Campaign finance

When I began this blog, it was my intention to talk a lot about campaign finance reform. I failed obviously. But I thought then and think now that even thought we can’t ever get money out of politics, we can improve things. Corruption and abuse will always be with us – all  we can do is punish it when we find it. But all our jibber jabber about left and right hides the real issue – our problems are not about less government or more government; our problem is  we need BETTER government.

Better government is possible if we can free legislators from their donor base. And the only way to do that is by public financing of elections. It is a tragedy for us all that these congress critters have to start raising money for the next election cycle the day after they take the oath of office. Their constituency is not the people who elected them; their constituency is the people who financed their campaign. That serves us poorly. It’d be nice if, instead of spending half their time sucking up, they could just go to work.

12 responses to “Campaign finance

  1. Yep. Right on.
    They just work for money – and it’s labeled pure corruption most places. But who could blame them.. bend a little bit to a huge donor, and get some good things done – or endlessly beg for little drips here and there… It’s mostly the system at fault here..


  2. Ms. Holland,

    In principle I agree with you, but in practice I could not disagree more. On my Republican side we have John McCain, who was going to take the money out of politics and then spent a fortune to win his last primary. On your side there are too many to count. After whining forever about how Republicans were the party of the rich, your guys in trying to console themselves about the current pole numbers were bragging about how they at least had built up a much bigger cash hoard than the GOP.

    Again, I see your point, and there is always a But, legislation to fix it always makes it worse. The people writing the legislation make sure they get a funding advantage over their rivals. I am the supreme cynic on this issue.


    • Alan, I’m as cynical as you are about the issue – but I reject absolutely that there is any partisan angle at all. For our congress critters, the goal is first and always: get elected.

      We have a system that is not working. A congress that has no courage to change it. And a court system that never saw a dollar in politics it didn’t like.


  3. The Center Square

    I don’t know that it’s the only way — term limits also come to mind, but they might actually beholden officeholders even more to institutional funding — but it sure could be a better way. One fear I have is that this could actually diminish the relevance of candidates and campaigns, by forcing the political action away from campaigns and into advocacy messaging. That all we see is advertising by AARP and NRA and NARAL and MoveOn, and the candidates themselves are drowned out.
    I share Alan’s categorical mistrust as well. The minute the public funding solution is announced, I’ll be grimacing at how the new system was gamed by the legislative authors in some previously unforeseen ways. We are, after all, asking the corrupt to reform the corruption.
    Some of the crazy ideas in my head:
    (1) Ban ALL forms of bundling. Campaigns can take contributions from human beings only. No PACs, no corporate donations, just people.
    (2) Enact strict “truth in advertising” liability laws. Is this so far-fetched? If a campaign is found to lie, punish the hell out of them. Make them forfeit an amount of campaign funds equal to what they spent on the lie; i.e., make lying twice as expensive as telling the truth. Make them give the forfeiture to their opponent! Why not? Are we really incapable of adjudicating facts? [Although I don’t want to see the courts paralyzed with these challenges, and I do sort of fear concentrating the power to officiate campaigning in the hands of a few judges or administrative officials. It’s a rough draft of an idea.]
    (3) Require all campaigns to tithe into a fund that is dedicated to funding non-partisan accuracy assessments of campaign ads, and require all campaign ads to display the resulting judgment.
    Crazy, huh?


    • Wow – some remarkable and creative ideas. All new to me. I want to read this a few times before I reply.


    • [Diminish the relevance of candidates and campaigns, by forcing the political action away from campaigns and into advocacy messaging.]

      I’m not sure that’s a problem – advocacy is about policy and bringing the conversation to policy issues isn’t a bad thing. The danger – as with candidates – is that increasingly the most money has the loudest voice. In any case, we’ve opened up the process to stateless corporations allowing them to advocate. And their interests of course, are not profit.

      Your three proposals are intriguing. And so appealing! Here too, as you said re the above, we’d be asking congress critters to vote against their own interests. But they’re terrific ideas and I’d love to see THEM advocated for!

      Let me add a number 4) to your proposals. Take redistricting out of the hands of legislatures and hand it to an independent board – like the SS trustees or something like that.

      (I may bring this to the front page too – so much good stuff coming in – assume that’s okay?)


  4. Ms. Holland,

    I was always against term limits. Mainly during Republican leadership. Perhaps it is the partisan in me and the fact that Democrats rule, but I am ready for them . Strom Thurmond on my side , I think was almost 100. The geezers on your side like Byrd were there too long. I don’t think the founders meant for this to be a lifetime job. Maybe it’s because roly poly Teddy Kennedy never had to get a real job that sets me off. Daddy’s money kept him in the Senate where he morphed into a big fat drunken woman chasing idiot.


    • We’ve been down the Kennedy road before haven’t we Alan – I assume you still don’t believe in redemption and prefer to judge a life by a part of it.


  5. The Center Square

    Moe, sorry, I’ve been lax in going back through old comments. Of course that’s okay. No need even to ask.

    I am totally with you on the redistricting thing. Currently, that is one of the most corrupt anti-democracy mechanisms out there.


    • The Center Square

      P.S.: I wonder why don’t we see more actions under defamation / slander / libel laws to fight back against an opponent’s false campaign statements. If you google that, you don’t see too many. Is there some kind of special legal latitude granted to campaign statements, essentially allowing lies with near impunity?


      • Since most of it happens in paid advertisements, it would seem that the false advertising laws apply. But the language is always so weasily – maybe to get just under whatever hte bar is.

        On the bright side, Elizabeth Warren gets to be the person to create hte new Consumer Protection agency!


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