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-   -   Goddammit...Public Finance Reform... (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=565322)

lurking guest 06-01-2010 05:13 AM

Goddammit...Public Finance Reform...
 
Everybody 'picks' their comfortable political party.

Liberals.
Conservatives.
Libertarians.
Socialists.

WHAT EVVVer.

Can we ALL agree that over the last year, our intellects and factual evidences have led us to SEE and UNDERSTAND, that the goddamned problem with the Bank Bailout and the Big Insurance Industry and health care debacle and the BP Oil problems are ALL because our Congress is far more BOUGHT than that poor, naive Mark Twain ever thought possible?

It's time to put pressure on our Congress people to EXPLAIN why the F**k they keep complaining about "all of the corrupting money in Congress"...and yet...never do a damn thing about it!

Do they think we're all stupid? (YES...unfortunately...they think we are.)

In one WEEK they could ALL agree on public financing of campaigns.

WHY do they NOT do it?

Because, IF they did, all of those WEALTHY, WONDERFUL, PRIVATE BUSINESS people would QUIT offering money and FUTURE 'perks.'

So ..., sadly, our congress keeps trying to hold their jobs, 'split the difference' between voters and the monied interests and HANG ON TO THEIR SMALL BUSINESS FRANCHISES in Congress.

VOTE THE FUCKERS GONE.

Really Not All That Bright 06-01-2010 09:07 AM

Okay, so you vote the fuckers gone. Then what?

Smeghead 06-01-2010 09:23 AM

Then HAPPINESS AND UNICORNS AND PUPPY BREATH AND RAINBOWS!!!!!

Darth Nader 06-01-2010 09:29 AM

Puppy Breath?

eeew.

Rhythmdvl 06-01-2010 09:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Darth Nader (Post 12520809)
Puppy Breath?

eeew.

Unicorn-fed puppies have Skittles breath.

Enderw24 06-01-2010 09:38 AM

My Senator's breath smells like puppy food.

BrainGlutton 06-01-2010 10:17 AM

Yeah, well, first we need a SCOTUS that will reverse Buckley v. Valeo.

From The Next American Nation, by Michael Lind (The Free Press, 1995), pp. 256-259 (from before the McCain-Feingold Bill, but I don't think the picture has changed all that much since it passed):

Quote:

Campaign financing is by far the most important mechanism for overclass influence in government. The real two-party system in the United States consists of the party of voters and the tiny but influential party of donors. The donor party in the United States is made up of an extraordinarily small number of citizens. In 1988, according to one study, only 10.2 percent of the American public made a contribution to a candidate, party, or partisan group. . . . The group of large political donors is a still more exclusive club. According to a study by Citizen Action, in the 1989-90 election cycle only 179,677 individual donors gave contributions greater than $200 to a federal candidate, political action committee (PAC), or party: "Thirty-four percent of the money spent by federal candidates was directly contributed by no more than one-tenth of one percent of the voting age population." One may reasonably doubt that this one tenth of one percent is representative of the electorate or the population at large.

<snip>

Special interests buy favors from congressmen and presidents through political action committees (PACs), devices by which groups like corporations, professional associations, trade unions, investment banking groups -- can pool their money and give $10,000 per election to each House and Senate candidate. Today there are more than 4,000 Political Action Committees (PACs) of various kinds registered with the Federal Election Commission; in 1974, when they were sanctioned by law, there were only 500. PAC money is driving campaign costs to new heights. In 1992, the average Senate incumbent spent more than $3.6 million for re-election; that is the equivalent of raising $12,000 a week in a single six-year term. Members of Congress, by comparison, spend only an average of $557,403 to be re-elected -- a "mere" $5,000 a week for a two-year term. The average cost of a House campaign has risen to this level from $140,000 in 1980 -- and $52,000 in 1974.

The chief beneficiaries of rising campaign costs and PAC contributions have been incumbents. In 1972, 52 cents of the average PAC dollar went to incumbents, compared to 25 cents to challengers (the rest went to candidates for open seats); in the 1988 House elections, incumbents received 84.4 cents of each PAC dollar and challengers only 8.6 cents. It makes more sense for lobbies to buy access to established members of Congress and senators -- particularly those with important leadership positions -- than to fund challengers, who, if elected, would have no seniority and little influence. . . . Former Senator Barry Goldwater has lamented, "The Founding Fathers would frown in their graves if they saw us rationing candidacies sheerly on the basis of money: who has -- or can raise -- the millions necessary to run for office."

Democrats, when they were members of the majority party, received more PAC money than Republicans, though both parties are saturated with it. Contrary to conservative claims that liberal lobby groups dominate Congress, PAC funds come overwhelmingly from business: in 1990, 65 percent of PAC contributions came from business PACs, compared to 24 percent from labor and only 11 percent from ideological groups (including conservative as well as liberal pressure groups). "At one point," John Judis has pointed out, "the American Petroleum Institute employed more lobbyists in Washington than the entire labor movement."
They don't come much more libertarian than Goldwater, and even he was appalled at this state of affairs.

From the same book, pp. 311-313:

Quote:

Today's U.S. government is democratic in form but plutocratic in substance. . . . In a misguided 1976 decision, Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court held that Congress could not limit spending by rich Americans promoting their own candidacies. This decision was to the equalization of voting power what Dred Scott was to abolitionism. In The Yale Law Review, Jamin Raskin and John Boniface have argued that political candidates in the United States must win a "wealth primary." Candidates without enormous amounts of money, either from their own fortunes or from rich individuals and special interest groups, cannot hope to win the party primaries -- much less general elections. Indeed, the Buckley decision is one reason why more than half the members of the Senate today are millionaires. . . .

It is time to build a wall of separation between check and state. Curing the disease of plutocratic politics requires a correct diagnosis of its cause: the costs of political advertising. The basic problem is that special interests buy access and favors by donating the money needed for expensive political advertising in the media. Elaborate schemes governing the flow of money do nothing to address the central problem: paid political advertising. Instead of devising unworkable limits on campaign financing that leave the basic system intact, we should cut the Gordian knot of campaign corruption by simply outlawing paid political advertising on behalf of any candidate for public office. The replacement of political advertising by free informational public service notices in the electronic and print media would level the playing field of politics and kill off an entire parasitic industry of media consultants and spin doctors.

An outright ban on paid political advertising and the imposition of free time requirements on the media are radical measures, but nothing less is necessary if we are to prevent our government from continuing to be sold to the highest bidders. The argument against strict public regulation of money in politics is based on a false analogy between free spending and free speech protected under the First Amendment. The analogy is false, because limits on campaign finance do not address the content of speech -- only its volume, as it were. It is not an infringement on free speech to say that, in a large public auditorium, Douglas will not be allowed to use a microphone unless Lincoln can as well.*

*A much more compelling analogy would be between the electoral process and the judicial system, with the electorate playing the role of the jury. In our system of trial by jury, there are elaborate rules governing the presentation of evidence to the jury by plaintiff and defendant (the "candidates"). If our judicial system were organized the way our judicial system is, then rich candidates would be allowed to buy time before the jury. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, in one Senate election, outspent his opponent by 300 to 1; the equivalent, in the judicial system, would be allowing a rich defendant to buy, say, six months to present his side of the case, while the poor plaintiff might be able to purchase only twenty minutes for his side.

Ravenman 06-01-2010 10:44 AM

Shoot, people don't even tick that little box on the top of their tax return to designate $3 to go to public financing program for presidential elections, even though the money doesn't add a single penny to their taxes!

I see through a little googling that in 2002, only 11% of Americans ticked the box.

I fully, 100% support publicly financed campaigns. However, I don't delude myself into thinking that Americans actually support such a thing; and even if it were more widely adopted, most people would probably think that politicians were crooks for taking public money to run a political campaign.

Darth Nader 06-01-2010 11:08 AM

How do you feel about publicly funded tasty fruity smelling unicorn farts?

Ravenman 06-01-2010 11:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Darth Nader (Post 12521222)
How do you feel about publicly funded tasty fruity smelling unicorn farts?

What color?

Cat Whisperer 06-01-2010 11:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lurking guest (Post 12520412)
Everybody 'picks' their comfortable political party.

Liberals.
Conservatives.
Libertarians.
Socialists.

WHAT EVVVer.

Can we ALL agree that over the last year, our intellects and factual evidences have led us to SEE and UNDERSTAND, that the goddamned problem with the Bank Bailout and the Big Insurance Industry and health care debacle and the BP Oil problems are ALL because our Congress is far more BOUGHT than that poor, naive Mark Twain ever thought possible?<snip>

I can agree with that. It might be my political naiveté speaking, but I don't see how you get a government that is elected and rules democratically when the people with the money tell them how to vote and choose who you will vote for.

Excellent information, BrainGlutton. I have wondered how the US got such an obviously flawed system. When I first heard about the lobbying system in the US, I thought I was misunderstanding - how can people be allowed to buy influence of the politicians that are making laws for everyone? Why doesn't anybody see how wrong this is?

Tom Tildrum 06-01-2010 11:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ravenman (Post 12521109)
Shoot, people don't even tick that little box on the top of their tax return to designate $3 to go to public financing program for presidential elections, even though the money doesn't add a single penny to their taxes!

I see through a little googling that in 2002, only 11% of Americans ticked the box.

I fully, 100% support publicly financed campaigns. However, I don't delude myself into thinking that Americans actually support such a thing; and even if it were more widely adopted, most people would probably think that politicians were crooks for taking public money to run a political campaign.

Now that the 2008 election removed any stigma from forgoing public finance, I'd be surprised if any presidential candidate ever opted in again.

Nametag 06-01-2010 12:47 PM

Meaningful electoral finance reform is unconstitutional. Money is speech, saith the Supreme Court, and speech is free. Except when you say it to a politician. Or with flowers. Or something.

Seriously, if we can't stop everyone from spending outrageous amounts of their own money on politics, maybe we shouldn't be stopping anyone. That's why I'm against California's Prop. 15 -- it's a pilot public financing option on this month's ballot that's got huge support among local members of my party, despite the fact that MEG WHITMAN IS ON THE SAME BALLOT! Meg Whitman, the one-woman argument incarnate against half-assed campaign reform. Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who is spending up to $150 million of her own money to buy the governorship. Meg Whitman, who didn't bother to VOTE!

Yes, by all means, let's encourage candidates to handcuff themselves before leaping into shark-infested waters. The thrashing is oh-so-enjoyable.

Smeghead 06-01-2010 02:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ravenman (Post 12521376)
What color?

Rainbow. Duh.

Darth Nader 06-01-2010 04:53 PM

Yeah, skittle farts.

zamboniracer 06-01-2010 06:42 PM

The OP might consider joining the organization Fix Congress First. That group's website says today (6/1/10)

Quote:

Friend --

I have some exciting news: this Wednesday, State Rep. David Segal introduced a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to reform our electoral system.

If the General Assembly approves this resolution, Rhode Island will become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention to break Congress' dependence on special interest money.

This Tuesday, June 1st, the Assembly will hold a public hearing on this resolution. I'll be there to testify, and I could really use your support. Will you come and help show the strength of this movement?

Let us know you're coming by signing up here:

http://callaconvention.org/hearing

Here are the details:

General Assembly Hearing on H 8186
House Lounge - State House
Tuesday, June 1st
5:00 p.m.

This is a great opportunity to make some real progress toward reforming our electoral system. I'll be presenting a version of my lecture to the Assembly, showing them why a Constitutional Convention is the only way to achieve the reform our democracy urgently needs.

It's crucial to have supporters like you to show that the People are behind this effort to repair our broken electoral system.

I hope you'll join me in Providence on Tuesday as we take an important step toward a government that's truly accountable to no one but the People.

http://callaconvention.org/hearing

-- Lawrence Lessig
This gets around Buckley v Valeo by amending the constitution.

Calling for a constitutional convention is risky, of course. There are no guidelines. The last time one was called - 1787 - was supposedly to just tinker with the Articles of Confederation, and looked what happened.

foolsguinea 06-01-2010 08:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer (Post 12521390)
Excellent information, BrainGlutton. I have wondered how the US got such an obviously flawed system. When I first heard about the lobbying system in the US, I thought I was misunderstanding - how can people be allowed to buy influence of the politicians that are making laws for everyone? Why doesn't anybody see how wrong this is?

You only need 51% to keep supporting it. Those who don't get it, those who want it, those who don't care, those who vote out of fear...& soon enough it's self-sustaining.

gonzomax 06-01-2010 09:29 PM

You are asking those who benefit from the present system to fix it. The elected politicians already have a funding organization in place . They know who to hit up for money and fund raising parties. If you accept that politics is the business of getting re-elected, it is unlikely that they will ever mend it. A person running against an incumbent is at a huge disadvantage , as our 95 percent re-election rate attests.
Campaign financing is the most corrupting influence in America. Any efforts to fix it depends on senators who get rich and powerful in office, to open the system up to all comers. That wont happen. That in spite of the fact they spend half their time raising money instead of doing the work they were elected to do.

Tom Tildrum 06-02-2010 12:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by gonzomax (Post 12523982)
That in spite of the fact they spend half their time raising money instead of doing the work they were elected to do.

Well, the campaign finance reform that has come to pass so far is the entire reason they spend half their time raising money, because they're required to raise it in small chunks. Previously, they could fund themselves through a couple of rich backers and not worry about asking small donors for money. The current system may be more demanding of the legislator's time, but I think it's more egalitarian.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer (Post 12521390)
I can agree with that. It might be my political naiveté speaking, but I don't see how you get a government that is elected and rules democratically when the people with the money tell them how to vote and choose who you will vote for.

Note that many lobbyists represent large groups of people who have pooled their money: AARP, SEIU, TIAA-CREF are just a couple that come to mind.

Also, the alternate perspective is that to public finance opponents, it seems dangerous to democracy for incumbents to set the terms upon which their challengers must campaign. The fear is the possibility of corruption.

Cat Whisperer 06-02-2010 02:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum (Post 12524614)
<snip> The fear is the possibility of corruption.

I can't tell if you're joking or not.

Tom Tildrum 06-02-2010 11:59 PM

Different type of corruption from what you're probably thinking of.

Below the level of the Presidency, which gets so much publicity as a matter of course, campaign finance restrictions are structurally going to favor the incumbent (of either party) because the incumbent has the advantage of name recognition and the public nature of the office. A challenger has to spend more to overcome those hurdles, and requiring them both to the work under the same limit can prevent that from happening.

This may be different from a parliamentary system like yours, where name recognition is relatively less important because of the strength of party identity. In your system, voters generally know what they're getting from a Liberal candidate, for instance. Down here, simply saying "I'm the Democratic candidate" carries less information, without further explanation.

I'm not dismissing the concern about not letting people with money tell you how to vote and choose who you will vote for. I'm just pointing out that there's a countervailing concern about not letting people with power do that either.


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