Comprehesive Campaign Reform - in 3 words

No television ads.

Up 'til now, campaign reform has focused on the supply of money to candidates. How about shriveling up the demand?

Work with me here. Isn’t the essence of the problem that candidates need to raise so much $ (principally) in order to buy TV commercials? From this fundamental truth flows most of the problems with our system: the power of special interest groups, soft money, etc. Am I wrong?

If political ads on TV were simply illegal, wouldn’t public office be MUCH more accessible to non-rich people, and wouldn’t incumbents be able to actually do their job instead of perpetually fundraising?

I’m anticipating the argument that the First Amendment prohibits this idea. But I think there might be some wiggle room there worth debating.

What about video ads on the internet?

What about movie trailer ads?

What about billboards with video content?

The money is going to be there, and it will find a way to be spent. If not on TV, then on something else. There’s a lot of talk radio out there that people listen to.

How are we supposed to know which candidate to vote for if the magic box doesn’t tell us?

My three words: Can’t be done.

Someone will always find a loophole, and no matter what or how the law may be written it always skates the very fine line between Contitutional and unethical.

Yeah, that “loophole” is the First Amendment.

This would bring up some First Amendment issues, wouldn’t it?

Renob stole my thought! Stolen! :slight_smile:

My comprehensive reform would be a lot simpler: No privately funded ads, just those using federal campaign dollars. And especially none of those “non-party but still political” ads, like the swiftboaters.

To paraphrase Bush: Bill of Rights, schmill of rights.
If something is against the public interest, there are ways to change it.
If a constituional amendment is required, then let’s propose that as well.

Why are political ads automatically protected by the 1st amendment? Cigarette ads aren’t , and other types of ads are regulated in form or content. Seems like political ads cold be regulated or outright banned.

Now, I don’t think that a a law like this would pass, but why the automatic invocation of the 1st?

Suppose that a right wing guy decides to make a movie about the Iraq war, slanting it towards the Republicans’ view. Would that be OK under your system? Suppose, for instance, he shows a scene where a bunch of Democratic Senators are meeting and talk about how they hope the war fails and that the US loses. Is that OK? All fictional names, of course.

You’d have to create a new precedent for that, I believe. The precedent for regulating commercial speech is well established. When you start regulating political speech you head into new territory. I’m sure some clever legal type could make a case, but she’d have to convince the SCOTUS-- which would not be easy.

There’s still newspaper, magazine articles, radio, and snail-mailers.

Just incomplete, I think.

The campaign budget isn’t all “ad time”. There’s also paying for the candidates (and their huge entourages) travel expenses as they fly from city to city, staying in hotels, eating in fine dining establishments, paying for the permits to hold their speeches, hiring security, making sure there are enough balloons and funny hats at the rally, renting limos, driving around and shaking the hands of the elite (and the unwashed) of the region, and so on.

Alas, I don’t think it can be done, as worthy a goal as it is.

Something I’ve wondered about: could a single billionaire, or perhaps a consortium of them, fundamentally change political campaigning?

They would need to ask all candidates to accept federal funding (which, traditionally, all realistic candidates deny, in order to earn the vastly larger pot of private funding, which beholdens them to special interests in the opinions of virtually everyone, including myself). Any candidate who accepted would receive an ironclad promise from the billionaire: if they agreed in principal to accept only federal funds and their opponent failed to make that agreement, the agreeing candidate could make a special withdrawal from the federal funds agreement. That special withdrawal would involve a commitment to accept funds ONLY from the billionaire. The billionaire would agree then to match the opponent’s entire campaign chest, plus twenty percent.

In other words, let’s say Romney and Clinton square off. Soros makes this across-the-board offer. Romney agrees to take it; Clinton does not. Romney then does not take federal funds; instead, he signs up with Soros. Clinton raises $50 million by the first quarter. As long as Romney accepts no other donations, Soros puts $60 million into Romney’s campaign.

I know there are personal limits on donations to a campaign, but I’m also pretty sure that donors are experts at avoiding these limits. Could a billionaire do something like this to intimidate candidates into accepting only federal funding?


“Special interest groups” are a mixed bag. The “problem” with our system is a few hundred guys represent 300 million. The words “special interest group” and “lobbyist” are dirty words in America. But realistically, what is more effective at influencing your elected representatives on issues that are important to you; sending personal letters or donating money to a group like AARP to advocate in Washington for you? By contributing to a group that represents your interests you gain the services of people who know the ins and outs of Washington, how things work, and how to make things work.

I agree that the special interest groups are a “mixed bag” but they aren’t faceless entities. AARP represents people, it’s made up of people. All of whom deserve a voice in politics and, if an issue is very important to them, they deserve a chance to express their opinions on that issue collectively to try and attract political attention from elected representatives. Lobbying groups which represent say, the automotive energy are likewise, ultimately, an organization of citizens. The corporations that industry lobby groups represent provide millions of Americans with jobs and make our economy strong.

There’s obviously a fine line. No one likes the idea of special interest groups buying candidates the ideal is that a candidate who represents one group’s ideas gets donations from that group because that group wants to see that guy elected. The reality is, often times lobbying groups have become almost wholly separate entities from the “common man” supporters of their ideals (be it environmentalists, the retire, or et cetera), and they often engage in outright bribery and exchange favors with politicians. I don’t think we should seek to destroy lobbyists or special interest groups, though, we just need to find a better way to manage them. If you destroy them, then how will individual citizens “focus” their efforts on big issues? By banding together? Well, once they do that, they’ve effectively become a lobbying group.

What makes you think this? There were no TV political ads from at least say, 1776-1940s (I have no idea when the first TV political ad was aired.) Look at the list of who was influential in American politics over that span of time, it’s a list that is primarily populated by the elites. There’s a host of reasons that the elites have always been the key figures in politics, they’re usually better educated, they usually do not have to worry day-to-day about keeping food on their table, so they have more time to be involved in civic activities and et cetera.

FWIW, while Federal politics usually has been dominated by elites, on the local level ordinary people have historically been elected all the time, and still are.

Without campaign ads, incumbents would enjoy even higher re-election rates than they already do. People like to vote for a name that they recognize (otherwise, you might be voting for a LaRouchie or even, gasp, a libertarian), and they will always recognize the name of the incumbent because incumbents are in the news. Campaign ads give challengers a chance to buy recognition and at least somewhat even the playing field.

This sounds an awful lot like, “We had to destroy free speech in order to save it.” I’m just failing to see how political speech shouldn’t be afforded the highest protection possible by the First Amendment? If not political speech, I am at a loss to figure out what kind of speech should be most highly protected: advertisements? sports broadcasts? Even if you say that news broadcasts must be highly protected, one is implicitly acknowledging that the importance of being able to inform Americans about current events is paramount, so why draw a distinction between political speech and news broadcasts?

I can’t see any “wiggle room” whatsoever in the First Amendment protecting actual honest-to-god political speech. Of course the Supreme Court has ruled that there are some vague limits on the degree to which campaign contributions are protected as free speech, but that’s really not the same thing at all.

I’m growing ever more fond of public financing of all Federal campaigns.

So if I have a problem with a candidate for political office, I’m not allowed to try to get my message out unless some media company (CNN, NY Times, etc) deems to share with me a little bit of their precious airtime?

The three key words in election reform:

Money isn’t speech.

In France, no candidate is allowed to buy TV time; each candidate in a given race gets an equal amount of free airtime to present his/her views. We could learn something from that.

A persuasive argument that banning the purchase of political ad time would not be unconstitutional.

:dubious: Really? Other things being equal, who has an easier time soliciting campaign contributions – the incumbent or the challenger?