Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

Curious about this one...the campaign finance proposal I'd support would be no public funding of presidential elections, partial public funding of House (and I suppose if I really had my choice Senate) general elections -- something like 250K or 500K per House district; full disclosure; and other than that, something like unlimited contributions (not entirely certain about exactly what I'd say yes to and what I wouldn't, but that's the general idea).

So, the question is: in the unlikely event that Republicans would agree to that plan as a compromise (they presumably like the unlimited part and until recently liked the disclosure part, while they dislike any public funding): would you support that deal?

I'm assuming that few liberals would choose my preferences as their ideal system, and I certainly do not believe that a deal like this one could be made...but the question really is would you prefer it to the status quo.

By the way: I'd also be open to partial funding of all federal primary elections, too, probably with some sort of matching funds up to some fairly low dollar amount scheme, but that's even more impossible to imagine getting through Congress.


  1. I don't support it. My ideal would be to have no funding at all allowed. No staff allowed, no money can be spent, nothing can be donated or given. The candidates have to rely primarily on the news for building name recognition, and on their websites and online resources for building support. The candidates themselves would have to create the websites, so they would often be very bad and, without a staff, the candidates would be constantly making stupid mistakes. This is, I think, an important thing for the public to witness. Also, it would make politics way more fun than it is right now. To make sure that the media doesnt simply take over the role of running campaign ads and candidate advocacy, they wouldnt be allowed to say the name of the candidates on the air. The candidates would become like hermits, roaming the countryside and talking to whoever will listen, doing outrageous things to try and attract voter attention and never sure if their efforts are having any effect until election day.

  2. From my point of view, the most important campaign finance reform would be to free members of Congress (and candidates) from having to spend such a large percentage of their time raising money. I'm not sure if $250k - $500k would be sufficient for this purpose. But if so, then yes I would support it.

  3. This appeals to me tremendously. Funding a house race is so damned difficult every 2 years. Just take away that ridiculous burden and I think we'd see some interesting results. However, I doubt it would drastically change the ideological status quo in the US very quickly.

  4. Id support that kind of deal.

  5. Unsure. I like the floor in the proposal, and even am OK with the level it's set at.

    The problem is that, in Citizens United World, I can't see how this system would end up disclosing much of anything. Post-CU, essentially, you can run ads for yourself using unlimited monies. (Technically, you can't, but in practice, to deny that the ads are being coordinated is ridiculous). So, why would Adelson donate disclosed money when he can donate anonymous money? OK, Adelson's money was found out....but a lot of smaller checks for $50K or $100K might not be.

    So, for my money (pun intended), I think that whatever fix is put in to place has to include a check on Citizens United. I think that check can be relatively simple: no money can be spent on political issues unless that money is disclosed. I don't think that violates the First Amendment, but it is skating awfully close to the line of argumentation from Buckley on down. In the end, a constitutional amendment might be required, and that would just kill any chance of anything.

    1. Oh, the part I don't get in your proposal is why you're scratching the Prez primary matching monies. Sure, your Obamas and Clintons and Bushes and Romneys aren't taking that money any more, but the also-rans are, and it lets them make a semblance of a campaign out of it in Iowa and New Hampshire.

      Was that a conscious decision to imitate what a "deal" would look like, or just left off in the interest of space/time?

    2. I usually stay out of Sunday Questions, but since it's my proposal...

      I'm not really sure how disclosure would work in practical terms. My general feeling about disclosure now is that I'm solidly for it theoretically, but I don't actually see even the best disclosure imaginable making much difference, at least in general elections.

      As far as the presidential primary funding: some of one, some of the other. I sort of doubt that at this point any candidate with sufficient party support to run a serious campaign otherwise would be halted because of money, or at least because of the difference between what's available in the current system vs. what would be available without it. Plus if we're going unlimited, that makes it even easier. So it's mostly: I think there's a very small gain in keeping the current system, so might as well try to cash it in (along with convention funding) for something.

  6. I think there are three problems that need to be solved by campaign finance reform, in this order of importance:

    1) Candidate time and energy being focused on asking rich people for money disproportionately, instead of more productive uses of time like doing their jobs.

    2) Disproportionate influence given to wealthy constituencies (finance) and certain interest groups.

    3) A general weeding out of candidates so that only people who can raise millions of dollars through $2,300 donations, instead of a slightly more financially normal group of people.

    4) The appearance of impropriety and distrust of the campaign finance system, where average citizens think that every legislator is corrupt.

    I'm not sure if these problems are solved by a small public finance system and transparency. I think disclosure is nice, but in practice doesn't really change anything but #4. Unlimited donations will help solve #1, but could make #2 worse, possibly much worse. Partial public financing can help, but I think the number would have to be much higher - $1 million - $1.5 million for house races, indexed so that it changes with local conditions, or rises as national spending rises.

  7. JB - By full disclosure, do you mean outside groups? Campaigns (all the way down to contributions of $1)? Both?

  8. My main problem with it is that the floors are awfully low. 250K, or even 500K, isn't really enough to run a serious race in the modern environment. I'd definitely support this if you bumped it up, though.

  9. That deal is completely worthless. Allowing corporations or billionaires unlimited donations cannot be counterbalanced with meager public financing along the lines you mention. Disclosure is better than no disclosure, but I don't see any reason to believe voters who largely are unable to stay informed about actual public policy issues would somehow be able to hold members of Congress accountable for campaign donations.

    We either need a new Supreme Court majority -- either from re-electing Obama and having him replace retiring radical conservative judges with people with more sense or expanding the number of Justices (something I'd like to see anyway) -- which overturns the radical Citizens United ruling or a Constitutional Amendment that gives Congress the right that existed for all of the 20th Century and the first few years of the 21st Century to regulate campaign donations.

    1. Still, campaign donations were regulated quite loosely before the formation of the FEC after Watergate. Post-McCain/Feingold and pre-Citizens United is only a few years.

      And C.U. and the following decisions said nothing about campaign donations AFAIK--they were about outside political speech (which might be often effectively coordinated now, but that's not inherently so).

  10. Coming in late here, I very much enjoy spending time in our host's space, and appreciate his opinions and expertise on various small matters of American political practice.

    However, our host does not really favor significant reform of the system. I do, and I have been known to work hard for it.

    First, the movement for a Constitutional Amendment is a long-term movement. Either we will be successful in overturning Citizens United (and along the way we will find the organization and votes to reform many other problems as well), or none of us will have children living after 2040 or so because the petroleum-based economy of selfishness has burned up world civilization with its greed and arrogance in refusing to change.

    The "Move to Amend" organization has reached millions of pairs of American ears already. I will not take the liberty of providing their proposed amendment in full, as it sends me over a space limitation, however it is concise and comprehensive. Search "Move to Amend" for more.

    2. Once it is established that localities can control political monies, many states will bring back an old idea in campaign finance reform: no contributions allowed from individuals residing outside the district concerned in the election. Even without any other reforms, this would take the big money out of 90% of House races, and probably out of 50% or more of Senate and Governor races. Without further reforms, our richest states and metro areas might still see money dumps in elections, there might be the occasional billionaire trying to establish a residency in outer Idaho to build his mine there; if we have built the organization to get an anti-Citizens United amendment going strong, we will have the organization we need to deal with that.

    3. End the rules that allow campaign warchests to become personal treasure troves. Within 30 days after the election for which campaign funds have been raised, all excess funds shall be irrevocably given to a high-quality charity which meets requirements such as a 10-year record of direct giving to indigent food and medical care, and total administrative and fund-raising costs under 20% of total income. There are a lot of shoddy non-profits out there, and these additional requirements are necessary to prevent campaign funds going into lightly disguised political operations organized as charities. The campaigns can still choose which charities get their money, and can still grandstand off their support for such a noble cause, but they can't just dump their dollars into a self-controlled charity designed to employ brothers-in-law and fund public knowledge of the ex-candidate's favorite causes.

    4. If it's just me and my friends, let's go further. We need another Constitutional Amendment to limit presidential primaries to the months of May to August preceding the Presidential election, and that further forbids any campaign committees from being formed, or any campaign funds being raised for a Presidential campaign, before the February 15th preceding the election in November. This Amendment would also allow the FCC to prohibit any broadcaster from speculating/commenting on Presidential campaigns before the February 15th campaign kickoff. My version of the Amendment would also require that states which choose to hold their primary elections in the first two weeks in May in one election, would have to hold their primaries in the last two weeks in August for the following election.

    With rules like these in place to get the Industry of Campaign Manipulation somewhat back in its place in our national priorities, then the question of overall limits on spending might become less pressing.
    And again, if we're too fatalistic or too negative or too demoralized to think we could ever change things, I do believe we Americans have already failed the global intelligence test that is called "our civilization will survive into the future."

    1. You want to ban broadcasters from speculating on upcoming elections before you say so? I don't know what kind of legal or, frankly, moral interpretation of free speech would clear that. And I don't see how that would have any effect on stricter carbon regulation. I don't understand why so many people seem to fear political speech more than they want free speech.

      You also should consider the possibility that these rules would enhance the power of locally-dominant industries by banning national alternative funding sources. That might not be a net win for stricter environmental regulation.

  11. Many European nations prohibit campaign messaging before a recognized electoral period, of course running off a parliamentary model rather than our prescribed-date presidential period.

    All citizens would still have full political speech liberties, cable TV and privately-distributed DVDs could go at it, the point is just to de-fuse the current machine of the Permanent Campaign/Permanent Lobbying industry at one key point, to give the public a break from the permanent campaign machine. The industry of running political campaigns supported by business lobbies that clearly understand the high ROI on lobbying is what I want to derail, the public needs a break from it, and forcing a fallow period is a good way to get a handle on it. I'm after Monsanto getting a rider into an Ag bill that would REQUIRE the Dept. Of Interior to approve GMO applications that have specifically been blocked by some lower-court judge somewhere, which happened this month. I'm not after your freedom of speech.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?