So is the Public Financing of Presidential elections a good thing?

We have two threads already on the specifics of Obama’s opt out, if it is breaking a promise or not, etc., so please keep that out of this thread. This thread is about how the public financing of Presidential elections has been working and how it and other campaign finance reform measures have changed the nature of fundraising and marketing candidates. In so far as Obama and McCain illustrate these issues they are fair game but please keep the debate about how this reflects on those candidates in the other threads.

If I understand correctly the goal of public financing and campaign finance reform were to decrease the reliance on big money contributors. They have it seems succeeded somewhat in that goal. Individuals’ big money can still get funneled into 527s and distributed to various state party groups but the real big money today is apparently brought in by volume volume volume of smaller contributers. This result has helped the movement style of candidate and hindered the candidates of the big donors for campaign funds and moved the big individual donor monies into 527s that are not able to be directly controlled by the candidates handlers.

Is that assessment on target? Is this a good or a bad outcome? Should a Presidential election be publicly funded? If so would you change the system from how it is now and how would you change it if you would?

Absolutely a good thing. Every dime from public funds. Cut the impact of the wealthy and corporations .

527’s should be eliminated and only individual contributions allowed. No other funds should be used for ads, endorsements, etc. The limit of $2,300 per individual seems about right. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars to allow money for campaigns. If a candidate can’t get individual donations sufficient to cover their campaign, perhaps they should take a hint and not run.

Desert, what about freedom of speech? Individual citizens do have a right to get out their POVs and to organize in ways to allow themselves to do so, don’t they?

gonzo, yet Obama, going outside of public financing, is getting a smaller percentage of his campaign’s overall financing from corporations than many who have opted into public financing in the past. In response to his lead even is shutting down its 527 that could (and I am sure did) accept big-money contributions. Whereas the candidate participating in public financing is accepting more big-money and directing it to legal other entities.

Now tis true that a campaign that does it that way loses direct control of their message, but the point is that accepting public financing does not seem to be in any way correlated with a decrease in the influence of big money if this cycle is to be any judge.

The limit of $2300 seems to be sufficient to decrease the potential for big-money control if it were not for the loophole of 527s, which are allowed with or without a candidate opting into public financing. And shutting down 527s wholesale seems to go against freedom of speech rights for private citizens.

I don’t know what the answer is.

But what about in Obama’s case? The impact of a huge grassroots network of small, private donors would be cut by mandatory participation in the public campaign funding system, too.

No public funds, no limits, full discloser. That’s my position. I don’t favor limiting someone’s freedom to donate money to a politician, so long as that politician accounts for where all the money comes from. Let us, the voters, decide for ourselves if we care.

As for 527s, I don’t see how you could eliminate them without violating the 1st amendment.

Astonishingly enough, John, I disagree. Rather a lot, actually. The unfortunate side effect of your stance is to place inordinate political power in the hands of the guys who got the bucks. Who will, naturally enough, be tempted to warp the situation so as to get more of those same bucks. Well, duh.

Money talks, yes, but I see no reason to believe it should vote, as well. Any system that empowers one citizen politically over another is, and ought to be, anathema. One citizen, one vote, whether or not that citizen has a million dollars or one.

It may be that such a plan hinders, to some minor degree, the free speech protections of rich guys. I will weep for them. OK, I’m over it.

That is only true with Obama, who has opted out of the public funds system. The guy that still uses public funds is getting most of his contributions from big donors.

It obviously doesn’t work too well.

I like John Mace’s take on this. Change the system to mandate full disclosure and let the voters decide if they care where the money is coming from.

There is actually no evidence that campaign contributions “warp the situation”:

I was unaware that in our system one could buy the opportunity to vote more than once. I’d like to see some evidence of that change, please. I was under the impression that when Bill Gates goes into the voting booth he, like me, is only able to cast one ballot.

Ah, yes, the Constitution only applies to people with whom you agree or whom you like. It’s great to get to pick and choose which people deserve constitutional protection.

Fascinating! And if we were, in fact, discussing the voting patterns of Congresspersons, it would be even relevent. Sadly, no.

Campaign finance. That’s the issue. I fear that you have misunderstood. A lot. A whole lot. A less generous man would suspect that you did so deliberately.

Drivel. I would like to say I was disappointed. Alas.

Since the discussion was about how politicians react to campaign contributions, I thought it was, indeed, relevant. But if you can provide a study that indicates Presidential candidates change their positions because of money given by their contributors, I’d be happy to take a look at it. But the larger campaign finance truth remains – campaign contributions follow ideology, they do not create it.

Let’s see, I was responding to this comment: “One citizen, one vote, whether or not that citizen has a million dollars or one.”

So save your self-righteousness. You raised the issue, not me. So please back up your assertion that the campaign finance system supported by John Mace would result in rich folks having more than one vote.

So your assertion that you aren’t too sad that your system would infring on the constitutional rights of rich people can be read some other way?

Yeah, right. You read what I wrote and thought “Aha! Dim-witted 'luc thinks rich folks buy extra votes at Votes 'R Us, exactly what one might expect from such a dimwit.” Sure you did. Apparently, because you are willing to believe that I’m stupid. You are welcome to that opinion.

Nothing you’ve written here would do anything to disabuse me of that opinion if I did indeed hold it.

I’ll break this down into bite size bits for you, do let me know if I type too fast.

In a democracy, voting is the most fundamental of rights, it exceeds even the right to property, because it has to do with the distribution of political power. Ideally, that should be as equal as possible. Of course it isn’t entirely equal, our republic system accepts that inherent inequality, issues must be decided by the elected, as a practical matter.

Hence, it is even more important that political viewpoints be aired as openly and freely as possible, that the citizen has access to the entire spectrum of political opinion on any given subject. One cannot be fairly asked to choose between alternatives if one viewpoint has a megaphone, and another can only whisper. Too often in our past the view of the rich and powerful have had a public presence that wildly exceeds their number, their money grants them more political power than they deserve. They deserve equality, and no one in their right mind seeks to deny them equality, indeed, we seek to impose equality upon them. One can hope that they will welcome such progress.

How is this best to be done? I’m not sure, but hold out hope that we can experiment and tinker, we can move ever closer to political equality for all, even as we know we will not be perfect.

I am entirely content that the wealthy can purchase more loud, shiny crap than I, it is of no consequence. But he has no right to a louder public voice than I. We are all about influencing or neighbors and citizens, and that privilege is exalted, nearly as holy as a secular concept can attain. We should cherish and nurture that equality.

If public finance of elections and the debates thereof will enhance and nurture that equality, it is good. If it does not, it is not. In the past, I have more or less blindly supported public finance for elections because I despaired that the unmoneyed candidates would ever get a fair shake. Recent events have called that into question, it appears that the people can and may seize the initiative and assert thier power more or less directly. Or, in other words, hallelujah!

So, perhaps public financing is not necessary to ensure equality of participation. If so, then it doesn’t seem to have much of a selling point, and has the weakness of being open to corruption and abuse, it is far too easy for the powerful to remain powerful, far too difficult for the powerless to overturn that order.

If anyone can propose a system that answers all those concerns at once, I am all ears.

And considering the fact that the Founding Fathers placed a much greater emphasis on property than on voting, I’d say that your view of things may sound nice but it does not necessarily have much to do with our political system.

I agree. Of course, you support efforts by the government to shut down certain people from speaking (at least if they are “rich guys”). I’m unsure how to reconcile the notion that viewpoints should be aired freely with giving power to the government to censor the speech of some.

Deserve, huh? How do you determine who deserves what? You are going to put the government in charge of determining this. That seems like a pretty dangerous thing – putting the state in control of telling people how they can criticize elected officials or advocate for political change.

“Imposing” equality – has a nice totalitarian ring to it.

Political equality means one man, one vote. You don’t get political equality by empowering the government to censor political views.

Why not? If he enters into a voluntary contract with a newspaper or TV station to purchase time or space in order to air his views, why is he not entitled to it? Just because you lack the means does not mean that his right to state his political views should be infringed upon by the government.

Your definition of “equality” to mean that “no one shall express a political opinion with more vehemence than the least wealthy” makes a mockery of the term.

Corporations and the wealthy do not deserve a greater political impact. They are not entitled to make policy . They are not entitled to have special access to the politicians. They sure as hell do not fund campaigns without expecting something in return.
The rich and powerful hang around together. They will have to be satisfied with that. We can not stop senators from golfing with big money ,but we can discourage overt financial control of elections
Public funding is the only way to go. Perhaps it would encourage greater 3rd party involvement… We complain about how the parties are becoming more and more alike,yet do not stop the very thing that causes it.

Gotta agree. As long as campaigning requires a huge amount of money, the pols will find some way to get it, no matter the current technicalities. They have to. The only way to reduce the influence of money on politicians is to reduce their *need * for it.

Been a few changes in our political system since the last days of the eighteenth *fucking * century! Quite a few, actually. I like to think of that as progress. YMMV.

Damn, man, I am not playing Twister with you, your gifts are sublime! Did I propose a means test in order to “shut down certain people”? No. Did I suggest that the wealthy should have less political equality than the rest of us? No. I hope, for sanitary reasons, you pulled this out of your own fundamental orifice. I mean, ewwwwww!

Simple enough, equal is equal. Hold these rights to be self-evident, all that cool jazz. Not as complicated as you seem intent on making it appear.

Bah, that ol’ Big Gummint Boogeyman. I don’t give a rat’s how big the government is, so long as we own it. And so longs we own, big, small, medium, don’t much care.

Huh? Where did you get that “criticize elected officials” crap? Put it back, at any rate, and don’t drag it out in polite company. You know I said no such thing.

Yeah, right. “Totalitarian”. Yeah, you got me there, pal. That’s me all over. C’mon, who you think you’re kidding here?

It also means the power to influence that vote, the power to inform the voter. There must be equality in opportunity to express viewpoints, otherwise, the simple right to speech becomes meaningless. You may be free to speak on a street corner, but if the other guy owns all the newspapers and TV, you aint got equality, you got squat, as in diddly.

OK, if that bothers you so much, suggest a plan so that the guy without the money has equal access. OK by me. No one has a right to an unfair advantage in political speech. In commercial speech its different. If Bayer can buy more airtime to sell more aspirin, more power to them. But a candidate, and a political policy, are not commodities, they are of a whole seperate order of importance.

Drivel. You are welcome to all the vehemence your little heart desires, as friend Der Tris demonstrates most precisely. What you don’t have is the right to restrict the medium of expression by an application of monetary power. If this is forbidden to the government, why should we permit private citizens to excercise such power? Just because they can, they can afford it?

Hell, at least the government is elected!

Nobody could ever shut the rich out. They hob nob with the powerful. What we fear is their having all the access and all the power. The wealthy are not getting their rights trampled. Never have ,never will. But they are not entitled to run the government behind the scenes.

And these changes happened with the rights of the rich to express their political views freely. Your whole program of limiting political speech is predicated on the flawed notion that the rich frustrate the political equality of the poor. Since the history of our nation repudiates that notion pretty clearly, you seem to lack any basis for your views.

Your maturity never ceases to amaze me. :rolleyes:

However, you did indeed propose shutting certain people down by banning them from making any political expression they desire. You want the government to set an arbitrary standard outside of which no one could express his or her political views, as I understand it.

Considering that you want to enforce equality of outcomes, something which is pretty anathema to our fundamental human rights, I have a hard time reconciling your views with those expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Your idea that we can empower government to enforce this ban on speech in a way you desire goes contrary to the history of government since the beginning of man. At the risk of agreeing with gonzo, you can’t shut out the rich. As the rich have always done, they will find a way to influence the government. Any campaign finance “reform” laws passed have easily been subverted by those with money. Furthermore, these laws are written by politicians and result in the advantages of incumbency being strengthened. Your utopian ideal is pretty unrealistic. If you give government more power, it will only benefit the rich and those who are elected to represent us.

I thought we were discussing political speech here. You do realize, don’t you, that elections revolve, in large part, around criticizing elected officials. If you have some plan for restricting political speech that will at the same time allow an unlimited amount of speech criticizing elected officials, I’d like to hear it.

You said it, not me.

No, it doesn’t. Democracy is purely about voting, not about speech. Yes, for a democracy to work you must allow free speech. But with your system that wants to restrict the rights of voters to express their views, I have a hard time seeing how that squares with any democratic impulse.

Yes, everyone is able to express his or her political views to the greatest extent possible. Some people will be able to buy more air time, so what? That doesn’t mean my right to express my views is lessened. It may not be perfect, but it certainly beats the alternative where you either provide government subsidies to promote political views (which would involve taking tax money from me in order to promote speech I may find abhorrent) or restricting the rights of some people to express their views (which is what you are advocating).

So your answer is to restrict the rights of the person who owns newspapers and TV. Why should my right to express my views be abridged simply because I happen to have more money than you?

Yes, they do. The right of every American to speak freely means there will always be an “unfair advantage” for some.

Speech is speech, and the First Amendment says that Congress shall enact no law abridging its free exercise.

Who is restricting the medium of expression by monetary power? If you enter into an agreement with someone who owns a newspaper or a TV or radio station to express your views, no one is restricting your rights. If you can’t do so, then no one is restricting your rights, either. You don’t have a right to force someone to do something you desire. You only have the right to seek to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with someone else.

That makes absolutely no sense. It isn’t legal for private individuals to shut down newspapers or TV station they don’t own, is it?

The government can force people to do things. If I don’t obey the government, they can jail or kill me. If I don’t obey a private citizen (and I’m not on his property), he can’t do anything to me (legally). That’s the difference. That’s why we have a Constitution.

But trying to claim that because Bill Gates can start a foundation to advocate for more political attention on the problems of education means that my rights of free expression are being infringed upon is just ridiculous. Free speech isn’t a pie; if somone has a lot it doesn’t mean that I have less. And in this world of expanding technology, that is more true than ever. The barriers to entry to start something like a blog or even a small local newspaper are very, very low.