Writings of a techie wizard
Thu, 08 Nov 2012
Now that the 2016 campaign has officially started, I thought it would be a good time to take another look at campaign finance reform. This is a very frustrating subject for me, as I'm sure it is for many; every scheme I've seen so far, from what I can tell, is just an attempt by some special interest groups to give an advantage to their method of buying politicians over other methods of buying politicians. But I have a proposal to cut through all the posturing and get to the root of the problem:
We have a fundamental imbalance in the United States between political power and political rights. Special interest groups don't vote. Corporations don't vote. Religious organizations don't vote. Think tanks don't vote. Lobbying organizations don't vote. Individual people are the only ones who vote, and yet their political voices are the easiest ones to lose amidst all the noise from everywhere else. There's no single change that will fix that overnight, but limiting political contributions to individual voters seems like a good start.
I realize that this scheme is not perfect; the most obvious problem is that it gives an advantage to the rich, who have more money to contribute. Perhaps limits on individual contributions could be retained, similar to or maybe somewhat larger than the current ones. This would mean, for example, that no individual could contribute more than a few thousand dollars to any single candidate for a given election.
What?! I hear the politicians crying. A few thousand dollars per person? How are we going to amass our huge war chests at that rate? Well, maybe those huge war chests are part of the problem. Maybe politicians who don't have those huge pots of money coming from non-voting special interests will have to get creative in getting their message across. Like maybe actually talking about issues, or maybe even writing actual essays about their views and posting them on the web where everybody can read them, and having open discussions online about them so people can actually weigh the pros and cons. Putting up a web site costs next to nothing; even the Green party can afford one.
But if that doesn't satisfy the politicians, they would have another option: actually convince enough individual voters to contribute enough money to allow them to buy television airtime, ads in newspapers and magazines, and trips around the country to glad-hand the voters. I know that sounds like hard work compared to attending gala fund-raisers at hundreds or thousands of bucks a plate and getting free food and entertainment. But nobody said political life had to be easy.
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