We Must Change Campaign Financing If We Ever Want Our Country Back
November 20, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – On January 21, 2010 the then conservative leaning Supreme Court handed the wealthier of the two major political parties a blank check for financing political campaigns by eliminating restriction on how much money corporations and businesses could donate to a political campaign or entity. Although logic would dictate that this ruling favored both parties, and in theory it does, it is clear by known fact that the Republican Party has a greater amount in pure numbers of wealthy corporate cousins to make and keep happy. It is also historically clear that the Republican Party has been much kinder to corporate America in handing them legislative victories and have loosened rules and laws that make it easier for them to be profitable and have written in loop holes that allow corporations to legally steal from their own consumers. Corporate America loves Republican candidates, especially incumbents.
But to imply that this was the only net positive effect of that Supreme Court ruling would be unfair to the system, and in truth, it was just one more tool that mostly incumbent politicians have at their disposal to almost guarantee reelection.
Please be mindful that I am a former candidate for Congress and the world of political money was a world I lived in for 24 torturous months.
There have been many attempts to control the amount of money and the process of collecting that money that candidates can raise. Some have been more effective than others while others have been a laughing stock, but my point of view really has nothing to do with any of that. Rules, laws and legislation are not the fix to financing campaigns, the honest fix is much simpler and fairer than you can imagine. In fact the fix is so simple that no one would ever go along with it, but let me offer it anyway.
Allow each candidate the exact amount of money to run their campaign. Assign a set dollar amount to each level of a campaign. As an example, as a candidate for state office you would have access to $100,000 to run your campaign in a general election, say $50,000 if you have a primary and many state offices never have primaries. For Congress both candidates would raise $100,000 in a primary and no more then $200,000 for the general election. And then adjust accordingly for Senate and Presidential races.
Now, each candidate would still have to raise their own money and there would be limits placed on how much they can take from an individual contributor, with corporate entities and Unions not being able to contribute at all. We would eliminate PAC dollars and special interest dollars would be barred as well. For issue ads, let’s say legalizing medicinal marijuana, the political group that was formed to get the initiative on the ballot would be allowed to raise up to a defined amount as would an organization formed to oppose the measure.
It’s called being fair.
Furthermore, if candidates are given basically the same amount of money to establish themselves and without all the useless organizations that oppose candidates and pay outrageous amounts of money to do that we would be left with a much more straight forward campaign that would be focused on me the candidate, not on you my sleazy opponent.
Money is what makes politics sick. Money is what drives policy and control, and if we were to literally take money out of campaigns then we would in effect be taking a huge step forward toward more transparency and truth in advertising. The incumbent would be forced to run on his/her record as opposed to running away from it. With a finite amount of money to spend the interesting thing would be to see how each candidate allocated that money. Media would not be the driving factor in a campaign. It would force especially incumbents to come out of the political closet and actually meet with voters and attend rallies and well, show up to stuff where they could be questioned. Incumbents especially don’t like to do that. They hide and allow other organization to do their dirty work while adding millions of dollars to their campaign coffers which will some day have to be rewarded.
You can simply go to any search engine and follow campaign contributions to a politician and then follow legislation to that politician and see how a contributor benefitted from it. It’s easy stuff. I’m not suggesting that we would totally eliminate that problem, but what I am suggesting it that on a level playing field there would be a much higher rate of political turnover if the money game were played fairly.
We will never know how many truly excellent candidates were never elected to office because they could not come close to the fundraising levels they would need to knock off an incumbent, but we can look at races where a challenger had a hot hand at fundraising and were able to knock off an incumbent because the game became much more of a fair fight.
I’m betting that no matter where you are as you read this there is a politician that serves you that you and many other continue to wonder how they get reelected over and over and over again. It’s because they have money and with money comes a much easier path to winning, no matter how bad that candidate is to you, because the reality is that that politician is critically important to a corporate society that is willing to fund them to whatever extent it takes to ensure their best interests are well served. And truthfully, there are very few of us as citizens that have the same monetary reach.
If you want a more even playing field, if you want more transparency in politics, if you want more equitable legislation, then what you really want is radical campaign financing reform. My plan is a start and one that needs greater thought and definition, but it is an excellent start and above all else it would take 99% of corruption out of the process and would allow us to elect people to represent us that actually had to define who they are, what their positions are, and to work hard at doing that, making election time once again about feet on the ground instead of checks in the bank.
Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can read his Blog at http:// www.mediatraining.me