouldn't have fought so hard against it.

    This follows if and only if you assume that big business and the Republican Party fight only those pieces of legislation that will have direct adverse effects upon them.

    In fact, that is only one of a multitude of reasons to fight against a law.

    [ Parent ]

    Court review provision (3.66 / 3) (#57)
    by glorfindel on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:36:15 PM EST

    Did anybody notice the provision in the Shays-Meehan bill asking the court to view the legislation's provisions individually?

    This would mean, if the court accepts the premise, that the restrictions on issue-oriented ads could be overturned without necessarily invalidating the rest of the law.

    Although I'm not sure of the precedent for this, it seems to mean that the soft-money ban, which is clearly acceptable to the courts given their previous stance on campaign contribution limitations, is probably safe from legal challenges.

    A standard provision (3.00 / 1) (#75)
    by IHCOYC on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:55:53 PM EST

    The enacting language of just about any legislation written by lawyers (i.e., any legislation at all) will contain a provision that says that if one part of it is unconstitutional, the rest of the bill remains in force.

    The courts must decide whether voiding a particular part of the law makes the rest of it absurd; and they will, or at least should, say so in any decision finding it unconstitutional.

    This message has been placed here IN MEMORIAM by the Tijuana Bible Society.
    [ Parent ]

    yeah.. (3.00 / 1) (#90)
    by VValdo on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 05:17:37 AM EST

    I think this is called a "severability clause" and it it looks something like this:

    If any section, paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any part of this chapter passed hereafter is declared to be unconstitutional or void, or if for any reason is declared to be invalid or of no effect, the remaining sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases or parts thereof shall be in no manner affected thereby but shall remain in full force and effect.

    W


    This is my .sig. There are many like it but this one is mine.
    [ Parent ]

    Campaing finance law is pro-corporate (4.71 / 7) (#66)
    by dennis on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 08:19:38 PM EST

    Banning political ads by corporations is one thing. But this law also bans ads by nonprofit political organizations. That's why everyone from the NRA to the ACLU is taking this one to court.

    What this law actually does is gives media corporations a privileged voice. The NYTimes can still run whatever articles it wants, with whatever slant it wants, and publish whatever editorials it wants, but a nonprofit that's funded by thousands or millions of individual contributions can't do the same. That makes this a pro-corporate law - if you're Microsoft, you own MSNBC, so you now have special political privileges.

    corporate funded nonprofit organizations (none / 0) (#134)
    by Crackerman111 on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 02:10:14 PM EST

    One problem with allowing nonprofit organizations to make contributions is that corporations could simply start creating their own nonprofit organizations, funded with corporate money. These new organizations would then be free to contribute to political campaigns. It could potentially create a money laundering system for soft money.

    [ Parent ]
    Pravda (5.00 / 1) (#135)
    by dennis on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:31:35 PM EST

    In other words, we don't want corporations to speak, and to make sure, we're not going to let anybody speak. Except for particular corporations that own recognized news media, that is. Sounds like democracy to me.

    George Will had a good column on this yesterday. A couple quotes:

    "Just five years ago, 38 senators who supported reforms contained in McCain-Feingold voted to amend the First Amendment to empower Congress to abridge political speech. They believed, rightly, that the sort of restrictions the bill would place on political advocacy are incompatible with the free speech provision of the Bill of Rights. And they believed that the restrictions they favor are preferable to the First Amendment as Madison wrote it and as the Supreme Court has construed it."

    "There would be no restriction on political advocacy by the Times or The Washington Post, which in the last five years have editorialized, on average, once every 5.5 days for additional restrictions on political advocacy by others....The day after Congress passed it, the Post's lead editorial celebrated the bill, which includes restrictions on political advocacy by organizations like the National Rifle Association...Below [that], the Post ran an editorial urging Virginia's governor to support a gun control measure opposed by the NRA."

    "It will be a system in which the media exercise an unabridged freedom of political speech while championing successive weakenings of the constitutional protection of rival voices."

    Sounds to me more like the Soviet Union than America. They had Pravda, we have a dozen rapidly-consolidating media megacorps, and nobody else gets a voice.

    Last election, a guy who wrote about a candidate on his own website, on his own server, was nailed by the FEC, who claimed that the commercial value of his communication was greater than the maximum individual limit, so he had to fill out a bunch of forms or take down his site. He ended up taking it down. Outside of the Web, of course, media is much more expensive, so you pretty much have to work through a political nonprofit.

    If people can't say what they want about political candidates, we might as well not bother going through the motions of holding elections.

    [ Parent ]

    Campaign Finance & Corporations (4.40 / 5) (#67)
    by harryh on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 08:38:14 PM EST

    Should you be able to get together with 10 of your friends, pool your money, and write a check to a politician?

    I think so.

    Should you be able to include a note along with that check that says, "I think you should vote yes on issue X."

    I think you should be able to do that as well.

    Now what if you and your 10 friend happened to be involved in a business venture together, and the issue X happened to affect your business in some way or another? You (Sethamin) seem to think that you should no longer be able to engage in the above activity, and I really don't see much justification for this beleif. Would you care to provide some?

    Basically I see no justification in your article for why people should be able to contribute, and groups of people (comapanies) should not.

    -Harry

    He does address the issue (4.00 / 3) (#73)
    by david is my name on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:25:23 PM EST

    The point is that the donations given by a company are not representative of every member of that company. The donations may be designed to influence policies which will help the company financially, but they are still not neccessarily in the best interest of its members. In case you are this isn't clear enough, here is an example: company X wants to lower minimum wage because they hire many workers who they pay minimum wage and who they want to pay less so that the company can make more money. Who does this benifit? The company, but not its members. Although members = share-holders, not workers, but share-holders can't vote and workers often are share-holders as well and even if they arn't my point still applies.

    Now the situation you describe is entirely different. Every person in the group wants to be a part of the contribution and so everything is A-OK.



    [ Parent ]
    Shareholders control corporations (4.66 / 3) (#74)
    by harryh on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:34:27 PM EST

    > Who does this benifit? The company, but not its
    > members. Although members = share-holders, not
    > workers, but share-holders can't vote and
    > workers often are share-holders as well and
    > even if they arn't my point still applies.

    First, I am glad that you understand that employees are not members of a corporation because that is something that a lot of people don't get. The members of a corporation are the shareholders. You are incorrect, however, when you say that share-holders can't vote. Shareholders do, in fact, vote. They elect the board of directors who are in charge of running the company. Further, the shareholders can even get involved in the day-to-day operations of a company if they so choose. Every now and then you will see a shareholder initiative to change a corporations political contributions, it is then up the shareholders to vote on the issue.

    -Harry

    [ Parent ]
    Corps shouldn't be able to influence politics (4.83 / 6) (#82)
    by kcbrown on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 11:43:50 PM EST

    Okay, let's look at this for a moment. Shareholders are either individuals or corporations. Let's assume for simplicity's sake that they are individuals.

    As individuals, they have the right to vote and the right to contribute money to their candidate of choice.

    Why should their corporation be able to contribute money to a candidate, when the shareholders are already able to do so themselves? In being allowed to do so, don't the interests of the corporation receive more representation (since the shareholders may also contribute individually) than it deserves? Doesn't that serve to hide the real amount of interest in a particular issue?

    This is why corporations should not be allowed to have a direct effect on the political process. People are allowed to gather together and act towards a common purpose, but they should not be able to gain any additional representation by doing so than they would have had as individuals. The ability of corporations to give money to politicians and to bend their ear significantly skews the political landscape, and causes politicians to represent the corporations and not the people who elected them.

    All of this is an outgrowth of the idiotic notion that corporations are separate entities that have individual rights the way people do. That's not something that can change without violent revolution, because it's something that comes from the Supreme Court.

    [ Parent ]

    Leveling the playing field (4.66 / 3) (#84)
    by Dest on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 12:10:59 AM EST

    I can see your point, but the problem lies in the pooling of the money. When you and your friends get together and donate money, your contribution will stand out. I think we would all agree if 100 people each donated $100 no one or two individuals would really stand out, but if 3 or 4 groups of individuals (friends, companies, etc) donating $500 or $600 would stand out, and the politician would probably end up over representing those groups of invdividuals. Now, no one's saying you and your 10 friends can't each write out a letter with your cheque stating the politican should vote on "x", but it levels the playing field for those who don't have the advantage of gathering in groups and presenting their views.

    ----
    Dest

    "Bah. You have no taste, you won't be getting better than tofurkey bukkake." -- Ni
    [ Parent ]
    not good. (none / 0) (#132)
    by garlic on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 11:28:20 AM EST

    This is the whole point of party politics. You gather together with a group of like minded people so that you can vote together, and beat the other people. This is why we have party politics, because groups are more powerful than individuals.

    HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
    [ Parent ]

    People as citizens, not people as corporations (4.83 / 6) (#92)
    by hotseat on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:18:22 AM EST

    Essentially, the corporation should not be able to make the donation on a matter of principle. Political activity in the US is an activity of citizenship, not of commerce - a government of the people, by the people and for the people should be decided by the people themselves.

    This may seem a piece of pedantry to you, but it is actually very important. The essence of representative democracy is what used to be called "One Man, One Vote". That is, each person has an equal say in how the government is constituted. Indeed, this is essential for the government to have any legitimacy at all. There's not that much differentiating legitimate government from unjustified coercion, and the further you get from the OMOV ideal the harder government becomes to justify. Allowing large donations at all is distorting - it gives the wealthy more political power than the poor. Corporate donations are even further away from the idea. For a corporation to give a donation at all, it has to be in the best interests of the company. Not the country, the company. Whilst a natural person might give money to a political cause that would help the country at the expense of their own pocket (if they were an idealist, perhaps) a corporation is bound by law to represent its own (and its shareholders) financial interests only. As corporations deliberately don't get a vote, despite the legal fiction of their personhood, they should not get the right to distort the process with money either.

    The other key reason, of course, is that the people in corporations making the political donations (except in Mom'n'Pop corps who don't donate huge sums anyway) aren't the shareholders - they're the directors. The shareholders really don't have that much of a say about it (sure, you could vote out the board, but that's a very radical and financially dangerous step for the sake of a few grand).

    Besides, there's nothing to stop the 10 friends pooling their personal cheque and attaching a note - it would just stop them using the company as a vehicle for doing it. No conspiracy against freedom here - move along, nothing to see.

    [ Parent ]

    Detail (4.25 / 4) (#96)
    by dachshund on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 12:30:16 PM EST

    Besides, there's nothing to stop the 10 friends pooling their personal cheque and attaching a note

    It would be far simpler if the 10 friends were each required to make their own individual contributions. This produces the same effect, but it obviates the need to differentiate between a "corporation" and some other, less formal, type of organization.

    [ Parent ]

    legalize bribery (5.00 / 1) (#103)
    by chewd on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:54:23 PM EST

    Should you be able to get together with 10 of your friends, pool your money, and write a check to a police man? I think so. Should you be able to include a note along with that check that says, "I think you should let us off for dealing crack to 3rd graders." I think you should be able to do that as well. /sarcasm off i dont see why corporations OR individuals need to be making contributions, $$$ != votes if people want to help the democratic process financially, then set up a fund for donations to go into, from that pool, EVERY party in the race would get equal funds.

    [ Parent ]
    You couldn't be more wrong (4.25 / 4) (#76)
    by scatbubba on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 09:58:12 PM EST

    "The basic fact of politics is that it takes money to win elections. Pure and simple. "

    Last I checked, it required votes to win elections. I understand that here and on the Other Site, people feel disenfranchised because there will never be a serious contender that is anti-corporate, but guess what? most people are not anti-corporate, and most people vote for one of the two parties. And just to counter the "there are only two parties, no real choice" arguements, we should consider that in the past, independents have successfully created enough of a ground swell to get into the game.

    Another point. quote: "Or how about the recent release of documents from the Energy department which showed influence by tons of major energy companies but virtually no consumer or environmental groups"

    I've seen it reported on multiple sites (although I can't seem to find a link right now, someone post if they have it) claiming that these people were invited but declined to take part. This of course makes it seem like they felt the negative publicity of not being involved was worth more to them then actually having a say, but that is another arguement...

    wrong how? (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by khallow on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 10:21:03 PM EST

    Last I checked, it required votes to win elections. I understand that here and on the Other Site, people feel disenfranchised because there will never be a serious contender that is anti-corporate, but guess what? most people are not anti-corporate, and most people vote for one of the two parties. And just to counter the "there are only two parties, no real choice" arguements, we should consider that in the past, independents have successfully created enough of a ground swell to get into the game.

    So you are saying that two candidates with similar qualifications are going to do equally well in the polls when one of them outspends the other by a factor of say ten? That's a common state of affairs in congressional elections. As far as third parties go, the game is to get elected not just to act as a spoiler. Here, the results are pretty dismal. Also, you have to wonder why dividing all beliefs, concerns, and ideologies into two groups is such a great idea for anyone other than the two real political parties.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    Au contraire... (5.00 / 1) (#100)
    by Sethamin on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:17:58 PM EST

    Read more carefully. I said that "it takes money to win elections." In other words, without money you will not win an election. And I still think that's true. Money is a neccessary condition to winning an election.

    I didn't say it was a sufficient condition, i.e., that money is enough. Obviously you need votes, too. You can have money and not have votes, but you can't have votes but no money. That's the way it works.

    A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
    [ Parent ]

    Clean Elections (4.50 / 2) (#77)
    by Irrumator on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 10:00:36 PM EST

    Public Campaign thinks that we need much more radical election reform, the option of public campaign financing in exchange for taking very limited or no private donations.

    So called "clean election" laws are currently being tried in four states: Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. I'm eager to see how they work out, though it's unclear to me how to make such a change at the national level if clean election reforms prove themselves.

    Re: Clean Elections (4.00 / 2) (#80)
    by xthlc on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 11:24:45 PM EST

    > So called "clean election" laws are currently
    > being tried in four states: Arizona, Maine,
    > Massachusetts, and Vermont. I'm eager to see
    > how they work out, though it's unclear to me
    > how to make such a change at the national level
    > if clean election reforms prove themselves.

    My SO's father is running for state senator in Maine right now. The clean election laws say that if he gets a certain number of signatures on a petition, he receives state funding for his election expenses. He's been pestering all of his friends and relatives for weeks now. :)

    I'm not sure what the accounting requirements are, though. It seems to me that one of the keys to the success of the clean election model is detailed accounting: comprehensive and rigorous oversight of a campaign's funds, coupled with clear requirements for transparency and a precise definition of what needs to be communicated and when. That is Hard, whether you're campaigning at the local or national level.



    [ Parent ]
    re:clean election (1.00 / 2) (#105)
    by nodsmasher on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:38:58 PM EST

    while we technicly did have teh clean election law passed by voters hear in ma. the state legistature refused to fund it and the courts don't seem to be makeing them
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
    -Tatarigami
    [ Parent ]
    playing favorites (4.50 / 2) (#79)
    by khallow on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 10:29:01 PM EST

    Sure, we would all (or most) of us like more money and better jobs, but when it comes down to either YOUR interests versus a corporations ability to MAKE MONEY, which would you want the government to side with?

    I'd want them to be fair and impartial in the matter. Just because I want my salary doubled (for example) doesn't mean the government should intervene and force my employer to do so. After all, a corporation is an aggregation of other people's interests and it isn't fair to arbitrarily override their interests for my interests. I tend to agree with your main points in your story. It's just that this sentence was effectively counter to your overall message.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.

    I'll take corporations, thanks. (5.00 / 1) (#137)
    by A Trickster Imp on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 02:13:35 PM EST

    > but when it comes down to either YOUR interests versus a corporations ability
    > to MAKE MONEY, which would you want the government to side with?

    History shows that interfering with a corporation making money interferes with my interests heavily. I am the worse off.

    Remember that for every rational corporate law, there are a dozen or a hundred idiotic ones that are more oriented around beating on the "evil rich", for the purpose of electing rich politicians.




    [ Parent ]
    I'll take _regulated_ corporations. (none / 0) (#138)
    by MrMikey on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 12:54:06 PM EST

    History shows that interfering with a corporation making money interferes with my interests heavily. I am the worse off.
    Do environmental or job safety laws count as "interference"?

    I'm all for corporations being profitable, so long as they are regulated. Yes, some regulations make sense, and some don't, but the solution to bad regulations is to fix them, or get rid of them if they don't serve the public interest. Profit is good, but it is not the only good.

    [ Parent ]

    what is 'public interest' (none / 0) (#139)
    by boy programmer on Wed Apr 24, 2002 at 12:44:45 AM EST

    what is 'public interest'? the laws that would help a programmer are quite different from the laws that would benifit, say, a construction worker, or a welfare recipient. Which one of us is 'the public'?

    [ Parent ]
    wealth inequity between corporations and people (1.00 / 2) (#81)
    by jmd2121 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 11:35:40 PM EST



    I agree wholeheartedly

    the wealth inequity between corporations and
    people is causing problems not just in
    politics, but in our whole culture, they way we
    live, spend our time, etc.

    Check out my latest rant here, posted 3/26
    http://newslavery.org

    nature of corporations (4.50 / 6) (#85)
    by krkrbt on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:05:46 AM EST

    Corporations are not people.

    yes

    They are just entitites.

    I would say that they are just a convinient abstraction/legal cover for a group of people who have organized to produce values for others.

    They only matter to us insofar as they provide jobs to people or creates wealth to give to those people.

    Corporations do not create wealth. Individuals (real people) create wealth. Production is not the result of an abstraction.

    But in the long run people are the only things that matter.

    yes! People are the only thing that really exist. Toto pulls away the screen... and the wizard is really just another man. Corporations don't donate money, individuals (who are in charge of the "corporation") donate money. Because they can hide behind the veil of a "corporation", their donation is obfuscated.

    A "corporation" is not a volitional entity (does not have free-will). The author of this article, as does a multitude of others, makes the assumption that it does (I'll be the first to admit that it's tempting, being the convenient assumption that it is!). I believe that the any discussion of the issue will likely be fruitless without this basic understanding in place.

    The most important part you missed... (5.00 / 2) (#98)
    by Sethamin on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:14:19 PM EST

    You make a good point that individuals, ultimately, are running the corporation. But, what you miss is that the fundamental distinction between a group of individuals and a corporation; that is, the self-interests. Individuals forms a corporation solely to make money. The interests of the corporation are reflective of the individuals interests only in this one area. A non-corporate group of individuals, however, may have many economic and non-economic interests.

    Therein lies the crux of the matter.

    A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
    [ Parent ]

    clarification (5.00 / 1) (#106)
    by krkrbt on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:51:12 PM EST

    the fundamental distinction between a group of individuals and a corporation; that is, the self-interests.

    Non-volitional entities cannot have self-interest.
    vo·li·tion n.
    1. The act or an instance of making a conscious choice or decision.
    2. A conscious choice or decision.
    3. The power or faculty of choosing; the will.

    Individuals forms a corporation solely to make money.

    I can think of some other reasons of the top of my head:
    • Corprations can serve as a liability shield (so this is not to make money, but to protect money)
    • corporations can serve as a partnership between individuals
    • Non-profit organizations form corporations too. I'm currently living in a greek (college fraternity) house that is owned by a non-profit corporation. The purpose of the corporation is not to rack in the big bucks from members, but rather to provide for stability in ownership throughout the decades.
    The interests of the corporation are reflective of the individuals interests only in this one area.

    Just to make it clear, let's try it this way. You have a house, that has a lawn, flower beds and gardens. The house does not desire a neatly trimmed lawn, pretty flowers in the flower beds, and a nice relaxing garden. It is the occupant(s) of the house who hold these desires, turn them into actions and make them so. Corporations are the same way. Corporations do not have "interests". Individual's interests are reflected in the actions taken through the corporation, not the other way around.

    [ Parent ]
    Owners and managers (none / 0) (#112)
    by dachshund on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 06:14:09 PM EST

    A "corporation" is not a volitional entity (does not have free-will).

    A corporation often has a charter, or a mission. That is typically to make as much money as possible. Unless the stockholders vote specifically to disallow a certain practice, the employees and directors of a company will obey their mandate to improve the company's bottom line-- even if that conflicts with their own beliefs.

    The long and short of it is that companies often do have something approaching a will, or at least, a momentum. The same thing can happen in any sufficiently large organization. Those "in charge" are often rewarded for maintaining the status quo. It's the same force that drives oppressive governments. One could certainly said that the soldiers or leaders in power were responsible for whatever atrocities these governments committed, but had they refused to take part, other people would have taken their places. Often, the only real solution is to gather a critical mass of dissenters, and organizations often work to prevent the possibility of that ever happening. To overlook this characteristic of organized human beings is like overlooking the laws of physics.

    The modern Western corporation, with its weak shareholders and strong managers, is particularly vulnerable to this effect. In a particular large company I own shares in, shareholder groups have been attempting to pass resolutions requiring that shareholders have an opportunity to review political contributions before they're made. The latter proposal doesn't sound particularly unreasonable, if you accept that corporate contributions are supposed to reflect the will of the shareholders. Every single measure is strongly opposed by the directors, who (among other things) fear that although shareholders might vote to reject certain payoffs, they would hold the directors responsible if the result was a drop in profits. The directors work to make sure such troublesome measures have as slim a chance of passing as possible, and have become very good at it (think of the "check here to vote the way management recommends" option on your proxy ballot.) It's something of a feedback loop, and a very difficult one to break. You can't even blame the executives for their role in it, because the system is designed to encourage exactly that behavior and to weed out anyone who stands up against it.

    Limiting contributions to individuals wouldn't entirely solve the problem, of course. There are plenty of situations where executives and employees are "encouraged" to donate money, by attending $1000-per-plate dinners for some candidate (at peril of losing their jobs, etc.) However, that sort of practice is much more difficult to get away with for large numbers of people.

    Moving outside this specific issue, it's probably going to be difficult to develop campaign finance regulations that work. But I take issue with the notion that we can't do anything. Campaign finance is a moving target, something we'll only reform by paying attention to it, and using a process of trial and error. Not attempting to do something about it guarantees failure.

    [ Parent ]

    when something takes on a "mind of it's own&q (none / 0) (#119)
    by krkrbt on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:48:51 PM EST

    you bring up a very interesting phenomena, one that I do not know how to even begin to address. Kudos. "I was just following orders", all the way up & down the chain of command - orders given by whom? Governments, corporations, and all sufficiently large groups of humans generate a similar phenomena. If anyone has some reading on the subject, I'd be grateful.

    [ Parent ]
    Representation is for people (4.20 / 5) (#93)
    by Secret Coward on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 09:06:12 AM EST

    Let's imagine a company, HealthPuff. HealthPuff makes prescription drugs and owns several hospitals. One of their most popular products is Orgasmo, a drug which dramatically boosts sexual performance. Unfortunately, Orgasmo costs a fortune to manufacture.

    Due to the weak economy, HealthPuff is losing money. HealthPuff's largest investors, MegaBank, GreasyBurger, and Get Rich Fidelity vote the CEO out of office.

    The investors find a new CEO, Mr. Charles Trust. In his first week on the job, Mr. Trust comes across an old plan that would dramatically reduce the production cost of Orgasmo. He just needs a modest quantity of SuperCatalyst, commonly found in the human brain. The previous CEO sought out volunteers to donate SuperCatalyst. When only two people volunteered, he shelved the plan. Mr. Trust has another idea.

    Mr. Trust figures, if he can make the extraction a standard part of a common medical procedure, he can get all the SuperCatalyst he wants. Once he has SuperCatalyst, the company will get rich, the investors will love him, and he will be off to a great start on his career as a CEO.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Trust, there are laws getting in his way. But, Mr. Trust isn't going to let a few pesky laws cost him his fortune and glory. He's going to invest the company's money in malleable politicians. Once he slips his informed consent loophole through congress, he'll secure his place as CEO and be well on his way to a beach house resort.

    In this story, Mr. Trust lobbies for legislation which the patients do not want, the people who work for HealthPuff do not want, and the people who own HealthPuff do not want. However, the decision to lobby for this legislation is in the hands of people who want to keep their jobs. The investment mangers at MegaBank, GreasyBurger, and Get Rich Fidelity have to make a profit. Mr. Trust has to demonstrate that he can make a profit. The lobbyists need a job (and probably don't even know what Mr. Trust has planned).

    It's one thing for a corporation to have freedom of speech, but why should HealthPuff, a legal abstraction, be able to assist a particular candidate in getting elected? The company's campaign contributions should come from the people who own the company.

    Different kinds of Corporations (4.00 / 6) (#94)
    by NoBeardPete on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 10:52:42 AM EST

    I think it's important to take note that there are different kinds of corporations. Some exist for specifically political purposes. The ACLU, EFF, NRA, SPCA, various political parties, and countless other politcal organizations are incorporated. These groups represent a way for people who are concerned about some issue(s) to pool their resources and better influence politics in the manner they want to see.

    Any system of removing corporate influence from politics that silences these groups will cause a lot of harm, very likely more harm than good. A lot of people have said that all corporate influence should be driven from politics, and that only individual citizens should have a say in how things go. If only individual citizens are allowed to donate money to political campaigns, then extremely rich individuals will see their concerns trump those of ordinary folks every time. If you let ordinary people get together in big groups to influence things, you level the playing field a little bit. Noe that I'm not trying to say that it is then level, just that it is more level.

    Now, if you want to try to somehow banish for profit, commercial corporations from politics, you may have more of a case. If you are really worried about the whole business, perhaps you should require having corporations specify exactly what their business is to be on incorporation, and not allow them to expand into other areas without changing their charter, and being subject to some scrutiny. This could work to also lessen the influence of some big non-profit, but non-political groups, such as univeristies and churches. You may or may not consider this desirable.

    No matter what scheme you come up with, though, I think it's important that you preserve the right of citizens to form organizations to better pursue their political goals, and to incorporate these organizations if they see fit.


    Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!

    lack of political parties (4.50 / 2) (#104)
    by mami on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 02:29:33 PM EST

    No matter what scheme you come up with, though, I think it's important that you preserve the right of citizens to form organizations to better pursue their political goals, and to incorporate these organizations if they see fit.

    May be that should say it's important that you preserve and equally support the right of each citizen to form political parties to better their political goals...

    Seems to me the need for so many incorporated politicial interests groups is related to the lack of diverse political parties and the inability of the citizens to force their political representatives to be accountable to each party's from the bottom up definied political platform.

    [ Parent ]

    Non-profits vs. for-profits (none / 0) (#122)
    by dachshund on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 12:06:39 AM EST

    I think it's important to take note that there are different kinds of corporations. Some exist for specifically political purposes. The ACLU, EFF, NRA, SPCA, various political parties, and countless other politcal organizations ... If only individual citizens are allowed to donate money to political campaigns, then extremely rich individuals will see their concerns trump those of ordinary folks every time.

    However, it should be noted that most of the groups you mention are funded by individual member contributions. Many can simply inform their members to redirect their contributions directly to a particular candidate who supports the issues the members care about (perhaps with a card saying "this contribution brought to you by the ACLU".)

    Many for-profit corporations, on the other hand, rely on a small number of people being able to control a large pool of money, even if there's little popular enthusiasm for a measure being purchased.

    Clearly this breaks down if the very-rich are allowed to donate unlimited amounts. We've yet to see if the changes proposed by McCain-Feingold will have that effect. I imagine they will, for a little while. If the legislation continues to evolve, instead of languishing, we've got at least half a chance.

    [ Parent ]

    Want real reform? Ban political TV advertisements, (3.75 / 4) (#99)
    by The Cow Jumped Over The Moon on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:17:40 PM EST

    It's legal - The Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC (and thus, Congress) has the right to restrict 'broadcast speech' in an arbitrary manner.

    Unlike 'printed speech', such as newspapers and pamplets, broadcasts are given a lower level of free speech protections due to the limited nature of the medium. The FCC is basically allowed to restrict whatever it wants to make rules for, although news broadcasts are left untouched and there generally aren't any restrictions on them.

    Printed speech, however, is given the highest level of protection. The only restrictions on Printed speech are Obscenity and Defamation, unless there's a violation of contract law involved.

    Now consider the typical political advertisements that are broadcast. Do they really give out any real information? Can they, in a 30 second blurb, do more than get recognition of the candidate's name and cause fear of the opposing candidate? Can they represent a fully developed argument with factual support?

    I say no. TV Ads are probably where most of that money goes in a politician's campaign. They're expensive, uninformative, and blatently unfair to candidates without that kind of money to burn. By banning them entirely, we could drag our democracy out of the dregs of sound bites and scare tactics, and get some real issues addressed on the campaign trail.

    I am not saying we restrict newspaper advertisements or political speeches that the news media covers, just TV advertisements.

    Moo!

    However, think about what you said re: news (5.00 / 2) (#102)
    by losthalo on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 01:40:06 PM EST

    If news agencies can put whatever they want on TV,

    doesn't that give the big media conglomerates an inordinate amount of power? They'd be the only ones to say anything on television about the campaign; room for a lot of subtle influence, there.


    Losthalo

    Habit diminishes the conscious attention with which our acts are performed.

    [ Parent ]
    Hrm. Good point. (5.00 / 1) (#108)
    by The Cow Jumped Over The Moon on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 03:10:55 PM EST

    I was unclear on my point about news organizations: They're generally not touched because the Court wouldn't look kindly on government censorship of the news. It doesn't mean they're beyond regulation, though.

    Up until 1987, the FCC's Equal Time and Fairness Doctrines were in effect, basically requiring that all points of view in a news event be expressed. There was some hairsplitting here and there, but that's the general idea.

    The FCC rescinded these regulations in 87, so I'm not sure if there's what regulations are currently in force other than the personal attack doctrine (time must be given to respond to attacks).

    I concede that the news media exerts a large influence over the herds, and that the most subtle techniques will escape any sort of regulation. Putting the earlier regulations back in force might be a good measure, though.

    However, I still consider banning advertising to be the most effective method. If you want to get a political point across, muster a bunch of people and stage a demonstration. We should change politics from 'Whoever can use the most cash' to 'Whoever can muster the most attention / public demonstrations'.

    Moo!

    [ Parent ]

    Minor point (5.00 / 1) (#113)
    by dachshund on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 06:28:09 PM EST

    doesn't that give the big media conglomerates an inordinate amount of power? They'd be the only ones to say anything on television about the campaign; room for a lot of subtle influence, there.

    Of course, big media congomerates currently have the right to restrict who they take advertising $$ from.

    [ Parent ]

    Change the election system (5.00 / 1) (#111)
    by robla on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 06:04:06 PM EST

    The idea of banning corporate spending is an intriguing one. Hopefully, the courts would take a more enlightened view of corporate personhood than tthey did in 1886, because that could be a serious obstacle.

    I still think it's important to think about electoral system reform, as well, though (as I argued in the Kuro5hin article Campaign Finance Reform: A Red Herring). The reason for this is that I think our current system makes it more expensive to win, because candidates not only have to prove they are good leaders with the right philosophy to enough voters, they have to prove they can win before many will "risk" voting for them. The latter part is the most expensive part of getting elected.

    From a pragmatic point of view, figuring out how to channel and limit the money is probably a necessary exercise, and I think that it's necessary to work on solutions in this area. However, I hope that people are also able to see the bigger issues as well.
    ----
    Check out Electorama! a healthy dose of electoral reform talk and bright, shiny things.

    HI (1.22 / 9) (#120)
    by Legolas on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:49:43 PM EST

    HI MY NAME IS LEGOLAS!

    -legolas

    A/S/L?? (none / 0) (#136)
    by Fon2d2 on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:39:45 PM EST

    ru a bot?

    I like bots the best.

    -Fon2d2

    [ Parent ]
    Let me get this straight (none / 0) (#129)
    by aShogunNamedMarcus on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 03:59:23 PM EST

    Members of Kuro5hin are overly influenced by campaign advertisments? You would be better able to decide who to vote for if it wasn't for corporate contributions?

    It's not about campaign finance reform (none / 0) (#131)
    by Adam Tarr on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 12:15:36 AM EST

    We went over this before, people. Campaign finance reform, radical or not, is not the best path to more democracy. The best path is to change our voting systems. Check out the thread from a few weeks back where this was covered, or go straight to one of many web sites that promotes good voting method reforms.

    -Adam

    Why Campaign Finance Reform Will Fail | 139 comments (126 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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