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Congress would only have to spend $6 per citizen per year to publicly fund each and every election for the House, the Senate and the White House. When you consider that "pork barrel" projects cost every one of us more than $200 last year alone, it's no contest.

Public Campaign Funding:  What is it and how it works

Simply stated, voluntary public funding means that the federal government provides all candidates who qualify for federal office--president, vice-president, senate and house--with adequate funds to run a credible campaign for election. These funds will come out of the federal budget whether from the general fund or from revenue raised specifically to support public funding. Qualified candidates will no longer have to rely on private contributions from big donors to run a successful campaign. Public funding will truly restore the integrity and vitality of our democracy by eliminating the profound influence of wealthy special interests on our national priorities.  What's more, because those in office won't have to spend valuable time raising money for their next election, our leaders will spend more time working for us.

Public Funding:  How important is it?

Very important.  Perhaps the most important issue of all for the entire progressive movement.   According to David Sirota, it is one of the two most urgent issues of the day.  

*Issue 1: First and foremost, we've got to start focusing on politics in our backyard - not just national politics. We all get this; so without more to do, here is your link to the good Dr. Dean's Democracy bonds.

 *Issue 2:  The second suggestion Sirota puts forward is a demand that progressives put public financing of elections at the center of our movement - not just leave it as a peripheral issue.


I've written a lot about this before (me,too) and about how it is a travesty that progressives and the Democratic Party still refused to make public financing proposals within their midst a national theme , even in the wake of the Abramoff/Delay/Cunningham scandals where with a bit of work it could be made to resonate even more powerfully with the public than normal.  

Oh sure, Big Money interests will deride public financing of elections as "welfare for politicians." But the simple truth is that we get what we pay for. Elections are going to be financed by someone. If we allow elections to continue to be financed by Big Money, we will always have a government that represents Big Money. If we are willing to pay for our election system, we will get far closer to getting a government that represents us. And if you are worried about the cost of a public financing system you need look no further than Duke Cunningham and the over-the-top earmarking abuses to know that taxpayers are already paying a far greater price under the current system of legalized bribery.

You can tell just how important public financing of elections really is by the opposition to it. As just one example, in Portland, Big Money interests are pouring their cash into a campaign to repeal that city's public financing system. These interests know that if a system exists to free political leaders from the grips of corporate campaign cash, government policy may be a whole lot different. That is, a whole lot more representative of ordinary citizens' interests.

As I said, for the other suggestions I have for taking it back, go check out the book. But remember the bottom line: we still have a chance to take back our government, as long as we have the guts to start fighting the real fight that we all know is at the center of American politics, but that too many in the Establishment want to pretend is not important: namely, the conflict between those who want to let Big Money interests continue to run roughshod over our country, and those of us who think America deserves better.

To be sure, there are always going to be well-funded, corporate-sponsored voices telling us we shouldn't really be angry that our political leaders are selling off our democracy, that we should just tone it down, that we should back off, and that the political elite really supports everything that we are pushing for, when in fact they clearly do not. That's exactly what the Establishment wants - us to retreat, stand down, and fool ourselves into thinking everything is O.K. But that's exactly what we shouldn't do. We must instead refuse to be intimidated, refuse to relent, refuse to swallow the poll-tested fictions. We must, in short, fight back.

The fact is that the lobbying reform bill that cleared the Senate will not affect the behavior of lobbyists and politicians. As a result, it will not convince Americans that Congress is serious about reform.  If the Senate had hoped to change public attitudes and suspicions about the way the world within the Beltway works, they have fallen far, far short.

Join Americans for Campaign Reform (ACR) to support publicly financed federal elections.


As citizens we can complain about the corrosive influence of our election finance system, or we can do something about it. With your help, we can mobilize citizens across the country and put pressure on Congress to enact real reform.
ACR Honorary Chairs,
 *Bill Bradley, Former Senator (D), New Jersey
 *Bob Kerrey, Former Senator (D), Nebraska
 *Warren Rudman, Former Senator (R), New Hampshire
 *Alan Simpson, Former Senator ( R ), Wyoming

If we really are mad as hell and don't intend to take it any more, lets all join this issue and take our country back. Sign up and donate to Americans for Campaign Reform today. We need to make our key boards heard loud and clear at the Democratic Party and at every progressive movement and organization out there.  If we don't hurry, we might be too late.

Originally posted to dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We really do (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich

    need campaign reform so long as it doesn't benefit one party over another or the incumbent over the challenger.  Then there are the primaries.  How will candidates fund those?

    Winning without Delay.

    by ljm on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:30:19 PM PDT

    •  What's your option? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gorette, RickBoston

      I think primaries would work the same way...
      Hosted by Putfile.com
      (I'm looking at this picture in preview - hope it fits properly.)

      When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

      by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:37:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  great graphic!!!!!! Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dkmich
      •  I would not think... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lcrp, dkmich
        ...that primaries could work that way, or else you'd have a market flooded with primary challengers every election cycle.  As odd as it sounds it is not beyond imagination to think that people would love the idea of having a free campaign shot at a job in congress.

        So privately funded primary campaigns might still need to happen but with restrictions on spending.

        Join The Americare Project. Help design a national healthcare program for Americans by Americans.

        by DawnG on Sat May 06, 2006 at 04:20:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Key is qualify.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lcrp

          Before a candidate can qualify, they have to collect a minimum number of signatures each with a $5 contribution.  Can't take more than $5.   When they reach enough signatures, they qualify.  Sort of like trying to get a referendum on the ballot.

          When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

          by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 04:22:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that might work. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dkmich

            especially with the $5 donation. :) but that'd still be a lot of primary challengers.

            Join The Americare Project. Help design a national healthcare program for Americans by Americans.

            by DawnG on Sat May 06, 2006 at 06:23:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Just as an FYI (0+ / 0-)

              Several states have passed their version of this including Vermont and Arizona.  People love it and say that laws are now passing that couldn't have passed before because the lobbyist would have stopped them.  Anything is better than what we have.

              When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

              by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 06:25:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Well To Favor Neither Incumbent Nor Challenger (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dkmich, Gorette

      maybe we should fund only challengers.

      With a 95% incumbent advantage currently, that would be the first approximation of equal opportunity!

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:50:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You can't. If you make the incumbent get his (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lcrp

        her own money, they you are keeping corporate money in the system.  The object is to take it out so that our elected officials will quit selling their votes for cash. If its OUR money, they are beholden to US.

        When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

        by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:52:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, I'm Being Facetious, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dkmich

          and in reality I'm figuring that the corporate side could easily double its annual investment in campaigns if we were to fund only challengers, thereby retaining their superiority.

          I wouldn't be surprised if they can multiply it 10-fold. Right now they've got an astronomical amount to protect.

          But money cannot be destroyed any more than it can be created, so I think we need to be realistic about what we can expect. Even if we can somehow limit private spending on campaigns proper, the corporate side still owns the public square, so we can expect their issues to migrate to unregulated time outside campaigns to soften up the battlefield before the contests.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:07:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think I agree with too much of what you say. (0+ / 0-)

            BUT!  If feeding the politicians wasn't so lucrative, the corporations wouldn't be fighting so hard to keep it.  Right?

            When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

            by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:29:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  We need to make our keyboards heard. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gorette

    When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

    by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:33:51 PM PDT

  •  I'd Call It the 2nd Most Important Item (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich, Gorette

    Long term we need policies or mechanisms to establish democracy in virtual space around the clock and calendar, not just during campaigns. Campaign reform is only a subset of the full problem.

    Otherwise during the overwhelming majority of societal activity that is not campaigns, even with public financing, the corporatists still wholely own the public square.

    Every day we read reports of the difficulty of convincing wingnuts and unmotivated neutral citizens what reality is, even when we can talk with them 1:1 for minutes on end. Society remains largely in that condition if the public square's owners remain the sole fabricators of reality outside of campaigns.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 02:59:15 PM PDT

    •  God, you mean you actually talk to them? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gorette

      I can't.  When I do, I laugh at them or tell them how dumb they are.  Best I keep my mouth shut and let the rest of you do the talking.

      When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

      by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:31:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Could we do it more efficiently? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich

    Instead of having the government fund campaigns, would it be easier to simply cap campaign spending? After all, if House campaigns were limited to $100,000 in a district, there's not much room there for corporate donations, and I doubt a $100 donation from ExxonMobil would gain them any leverage.

    I would rather see spending caps; $100,000 for each House seat, and $100,000 times the number of House seats in the state for a Senate seat. That leaves even Californian Senate candidates with only $5,300,000 for a state so huge. (Since California Senate elections are relatively non-competitive, I doubt they'd spend that much anyway, but it's still a low number for so many people.)

    Also, donations should be limited to sources within a state or to people registered to vote in that state.

    •  One Way to Fund Campaigns (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lcrp, dkmich, Gorette

      is to provide resources the money would buy.

      For example, broadcast time.

      One problem is that the concept of public 'airwaves' doesn't apply to broadcasting over privately built cable hardware. But even here there may be opportunity for limited government imposition of obligation due to the limited competition of cable providers.

      The net however is more open access so it's less obvious how government access could be mandated on systems that have mass audiences, as that technology unfolds.

      We really come up hard against a need for a fundamental, generalized concept of a public "commons" within information spaces and systems. We're a hundred years behind technology on this. Our ideas of "press" and "speech" give all the access rights to the mega-owners of modern systems.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:15:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it does mandate free air time. n/t (0+ / 0-)

        When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

        by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:34:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Right. This is so important. Airwaves for (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dkmich

        campaigns without needing the huge money for networks. I've often wondered if CSpan 4 (or 3) couldn't be used for this purpose.

        A cable tv station for public information and time for each party...

        •  Mybe we could hype it...and put it on network.. (0+ / 0-)

          Realty TV - FEAR FACTOR, good knows if they were paying attention, they would be scared - really scared.

          When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

          by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 04:17:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Can't cap. Surpeme court (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      ruled that corporations have personhood and have rights, one of which is free speech.  Then they ruled that money was speech.   This is why the proposed system addresses ways of not violating corporate rights and establishes a system to disincentivise a candidate from raising more private money.

      When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

      by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 03:34:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I entirely agree. Thanks for posting this! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, dkmich

    It IS the most important issue because it can help reform our government in a big way.

    What people hate about Congress is that they do not make decisions based on what is good for people. The decisions go in favor of the corporations and the wealthy class.

    This is an issue that could bring a resounding success in 2008. It could bring a majority to the Democratic party because it means that people will have the say to a much greater extent. I think people are beginning to catch on to the fact that our government is set up now to work for the wealthy and they don't like it but can't see a way out.

    This is the way out. It needs to be explained simply to people and I think if that were done there would be tremendous support for it.

    I'm sick of government for the corporations!

    •  Isn't it amazing how complex putting things (0+ / 0-)

      simply actually is.  Unless, of course, one's a moron.  Then it comes naturally, i.e, Republicans.

      When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

      by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 04:18:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Qualify? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tgs1952

    What is your definition of 'qualify'?  There is at least one floated proposal of 'qualify' that would shut third parties entirely out of the political process.  I have lived through a period in the United States in which a political movement--the antiwar movement--was substantially shut out of the political process, in that we had the prowar party and the other prowar party, and matters became rather unpleasant.  That's ignoring that the people who would be shut out of the political process this time are likely to come from several wings of the political spectrum.  

    From the standpoint of people trying to rent Congressmen, Federal funding is advantageous, in that personal bribes are a lot cheaper than finding election campaigns.

    •  Not that hard... (0+ / 0-)

      Each candidate has to go out and collect signatures and X amount of $5.00 contributions.  They can't take more than $5.  This shows that they are serious and they have backing.  Then they run in public funds.

      When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

      by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 04:20:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The key question is 'how many'? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dkmich

        and, if they cannot get enough signatures, are they allowed to run on private funds?

        Massachusetts had a similar scheme.  Having run for Congress here as a Libertarian, and having done small party fundraising, I though it was obviously rigged so that Democrats might be the only qualifiers, with Republicans straining to go the money and the job.

        •  I think so. Every state has a slightly (0+ / 0-)

          different twist.  I'm not sure about ACR's strategy.  I was impressed with their Honorary Chairs,
          *Bill Bradley, Former Senator (D), New Jersey
          *Bob Kerrey, Former Senator (D), Nebraska
          *Warren Rudman, Former Senator (R), New Hampshire
          *Alan Simpson, Former Senator ( R ), Wyoming

          They ought to know how to fairly shut off the spigot.  I do know that either candidate can refuse public money and raise their own.  Whatever they raise, the public money matches, less a % which is a ratio to match what the public money candidate would have had to spend to promote.  Like TV ads, etc.  This takes the incentive out of raising your own dough.  

          When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

          by dkmich on Sat May 06, 2006 at 09:55:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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