Neo-Hippie Ramblings - I'm a Non-Conformist Just Like All My Friends: Steal This Election - Part II - Campaign Finance Reform

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Steal This Election - Part II - Campaign Finance Reform

Steal This Election

Part II - Campaign Finance Reform

Premise: Without significant reform in campaign finance, a truly representative government cannot exist.

Taxation without representation was one of the major factors given as justification for the American Revolution. That condition exists in America today.

Despite both parties claims to the contrary, neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party currently represents the best interests of Americans. Rather, members of both parties are significantly beholden to the interests of the lobbyists who finance their campaigns and, as a result, both parties act primarily in those lobbyists' interests.

Sometimes the interests of lobbyists match those of the People; at other times they are very different. It would not be fair to make a categorical claim either way. Regardless, though, it is still not appropriate in a democratic society that political lobbies should affect policy and legislation to a degree disproportionate to the segment of the population that they directly represent.

Free speech is granted by the Bill of Rights to American citizens. Corporate entities are not themselves citizens, and are granted no such right. So long as a political lobby or party represents a group of citizens, its existence is an extension of that group's political will, and the right to free political speech should logically be extended to the lobby or party.

However, at this time the only clear correlation between any given lobby and its relative degree of influence is the amount of financial power that the lobby happens to wield. Unfortunately, this creates situations in which corporate-backed lobbies can direct vast amounts of money into major politicial campaigns through PACs in order to protect interests that are of questionable benefit, at best, to the average American.

This brings us to a dilemma. It takes a significant amount of money to wage a successful political campaign at the state or national level, regardless of party or platform. While individual donations make up a portion of this funding, the lion's share is funneled through PACs. And so while only individual citizens are granted the right to elect candidates, the candidates available to them have been pre-selected, for all intents and purposes, by a few very wealthy investors and the agents of large corporate interests.

In many cases, these contributors hedge their bets by giving money to both major candidates. In fact, seven of the top twenty campaign contributors to the 2004 election gave large sums of money (over $160,000) to both George W. Bush and John Kerry.

As far as those groups were concerned, the election was over long before November 2nd, 2004. And their guy had won by a landslide. Depressed yet?

So what's the answer... ...abolish PACs? ...make it harder for an employee or family member of a Fortune 100 company to make a campaign contribution? ...campaign spending limits? ...equal airtime?

No, those answers are all bullshit because they violate free speech in some manner, there are ways to weasel around all of them and they only treat symptoms, not the underlying problem. The answer is simply this:

Give back control to the American people by giving them the
opportunity to support their political interests directly.

Here's how it would work:

  1. Create a standardized national registry of election committees, political parties and PACs. Require that each group develop a concise statement of purpose, a set of guiding principles and an independent financial audit process. Make this information publicly available via the internet, post offices and public libraries.

  2. Amend the IRS W-4 form to allow for the election of a pre-tax deduction of up to $2000/yr per household for the purpose of campaign support. In 2003, the Census Bureau reported 111 million US households. With a modest 10% rate of participation at the maximum level, this would provide 22 billion dollars per year in campaign funding. Give the American people the feeling that they have a real stake in the political process and the selection of electoral candidates, and I think you'll see an even higher rate of return.

  3. Amend the various IRS 1040 forms to allow for the confidential designation of campaign funding in percentile increments. Each of the individuals and groups in the standardized registry would have a unique contributor code, and would receive designated funds assigned by taxpayers when they completed their income tax returns.

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