The Tally Stick

Taking measure in our times

Archive for the ‘Public Financing of Elections’ tag

America Needs 100% Public Financing of State and Federal Elections to Bring Back Real Democracy

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It has become quite apparent in America that one of the major reasons we have a creation of policy in our government that is misses the mark clearly from its intended purpose, is the fact that all of our elected representatives owe special treatment to the companies and interests that were campaign donors during their election or re-elections.   This “treatment” comes in form of lobbying or placement of former employees of these companies in positions where they can influence the legislative process.

This is quite opposite of democracy and having our representatives as public servants for the public’s best interest.  In modern elections, unless you have a serious scandal in your past waiting to deride your election campaign, the person who raises the most money will win an election.  One example is the 44th President Barack Obama who rose over $500 million dollars in the 2008 presidential election (Note: I voted for Mr. Obama and no money was not the only reason he won).  Yes he had a policy campaign plank that Senator McCain but raising this kind of money really gave him a major advantage.  We saw this in the fact that he had enough money to run a 30 minute campaign ad to support his election on major networks.

This example is an extreme example but this is to re-enforce the point that money wins elections.  Another example is Mayor Michael Bloomberg who himself is a billionaire as the owner of Bloomberg LP, he used $65 million dollars of his own money for his re-election campaign.  This might not seem like much for a New York City election, but his competitor in a period from July to September was outspent 10-1 in the same period during the election cycle.  I don’t know Mayor Bloomberg is a good or a bad, to be honest I have not look at any of their campaign planks but I am using this to highlight how important money has become in elections and how if you are given major amounts of money, you are going to feel inclined to listen and take care of the people who supported you financially.

As long as these interests are influencing our policy on the state and federal level, we will severely limited in the ability to make the major structural changes we need in the United States to get us on the correct path in this new inter-connect global world.  We need representatives that are being elected on their merit solely if we as a society expect them to make policies that is for the public good and in our interest which is a core tenet of democracy.

One more example is the massive bailout that was given to our banking & financial institutions during the crisis that started to unfold in March of 2007.  In a normal free enterprise capitalist system, you let companies that made decisions to put their firm into insolvency fail and firms that made prudent choices get to prosper.  Instead because of the major influence these financial companies had in all forms of our federal government, not only campaign contributions but actual members of the banking community in high levels office that oversee and make regulate, we bailed almost all of the largest financial interests out except the ones who were not as connected.  In this scenario we set a precedent of moral hazard that invites this to happen again in a much larger fashion on the fact that they now know the probability of them being bailed out by the United State government is actually really high.  If we remember, a majority of the American public was against the the bailout and the first attempt at the TARP bill was defeated and then the large players in the markets made it fall precipitously.  I believe this was done to show the influence the financial players had and to demonstrate what would happen if they did not get what they asked for.

This influence has to be eliminated from our government in a major way or our democracy will continue to be subvert by special interest.

Proposed Solution:

1. Take a portion of our federal tax dollars and fund all our state and federal elections.  We would use previous data complied from all local, state and federal elections to determine the amount of funds needed for each election.  It would calculated on a state by state basis and combine in the presidential elections.  Each election cycle, funding would be adjusted for inflation.

2. Make a number of benchmarks candidates need to meet in the form of signatures of registered & eligible voters so allow them more access to funds and media time up to the full amount once you get to the general election.  This would not be limited to our current two major political parties,  their would be a state and national registration process and requirements for any political party and if that party meets those requirements then they would have the same access to funds and media airtime as long as they meet the requirements and received the verified support need to qualify.

3. Incumbents would automatically get access to the general election funding amounts and media airtime on a certain date once the primaries were complete.  This would give incumbents the same chance to keep their seat and if they had a good track record, an advantage on keeping their seat by the fact of their incumbency.

4. Require Television & Radio Stations to allocated a portion of airtime in equal portions to the candidates broken up in schedules for the primary and general elections.  The broadcasters are using the public airwaves so they should forced to do this public duty during the election seasons.  They would also be compensated for this action from the public election fund.

5. Corporations, Non-profits and Political Action Committees can only give public support for a candidate and would be allowed to only purchase a standardized ad size in local and national newspapers in a fixed set of frequency to voice their opinion on a particular campaign.  There would also be rules on what counts as a qualified political support organizations to stop abuse of this system by opening shell organizations just to get more ads for their supported candidate.

6. Paid advertising online would only be able to be purchased through the public elections funds given the the candidates and incumbents

7. Creation of websites online would also only be allowed from the public election funds

8. An independent oversight agency would be create that would track all spending for elections.  Funding information would not be published online to give the campaign secrecy to create their strategy.  The agency purpose would be for the public to make inquires on different advertising to make sure that it was purchased from the public funds allocated to the candidate or incumbent.  The candidate or incumbent would required to enter every purchase into a database to get them registered and the inquiry requests would be a reply that yes a certain purchase was registered or in the case that is was not then a investigation would be started and if it was found they violated the public election rules then they candidate or incumbent would be automatically disqualified and would lose their bid for the seat they were campaign for.  This creates a huge incentive for them to play by the rules and register all transactions.  Records would be archived after each election but they would be a barrier between the public and the campaigns to allow them the freedom to develop winning strategies.  In cases of lawsuits, federal judges under gag-orders would be the intermediary to evaluate evidence on both sides and make a judgement of their validity in the charge then only the details of the infraction would be make public to give closure on the matter.

In closing, if we truly intend on having our democratic republic restored and have real democracy to focus on the important issues that we are facing today, it is imperative that this type of reform is put in place.

Written by Tally Stick

October 10th, 2009 at 1:00 pm