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There have been a couple of diaries of late making the case against corporations and corporatism, pointing out that, as long as unholy sums of money are required to wage and win election campaigns, corporations will continue to have undue influence over politics and policy.

One of the first solutions proffered to address this problem is banning private election contributions altogether and funding elections entirely publicly.  And while this has a certain appeal to it, I'm beginning to get the idea it's just pushing the problem one level out...

The main problem I believe public election funding has is: How does one bootstrap oneself into the constituents' awareness?

Here's a simple test: Without Googling, can you name both Senators for your state?  Can you name which Congressional district you reside in, and the Congressperson who represents it?  If yes to all, congratulations, I daresay you are ahead of 80% of your fellow citizens.  So election to a lower office won't guarantee you the level of popular awareness you will need to run for the Presidency (recurse outward for successively lower offices).  So how would one generate that awareness if all one is allowed to draw on are (limited) public funds?  And if you're outside the process entirely, how do you break in?

The other issue that seems a problem is people trading fame developed in another endeavor for political capital.  The two most obvious (and disasterous) examples of these are Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  True, there are positive examples, such as Clint Eastwood's stint as Mayor of Carmel, CA; and Senator Al Franken seems to be acquitting himself well.

At some level, everyone entering politics trades on their reputation earned in other fields.  But does it ever ascend to the level of "cheating?"  By that I mean, if one uses the (theoretically) boundless resources from one field of endeavor to leverage an entrance into politics whose resources are circumscribed, does that circumvent the intent of publicly funded elections?

Just some idle thinking before lunchtime...

Originally posted to ewhac on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:40 AM PDT.

Poll

Election Funding for Federal Offices Should Be:

5%1 votes
0%0 votes
11%2 votes
17%3 votes
5%1 votes
5%1 votes
52%9 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  VA-05 here - blindfolded (0+ / 0-)

    Senators:
    Jim Webb, Mark Warner

    Representative
    Tom Perriello

    Had to peek, I can never get Tom's name right.

    But yeah, 100% public, cause you know, it's the only way to be sure - short of nuking the place from orbit.

    Retirement is for quiters. I have my retirement money invested in show turtles.

    by mydailydrunk on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:46:07 AM PDT

  •  you misunderstand the proposals ... (3+ / 0-)

    ... you can't ban private contributions; all you can do is give qualified candidates the option of accepting a public grant in lieu of receiving them.

    And, obviously, the grant needs to be large enough to encourage candidates to accept it.

    •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

      the idea is to OPEN the doors for candidates that would otherwise NOT be able to compete.

      Name recognition is a separate issue that really has nothing to do with it.

      Also... the idea is not so much to restrain corporate influence or that of the richest of the rich. Frankly they will always have greater influence and access. To borrow a sports metaphor...  you can't control them you can only try to contain them.

      And they are best contained through a progressive tax structure like we have had in the past in our country.

      Peace,

      Andrew

      •  But it won't (0+ / 0-)

        Open doors to candidates who would otherwise not be able to compete. At least not the current proposal at in Congress, the so-called Fair Elections Now Act (FENA). And a program that WOULD allow people to compete (if by that you simply mean give them enough money to make the voters generally aware of their candidacy and able to organize a competent campaign) who couldn't otherwise would allow people you REALLY DO NOT WANT to compete, to be competitive.

        There's a natural tension between two competing priorities in these programs. On the one hand, you say you want to enable people to qualify for funding who would otherwise not be able to raise enough money to run a decent campaign. On the other hand, you don't want qualifying to be so easy that anybody on speaking terms with more than half of their family can qualify for money. I for one do not look forward to the day when the local LaRouche acolyte gets their check for $1 million to run their campaign.

        Now, FENA currently in my opinion tilts towards the latter goal - set high standards to qualify so that taxpayers aren't dishing out millions of dollars to fringe candidates in every district in the country. The flip side, of course, is that the standards are set so high that really only incumbents, celebrity candidates, and those with the backing of the party establishment and well-organized interest groups will have a chance to qualify. In other words, exactly the type of candidates that now are able to raise enough money to be competitive, will be able to get taxpayer dollars. Most others, not a chance.

        There is an interesting aspect of the "well organized interest group" angle. In states that have sufficient population bases (CA, NY, MA, FL, TX, IL, etc) it's not going to be terribly difficult for some fringe groups that are organized (depending on your politics, think Code Pink, Gun Owners of America, Minutemen, ACORN, Operation Rescue, LaRouche, etc) to get their hands on millions of taxpayer dollars. That's because all it takes is 1,500 contributions of $35 or so, and you've qualified for a million bucks courtesy of Uncle Sam.

        The diarist is right to be skeptical of these taxpayer funding schemes. For more info, check here:
        Fairly Flawed: Analysis of the 2009 Fair Elections Now Act

        Sean Parnell
        President
        Center for Competitive Politics
        http://www.campaignfreedom.org

  •  End Political Influence Peddling & Bribery, and (0+ / 0-)

    have publicly-financed campaigns.  (Corporate lobbyist trash and their Republican politician whores will be upset--they call bribery and influence peddling 1st Amendment rights.).  The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil.

  •  Only Voters/Citizens Should "Donate" w/Limits (0+ / 0-)

    Only qualified human beings can vote in our elections. Why should non-human beings have any say at all in our elections?

    Corporations are not "people" as our bought-and-paid-for legal industry has dictated. Corporations are a form of business and solely a creature of our laws. Corporations can't vote and shouldn't be able to. Corporations shouldn't be "donating" money to our representatives either.

    Corporations, get the hell out of politics and get back to business. Make better goods and services to compete with our global competitors. All those $$ millions that corporations "donate" to politicians can and should be put to better, more productive, uses.

    Sometimes a Great Notion, But Usually Not

    by Otherday on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 12:45:34 PM PDT

  •  I don't like the idea of publicly funded election (0+ / 0-)

    s. In my opinion it's the first step to a European style election system, and as a European I absolutely prefer the American system over ours.

    First, public funds for election wouldn't level the playing field. They would probably be mostly limited to Dems and Repubs, maybe distributed correspondingly to party registration or election results. Who would be in favor of funding the Happy Birthday Party?

    Second, the government could never match the billions and billions of dollars that are raised each election cycle right now. That would lead to two things->

    1. the political industry goes down, pollsters, consultants etc.
    1. campaigns would be led in a more down-key style. Why is that a bad thing?

    -if a politician runs under the radar because he never ran a visible campaign, he's more inclined to be corrupt because the likelihood of being uncovered is lower. In Germany, where I come from, whole state delegations get their orders from energy companies.
    And I couldn't name even 10 German congressmen- maybe one or two party leaders and the ones in my region, though we have more than your 435, while I could name dozens of both US representatives and senators blindfolded.

    -public participation in elections decreases. In theory, you can still donate to parties in Germany, the contribution caps are even nonexistent (there's just a limit of like $5000 up to which you can deduct the contribution). Still, no one does it. People go vote, yeah, but that's it. No volunteering, donating, nothing. And that's a bad thing, because here congressmen are somewhat in need to keep popular so that the public works to reelect them. Not in Germany. Hey, it's WAY easier for me to make a difference in a local US race from GERMANY than in a local race in my town. That's because things like canvassing, phonebanking etc. are unheard of here.

    And I think this is really damaging the Democratic system. Making elections founded by the public is in my view a step in that direction, so I strongly oppose doing it.

    •  What I don't understand (0+ / 0-)

      is how you link corporate donations to increased individual activism, and the lack of corruption. I see quite the opposite achieved in our system.

      In my personal experience, people got involved in BO's campaign precisely because they believed it would take us out of the system you describe. I don't find it heartening that my voice is lost to the almighty dollar. I don't find it motivating knowing that my best interests will be subservient to whomever had the largest bankroll.

      •  Not exactly lack of corruption (0+ / 0-)

        but making corporate donations illegal wouldn't help with the corruption problem. So what? The congressmen get well-paid 'consulting' jobs after they've left congress, or similar things.

        People volunteered for BO because he was an inspiring candidate, not because they thought he would change the public election system. Otherwise they should have volunteered for McCain, the main sponsor of McCain-Feingold who was in favor of such a system.

        But people also volunteer for Senate candidates, House candidates, local races, primaries, ballot initiatives etc.- and without that you wouldn't get this whole political culture with DailyKos and MoveOn.org or you-name-it. In Germany, politician's campaigns are funded by the state, so they don't NEED more than a simple vote from the citizens- and that destroys any political activism there could ever be.

        Make elections publicly funded, and DailyKos goes down in less than 2 years. Because no one will need the netroots.

        •  I disagree, especially (0+ / 0-)

          with the part about Obama. I voted for him because I believed he would do what was right for the people first and foremost, not Big Business.

          I'd have to do more research before I could talk about 100% publicly funded elections, but I'm more interested in restricting corporate "speech". I think individual citizens acting as individuals should be able to use their money as they see fit (within law and reason, of course).

          I just don't see political activism disappearing as you describe. There's too many issues to near to people's hearts for them to just look away, and no longer try to get the candidate they want in the office.

          Maybe the problem isn't in the funding system, but in the fact that German candidates aren't inspiring the electorate, or there's just nothing they care about enough to be an activist.

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