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Old 06-01-2010, 09:17 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Tampa, Florida
Posts: 78,508
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):

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.


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:

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.