Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Equal time

Okay, Cheney and the Bush administration have been taking a lot of abuse over the past few weeks, and I have to admit it's hard not to abuse them given some of the boneheaded things they've done.

Likewise with the radical and violent Muslims in reaction to this whole Muhammad cartoon thing, and rightfully so.

So now, in the interest of equal time, I want to take this opportunity to lob a few stones at the liberals' glass house.

You see, it's the House Democrats who introduced House Resolution 4694 - a decidedly undemocratic measure which seeks to limit, nay, deny third parties in American politics.

In an uncharacteristic show of balls, the Democrats led by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) named the resolution (get this) the "Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act."

Key highlights of the resolution:
  • Mandates public funds (taken from the U.S. Treasury) to candidates for the House of Representatives
  • Forbids candidates from taking private funds such as contributions from individual donors
  • Provides funds for candidates of the "two major parties"
  • Third-party candidates must obtain enough signatures to exceed 20% of votes cast in the last election within their district to be eligible for the same funds that Republicans and Democrats would receive
  • But third-party or independent candidates cannot pay petitioners to collect the signatures that would make it possible to fund their campaigns.
So, the anti-democracy Democrats are so afraid a third party (presumably the Green Party - the reason Al Gore wasn't elected 8 years ago) will take away their votes that they want to lock everyone else out of the game.

Now, I agree that there are serious issues that need to be dealt with in the American electoral process - money and influence peddling to name a few. And you're kidding yourself if you think it's just a "Republican problem." However, the solution isn't to infringe on our rights by limiting our choices (number of parties/candidates) or our voice (monetary contributions and media purchases).

If the parties are really interested in improving the process, they should consider a drastically reduced campaign time frame. Why do we need two years of campaigning to decide who we're going to vote for, when most people just vote the party line anyway?

Limit campaign spending to a two-month period just before the election, and you'll solve 80% of the problems. And neither party would have to out themselves as the bastards they are.

tagged:, , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Public financing of political campaigns is the best way to eliminate corruption in campaign financing, and make politicians responsive to their constituents instead of their donors. Unfortunately, it is probably politically impossible because small-minded people take cheap shots at the fact that it results in campaign funds coming from the government. Not that I'm naming any names . . .

    Despite the benefits of public financing of campaigns, it is difficult to account for third parties.

    We, as a nation, are content to have corrupt politicians and wealthy people controlling the system. Until we adopt public campaign finance, we're going to be stuck with that reality.

  2. IF you ask me, allowing the government to finance political campaigns is the best way to increase corruption in campaign financing.

    Are you really advocating that the government limit freedom of speech during campaigns by limiting who gets campaign dollars and how much they get?

    Well, I guess if the Democrats trample of civil rights, it's okay.

  3. How would governmental financing of campaigns increase corruption? I don't see that as a likely result, but I'm open to hearing your analysis.

    I know you're trying desperately to pin the whole idea of public financing of campaigns as a democratic idea, but it truly is not. In fact, it's not really embraced by either party, though some republicans support it, too. It's really more of a think tank idea.

    The intersection of free speech and campaign finance is a difficult one. Most informed people believe that there need to be some limits, though people of good will can disagree on where they should be drawn. Absolutism doesn't really serve well in this area, nor does your brand of naked partisanship.

    Sorry if I'm not joining in your play very gracefully. This is a very important issue, and one I take seriously. This isn't a case where I can simply say "republicans suck" or where I can muster much respect those who do the opposite.

  4. Okay. Mea culpa for getting too excited about this. I'll try to ratchet down to Sphincter Level 7 or so.

    First, control of and desire for money is what would increase corruption. That's pretty easy for someone even as ill-informed as me to grasp.

    Second, I'm pretty sure (ill-informed as I am) that the Supreme Court's 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision drew the intersection of free speech and campaign finance.

    "...the Court found that governmental restriction of independent expenditures in campaigns, the limitation on expenditures by candidates from their own personal or family resources, and the limitation on total campaign expenditures did violate the First Amendment."

    Finally, as I wrote, I agree that there are problems with the campaign/electoral process. My point was that limiting the right of free speech isn't a good way to solve those problems.

    A secondary point, in regard to "naked partisanship," was that Republican and Democrat politicians both suck -- if there is even a difference between the two.

  5. Alright, work with me here. You say control of and desire for money are what increase corruption. So, how about if we controlled money by having a system where the government, rather than PACs, Abramoff and millionaires, gave the money to the candidates, in a transparent and legislated fashion?

    You are partially right about Buckley, though you neglect to mention that the opinion upheld disclosure requirements, and voluntary public funding, with limits on contributions. In fact, the proposal you make to limit campaign expenditures to the final two months of the campaign, is probably counter to Buckley (as well as ineffective, in my opinion, but that's another issue).

    I believe that, if we had the political will, we could have more complete public funding of campaigns, without violating the constitution.

    As for both parties sucking, I'll agree that both parties look at campaign finance reform with an impure heart, and I also agree that it's difficult to allow for third parties under most public financing approaches.

  6. Dan,

    First, thanks for the discussion. I wholeheartedly agree that transparency is a critical component of reform. ALL expenditures and donations should be reported and available for public review.

    But your proposal breaks down when you say "having a system where the government, rather than PACs, Abramoff and millionaires, gave the money to the candidates, in a transparent and legislated fashion"

    The problem is that the government is millionaires, PACs, and Abramoffs and McAuliffes.

    There's also the question of fairness. Should GWBush, for example, be able to levy taxes on a Ralph Nader supporter to pay for a re-election campaign? I don't think so.

  7. I say let's democratize (notice the small "d") the whole process. And even carry it a step further.

    Tax season is upon us. How about this:

    Your tax form tells you how much you paid in Federal taxes. How about an additional form that you submit telling the government how YOU want YOUR tax dollars spent?

    Have buckets for the various categories (National Defense, Social Programs, Infrastructure, Local Pork, Spying on Americans, Taking Over Other Countries etc.).

    Keep it fairly high level so the Moron Majority can understand it.

    Let each tax payer allocate what percentage of their tax money they want to go to each category.

    Now THAT'S democracy!

  8. We already tax Bush supporters to give matching funds to LaRouche and Nader. I don't see a huge philosophical problem with taxing Americans to pay for an election process. We always have.

    Where we disagree is how the money gets to the candidate. The status quo, which you (I think) support, is that candidates need to go begging to deep pockets, be they lobbyists, unions, individuals or whomever is willing and able to write a large check to a candidate. That leaves the vast majority of Americans out.

    I would rather the money come from a governmental agency. That way, the candidate doesn't have to go to unions or millionaires to get the money, and is thus able to avoid making the promises necessary to get the funds.


Your turn to riff...