Democrats & Liberals Archives

Getting Beyond McCain-Feingold

McCain-Feingold is a flop. No one can argue with a straight face that is has cleaned up our political system. Even worse, it restricts free speech. Fortunately, there is a workable solution.

As I have argued before, it is simply not possible for the government (at any level) to keep private money out of our elections without restricting free speech. In fact, I don’t think that the government should even try. The First Amendment, in my humble opinion, protects political speech from any sort of government regulation (barring the obvious exceptions like libel and inciting a riot). Even if my legal interpretation is wrong, then we should honor the principle anyway.

Unfettered political speech is the cornerstone of democracy. As much as I disagree with a group like the NRA, I absolutely support its right to reach out to the public whenever they want and deliver whatever message they want (again barring libel, etc.) If that means explicitly endorsing a candidate right before the election, then so be it.

Some try to make a distinction between regulating campaign donations and regulating speech. Try as I might, I can’t see a distinction. It is like saying that you have a right to paint whatever you want, but it is illegal for another private individual to buy your paint and paintbrushes if you are going to paint something “indecent”. (Surely any liberal would fight such a law tooth and nail!) As the example illustrates, most of the activities we think of as free speech necessarily involving spending money. If you restrict the money, you restrict the act of speaking or creating. That applies to the Internet, too. Web sites are cheaper than print media, but they aren’t free.

Just because I don’t want to regulate political speech, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to reform the system. The solution is to provide enough public money that politicians don’t have to rely on private funding to get elected. As others have observed, money is like water. No matter how hard one tries, it is going to leak through every little crack that opens up. Any group with clever lawyers knows had to open up another hole. So you can’t keep out the “dirty” water; the only solution is to add enough clean water to dilute it.

I’m not going to get into the various schemes to publicly fund elections. Other are far more familiar with these proposals than I am. The key point is to provide enough public money to make the private money less relevant.

Posted by Woody Mena at February 27, 2007 8:30 AM
Comments
Comment #209822

So basically, take money from people who work for a living and give it to politicians, regardless of whether or not the people you are taking the money away from agree with the candidate receiving the funds in question?

“public money” is just wealth taken away from those who earn it at gunpoint. You’ll forigive me if I don’t think the answer to all issues comes down to taking more money away from the middle class who are just trying to work hard to take care of their families and make a better way in life than they started out with.

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 27, 2007 9:43 AM
Comment #209824

Woody If Im not mistaken the candidates can get public funds but are restricted to the amount they can get and are restricted from getting other money and therefore turn down the federal money. I think this should change so the candidate is not forced into accepting the tainted money of those seeking to free speech (buy) access to the candidate. Further corporations and unions should have equal rights but not protected free speech rights as a natural person does.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 27, 2007 9:49 AM
Comment #209826

Rhinehold,

I can see your point, but we are talking about a tiny, tiny amount of money, maybe on the order of a billion dollars for federal elections. That may seem like a lot, but the federal budget is in the trillions… And if it was remotely effective, it would pay for itself with the money saved on corporate giveaways.

j2t2,

Even if the candidates accept the restrictions, there will inevitably be third party spending. I don’t have any problem with restricting what the candidates can spend, its restricting everyone else’s free speech that bothers me.

I don’t have a strong feeling about the issues of corporations and unions. There may be probably no practical way to stop them.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 27, 2007 9:55 AM
Comment #209827

1) Cheney finally pops up again…and once again he’s hiding underground, this time in a bomb shelter in Afghanistan. Why doesn’t he just stay hidden and get his nose out of US politics and business…we’d all be better off without his participation.

2) Bush derides the proposal to have all cargo on passenger planes inspected within 3 years. OK, so let’s put uninspected cargo on Air Force One each and every time Bush is on the plane. He doesn’t care about us…we don’t care about him.

Posted by: Susie at February 27, 2007 9:59 AM
Comment #209828

Woody, I certainly agree with your background points on campaign contributions and free speech. But I do not think your proposal can work. Put simply, “How much money do you give a candidate?”, and who decides that? No matter what amount you give, some candidates will want more and more. They will want to do more advertising, or more whatever. Where does it stop? If you limit them in how much they can spend, then you re-intorduce the problem of free speech, and invite private money back into the process. I think you have to go back to what the intent of the Founding Fathers was in regards to free speech, and how does that apply today. I cannot believe that the founders wanted a system where the government was decided based on who had the most money, who could buy the most influence, and I would challenge anyone to prove otherwise. As you state, free speech has limits. So what is the solution? I think it has to be a combination of sensible campaign finance reform, coupled with much tougher laws against bribery - i.e. better defining bribery and influence peddling in the government. We also neeed to have a much more open form of government, where anyone trying to influence a legislator should have to do so much more publicly.

Posted by: SteveK at February 27, 2007 10:02 AM
Comment #209830

Or we could stop electing politicians based on how much of other people’s money they are going to give us and instead on how much control of our own lives they will give us back…

I know, I’m a dreamer…

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 27, 2007 10:05 AM
Comment #209831

Steve K,

You make some good points. It will be awkward to set up a system allocating the money, but I don’t see a good alternative.

I don’t think our Founding Fathers would have liked McCain-Feingold. I find it hard to believe that they would want to government to restrict the actions of groups like the NRA or the ACLU.

I don’t have a problem with the idea of restricting direct donations to politicians. The problem is when you try to regulate third-party speech on their behalf.

Openness is good, but it only goes so far.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 27, 2007 10:12 AM
Comment #209845
The solution is to provide enough public money that politicians don’t have to rely on private funding to get elected.

It’s not going to work, Woody — unless you make it mandatory.

As long as some rock-star politician thinks they can raise more money than public financing provides, they’re going to decline it.

I thought James Carville had a pretty good idea: Make it illegal for any sitting member of Congress to take money from anybody for anything. Period.

I love the elegant simplicity. Here’s a link to the whole thing.

Posted by: American Pundit at February 27, 2007 11:17 AM
Comment #209852


There is perhaps another avenue to explore. In law, a judge cannot hear a case that involves persons he knows or has had dealings with. In most states, it is against the law for lawmakers to vote on proposals that would have a direct effect on themselves. Maybe a law that would restrict Senators and Representatives from voting on any bill backed by any organization that has contributed money to their campaign over a certain amount. I’m not sure of the constitutionality of a law like this, it might require an amendment.

However, something must be done to curtail the enormous impact of organization money on our political process.

Posted by: John Back at February 27, 2007 11:35 AM
Comment #209858

One of the biggest money savers would be to eliminate the preposterous presidential primaries…or at least make the primary vote on the same day for all states! It’s the biggest anti-democracy boondoggle that exists in our voting system (except of course, those easily programmed voting machines)…why should Iowa and New Hampshire get to vote on candidates before anyone else? Why should Iowans and New Hampshireans get to eliminate candidates all out of proportion to their population as a part of total US population??? The primary system adds exhorbitantly to the cost of our elections.

Let’s make public financing mandatory…no opt out, no using one’s own money, no campaign contributions (except to a general fund which is divided equally)…and for God’s sake, could we just once have a real debate instead of a glorified press conference so that candidates actually speak to the issues and during which candidates can only speak to their own views, not those of their opponents, on a set of issues??

Nah, that’d be too fair and too easy…and the rich and the corporations would no longer have a stranglehold on our country’s politics…

Posted by: Lynne at February 27, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #209859
and for God’s sake, could we just once have a real debate instead of a glorified press conference so that candidates actually speak to the issues and during which candidates can only speak to their own views, not those of their opponents, on a set of issues??

With only 2 candidates that what all debates end up being. Join in the demand that all electable candidates be in every debate. If a candidates is on the ballot in enough states to win the presidency, why is that candidate not in the debates?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 27, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #209860

It’s easy to point out all the problems with money in politics. Anybody can do that and be right.

Problem is what to do about it. I’ll go so far as to say that there is no solution to this one which doesn’t either fail to solve the problem or create more problems. The best and only thing is full and publicly available disclosure by all candidates of exactly who is giving them money.

That way voters can make informed decisions about who is behind candidates and why. If you don’t trust the voters to make such decisions, you’re right. But such is democracy, and anti-democratic program flies in the face of what this country stands for.

A major problem with campaign finance legislation is that even a successful plan will make the media more powerful and influential, and who among us is ready to curtail the freedom of the press? Not me.

Who elects the media? Why should an editorial board be allowed to broadcast or print anything they want, taking sides in political races and having a huge influence while forbidding others to do the same? In limiting candidates’ money, and even in limiting special interests, all we’re doing is enforcing a political caste system with the media leading the public by the nose.

Posted by: Jim at February 27, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #209861

Jim T,

I basically agree with you about the mass media. Buying a printing press shouldn’t confer special privileges that other organizations don’t have.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 27, 2007 12:44 PM
Comment #209863

Ok, I’m a little confused still on why this is a big issue? Do we think that ‘big money’ is buying elections really? Is the argument that people are too stupid to think for themselves and are so easily led by flashy advertising? If that is the case, isn’t this more of an indictment of democracy in general and our society in specific?

Or, is it more likely that the candidates are too busy trying to be groomed by marketing types that they never really say anything or have any good ideas or never provide to the american people any kind of logic regarding why they should be elected (that would be ammo!) and we end up just voting for the person with the best hair?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 27, 2007 12:55 PM
Comment #209867

For every dollar a politician raises, from any source (with the exception of individual private citizen contributions of $1,000), an equal amount must be donated to the U.S. Treasury and earmarked for reducing the public debt. The more they spend the more we get the debt reduced. (Replace U.S. Treasury with your favorite cause)Any money not spent for the campaign must be also given to the U.S. Treasury (or other favorite cause) and can not be rolled over for any other use.

Posted by: Jim at February 27, 2007 1:28 PM
Comment #209872

The bottom line is that politicians need oodles and oodles of money to finance their campaigns. How about if we make it so they don’t need nearly so much money? Then they would be less likely to be beholden to a lot of rich contributors.
The number one expense of a political campaign seems to be advertising. Why not simply ban political commercials from television? Most of us are sick to death of them by election eve, anyway. If the candidates were forced to communicate with the voters via radio or the prints, they would be more likely to frame their messages in a cogent, logical format, instead of having sultry blondes spreading racist dreck on the tube.

Posted by: Dragon at February 27, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #209873

Mitt Romney’s 2008 powerpoint strategy has been leaked. Here are the kinds of suggestions he’s implementing with his millions of dollars:

Enmity toward France, where Romney did his Mormon mission during college, is a recurring theme of the document. The European Union, it says at one point, wants to “drag America down to Europe’s standards,” adding: “That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” The plan even envisions “First, not France” bumper stickers.

Whatta guy. He really respects the voters.

Posted by: Max at February 27, 2007 1:58 PM
Comment #209875

Campaign Finance Reform is such a sticky topic because it deals with so many different variables. On one hand we have the free speech problem. People should be able to support whomever they choose and they should be able to support them with their money if they choose. Pretty cut and dry, until you think about the big donors and the potential for kickbacks from those large contributions. It really is a mess, isn’t it?

We throw around “what would the founding fathers want” a little too much. You know what? They were humans like you, me, Bush, and Clinton. We tend to deify them a bit too much and think that they had this grand vision… they didn’t. They were simply trying to make a democracy work and they did a very good job of giving us a decent working document. We should stop saying “what would the founding fathers want” and start realizing that as times change, so must our laws, provided they fit within the framework of our constitution.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at February 27, 2007 2:14 PM
Comment #209876

Max,

I love the part about Romney’s hair being “too perfect”. Can just see his aides arguing about how long he should stand in front of the fan before his hair is sufficiently mussed.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 27, 2007 3:24 PM
Comment #209877

Free speech for individuals is one thing but to have corporations with these same rights is eroding our democracy. Without a revision to the 14th amendment it seems they will be allowed to buy influence unchecked. Thats much worse than our taxes being used to allow for public financing of elections. It seems if the choice is either at the point of a gun or thru force of corporate bribery, I would rather be shot, because our democracy can and has survived taxes at the point of a gun.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 27, 2007 3:35 PM
Comment #209878

John Beck your absolutely right between your points on a previous thread and your point above it is obvious you have thought this out a good bit.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 27, 2007 3:39 PM
Comment #209881

So, j2t2, are you saying you’re of the ‘most Americans, besides me, are stupid and shouldn’t be allowed to vote’ camp?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 27, 2007 4:27 PM
Comment #209891

The basic underlying princple that makes campaign reform impossible is that the wealthy MUST control the government. This is a class imperitive. It has always been so.Through out history when they lose control things happen to them like getting their heads cut off or they get hacked up by machetes etc. They will have control. If not with our legalized system of bribery then with the more usual covert illegal type.
Labor unions on the otherhand,recognize and use the power of money. By combineing small contributions from the membership into large contributions to politicians they give working people a voice we would otherwise not have. Labor will never be able to out spend the wealthy but at least we can get into the room.
As a practical matter we could reduce the cost of campaigns be requireing renters of our airspace,the broadcast media, to allow campaign programming as a part of the lease. They would squak of course but so what.

Posted by: BillS at February 27, 2007 8:01 PM
Comment #209892

BillS, you give an extremely white-washed version of the involvement of labor money in elections.

Labor does not necessarily speak for the little guy at all. Organized labor has a top-down hierarchy, and those at the top are very often looking after their OWN interests and not those they represent. The history of criminal corruption (and corruption of politicians) involving labor leaders is a very long and colorful story. One that is ongoing.

Also, where union dues are mandatory, it’s not uncommon at all for workers to not agree with the political causes their dues go to support.

Further, in almost industry you want to name, the unions represent at most only THEIR union members, whose interests very often conflict with the interests of non-unionized workers. And often even conflict with the interests of other unions, in the very same or closely related industries. Look at the tensions in the airline industry between the baggage handlers, the pilot’s, and other unions which constantly fight over benefits and salaries.

Another thing: it’s simply not true that labor is not able to compete financially or politically with the “wealthy” interests. There are whole industries today (like the auto and airline industries) that are basically held prisoner by labor.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 27, 2007 8:50 PM
Comment #209893

I must be lost…
This reads like the republican watchblog…

Posted by: cliff at February 27, 2007 8:52 PM
Comment #209896

Woody, I have problems with this, too. I want freedom of speech to extend to other forms of expression beside speech, but I also realize that democracy is a farce when money talks in the corridors of power. And I’m not crazy about taxing people to finance elections.

What’s the solution? Hell if I know. A Constitutional Amendment would be the best way to deal with this, but the odds against that are high.

Posted by: Trent at February 27, 2007 9:01 PM
Comment #209897

Trent, there is already a Constitutional Amendment which deals with this. It’s the very first one.

“Congress shall make no law {…) abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Looks to me that there we have it—in black and white.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 27, 2007 9:11 PM
Comment #209901

LO-
Good, it’s in black and white. Now try this, and see how far you get: go outside naked at one in the morning and play a concert of Marilyn Mansons covers at the loudest volume you can. Stop every once in a while to issue defamatory statements about your neighbors that you know are false. Free speech is an absolute right…
…right?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 27, 2007 11:12 PM
Comment #209903

Rhinehold, where on earth did you pull that comment out of? I believe every one over the age of 16 should vote, every natural born person that is in this country legally. If they are in jail I believe their right ot vote should be taken away until they have served their sentence then they should also get to vote. Corporations on the other hand should not be allowed to throw money around in an attempt to influence the vote. You see where it has got us.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 27, 2007 11:25 PM
Comment #209904

So Loyal whats the difference between a union memeber and a shareholder of a corporation when it comes to disagreeing on the political cause their money has helped support?

Posted by: j2t2 at February 27, 2007 11:48 PM
Comment #209905

Stephen, you may be describing—with suprising accuracy—what I do on the weekends, but most of that isn’t even speech of any kind, and isn’t what I was talking about.

In any case, the kind of campaign finance laws we’re talking about in regard to McCain-Feingold is closer to this: banning the music of Marilyn Manson because he’s rich and his music contains what some might consider “anarchist” messages. Making it illegal to walk quitely into the street at all. Making it illegal to criticise your neigbors even truthfully within 30 days of their birthdays.

Public nudity and playing loud music isn’t exactly “speech.” It’s disturbing the peace. And slanderding your neigbors, like “shouting fire in a crowded theater” is a behavior which causes real, immediate and tangible damages.

As everybody knows, there are certain limits to free speech—but they tend to fall under what Oliver Wendell Holmes described as “a clear and present danger.”

The quote in full.

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. [The] question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a a clear and present danger that will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”
—Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thus disclosing national security secrets, producing child pornography, or falsely accusing your neigbor’s wife of adultery may be illegal.

But saying that buying adds that criticise an incumbent politician within a specified time-frame before an election consitutes a “clear and present danger” makes the idea of a clear and present danger anything BUT clear. In fact, it’s a recipe for wholesale destruction of the first amendment.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 27, 2007 11:55 PM
Comment #209907
So Loyal whats the difference between a union memeber and a shareholder of a corporation when it comes to disagreeing on the political cause their money has helped support?

First of all, remember that I’m not the one saying that either group should be restricted legally AT ALL if all when it comes to making donations, buying ads, or campaigning. So as far as campaign finance laws go (or should go) I say there’s no difference.

But as far as the union member and stockholder goes, the difference is obvious.

The stockholder can easily liquidate his stock in the company, withdraw his involvement with and support of the company, and tranfer his assets to a company more in line with his political views.

The union member, on the other hand, cannot withdraw his support and involvement unless he’s ready to lose his job, his pension, his benefits, and be black-listed from working in his chosen profession again.

See the difference?

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 28, 2007 12:06 AM
Comment #209911

Woody:
“McCain-Feingold is a flop. No one can argue with a straight face that is has cleaned up our political system.”

McCain-Feingold as written wasn’t allowed to pass. It was gutted. Hence, it is now known as a flop that unfortunately still bears the name of the men who worked very hard on it, only to see it destroyed.

“Even worse, it restricts free speech.”

Nothing free about the kind of speech they were trying to put a limit on. It’s bought and paid for at very high prices — one of which is the price we all pay by getting leaders who become crooks-for-hire in order to win elections.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 28, 2007 1:23 AM
Comment #209912

I think the money may be better spent on shining a light into the dirty water (money).

Strict reporting and publication of clear and direct connections between politicians and money seems to be the need. Make it crystal clear to the voters. Ban the slick and twisted lawyer driven deals. Perhaps ending the political consultant game. Go back to the citizen/politician. Ban consulting by former politicians and their advisors. Make them earn a living by being productive rather than influencial.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is in hot (well, tepid) water for an executive order designed to give Merck a contract to provide HPV vaccines at a price of around $400 per vaccine to 12 year old school girls. While noble in its design to prevent cancer, why require a vaccine for an STD for school girls? Why? Because it is a guaranteed high profit. Corporations are slick. Get the government to create a monopoly for you and then stick it to the taxpayers.

Perhaps I’m a cynic, but these other items are also swimming around this good ol’ boy network are this and this deal. This is the same group of guys that gave you Bush, Delay and Abramoff. Funny how these stories show up after the elections. Hmmm , it makes you wonder.


Posted by: gergle at February 28, 2007 1:45 AM
Comment #209918

LO,

Obviously I meant another Constitutional Amendment dealing specifically with campaign finance.

Posted by: Trent at February 28, 2007 6:31 AM
Comment #209919
Thus disclosing national security secrets, producing child pornography, or falsely accusing your neigbor’s wife of adultery may be illegal.

But saying that buying adds that criticise an incumbent politician within a specified time-frame before an election consitutes a “clear and present danger” makes the idea of a clear and present danger anything BUT clear. In fact, it’s a recipe for wholesale destruction of the first amendment.

Agreed. And though some may argue that money in politics presents a clear and present danger, I don’t because that opens the door to all sorts of restrictions.

I would prefer a new Constitutional Amendment that gives Congress the clear right to regulate campaign donations, etc. It should be worded in such a way as to make clear that it does not provide warrant for other sorts of First Amendment exceptions.

This is the position I take on the Second Amendment, too. Despite what the courts have ruled, I believe the amendment says that the right individuals to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. I think the amendment needs to be replaced with another with less awkward syntax that either clearly states what I think the Second Amendment intends or gives government the clear right to regulate individual use of arms, which in fact it does.

Posted by: Trent at February 28, 2007 7:18 AM
Comment #209920

Hi all,

Too many comments here to react to individually, so I’ll just hit the main points.

1. Direct donations to candidates - These can and should be regulated. What galls me is that third-party advocacy groups are regulated, too.

2. Keeping the “dirty” money of out the system - There are a couple of problems with this. First of all, it is probably impossible. Secondly, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. We have probably all given money to an advocacy group an some point - NRA, NARAL, Sierra Club, etc. Did you think you were polluting the political system with your dirty money? (I certainly don’t think of myself as a corrupt plutocrat, especially when I see my bank statement.) But groups like these are regulated by McCain-Feingold.

3. Presidential primaries - New Hampshire and Iowa have too much power. Fortunately, they are going to lose it. States like Florida and California are trying to move up their primaries. Ideally, we would have a national primary or a few regional ones.

4. Corporations vs individuals - I believe that corporate campaign donations were banned about a century ago. The problem is that corporations are made up of individuals. I’m not making a philosophical argument here, but a practical one. As long as employees and shareholders of corporations (that is, most of us) can be involved in the political process, they will have influence.

5. The First Amendment - Leaving aside the intent of the Founding Fathers, I think the text protects the right of advocacy groups to be participate fully in the political process. What do groups look like the Sierra Club do if not speak, “peacably… assemble”, and “petition the government for a redress of grievances”? The idea that these rights disappear before an election is absurd on its face.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 28, 2007 7:51 AM
Comment #209921
What’s the solution? Hell if I know. A Constitutional Amendment would be the best way to deal with this, but the odds against that are high.

What would the amendment actually say, though? Something to think about.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 28, 2007 8:18 AM
Comment #209923

I’ve asked before but I’m curious if anyone can really explain the problem to me? Why is it worth the money and time invested to regulate these things, the power resides in the individuals, the people, the majority to elect the people why wish. If the majority are against electing corrupt politicians, shouldn’t they just not vote for them? Are we trying to pass off more of our responsibilities to someone else here at other people’s expense?

Some say it’s obvious that this is a problem, yet I don’t see it. I will be very willing to agree if I can engage in a discussion about why this is something we should be focusing in.

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 28, 2007 8:57 AM
Comment #209924

Woody, yeah, that’s the rub. It should be specific enough so that it can’t be used to warrant other forms of government oppression, but general enough that Congress can patch loopholes in whatever legislation it passes. Perhaps something like the following:

Congress shall have the power to regulate the donations to public officials or to candidates for public office. It does not have the power to eliminate donations from individuals, but it does have the power to eliminate or regulate campaign contributions from organizations.

I wrote that quickly — clearly the phrasing needs very careful consideration.

Posted by: Trent at February 28, 2007 9:09 AM
Comment #209925

Trent,

If by a campaign donation you mean money given directly to a candidate, I don’t believe any amendment is necessary. I believe the SCOTUS position is that as long as a candidate is spending someone else’s money it can be regulated.

The tricky issue is organizations like 527s that simply favor a candidate.

Rhinehold,

I share your concerns about excess paternalism, but sometimes the people need a little help to liberate themselves.

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 28, 2007 9:17 AM
Comment #209927

Woody, yes, the courts have said that. My problem is that if we take the view that the First Amendment’ use of speech includes other forms of expression, then regulation of campaign financing seems to violate the First Amendment. I know the courts do that all the time, but I’d like them to do so with specific warrant from the Constitution. That was the context in which I earlier referred to the Second Amendment.

Posted by: Trent at February 28, 2007 9:33 AM
Comment #209928

Loyal, If Im to be part of the investor class in the new world order why would I want to sell off stocks of a corporation that I have bought because the non living non breathing entitiy, whose sole purpose is to generate returns on my investment, has decided to spend money on politics. I will incur additional costs due to selling off stocks prematurely, or at the wrong time in the cycle.

Investing based upon political issues may not allow me to become part of the investor class. If I am to live long and prosper as an investor my buy/sell decisions should be made on the ability of the corporation to generate returns on my investemt.

I just dont see much difference between the union guy and the investor when the union and the corporation are involved in contributing to politicians.


Posted by: j2t2 at February 28, 2007 9:42 AM
Comment #209929

The problem is a very old court case that decided Corporations have some of the same rights as people (I think it was late 1800s and had something to do with a California RailRoad company). If we want to change the rules about corporate contributions then we need to reverse that decision.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at February 28, 2007 9:56 AM
Comment #209931
The friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed (on an) industrial aristocracy….For if ever again permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy make their way into the world it will have been by that door that they entered.
—-Alex de Tocqueville in Democracy in America

And the decision was Santa Clara Co. vs. So Pacific RailRoad
.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at February 28, 2007 10:11 AM
Comment #209933

AP

“I thought James Carville had a pretty good idea: Make it illegal for any sitting member of Congress to take money from anybody for anything. Period.”

I totally agree with James Carville’s approach to this issue. I have personally advocated this approach for some time. I think it must be too simple for the deep thinkers here as no one else has commented on it.

The only way to guarantee any form of honesty and openess in government is to totally remove the corruptive influences of the promises of wealth which go hand in hand with the job of becoming a legislator. The very thought that a legislators thoughts can be realigned and his or her vote can be inspired by money is atrocious and so far as I am concerned a crime. This makes them no better than a petty thief or CEO bilking their employees of billions of dollars.

Unfortunately they write the laws which cater to the wealth of this world. I find it shameful that the very people who write our laws and should set the highest standards of example are the very ones who guarantee that the culture of corruption will continue thru their unwillingness to abandon their greedy ways.

Posted by: ILdem at February 28, 2007 10:52 AM
Comment #209934

IL,

The problem with your solution is that money still drives the advertising/re-election process. Even today the money doesn’t go to the candidates themselves. Instead of paying candidates reelection committees the money will just go directly to advertising with coordination taking place surreptitiously.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at February 28, 2007 11:01 AM
Comment #209941

Woody,

I disagree.

I believe that the protection of speech does not entail the accessability of such speaking.

A lack of money would not limit what one could say, it would limit how many people would hear it.

There is no right protecting ones ability to obtain funds in the name of promoting address.

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at February 28, 2007 11:59 AM
Comment #209946

Dave 1

“The problem with your solution is that money still drives the advertising/re-election process. Even today the money doesn’t go to the candidates themselves. Instead of paying candidates reelection committees the money will just go directly to advertising with coordination taking place surreptitiously.”

You have a valid point. I do not, like the rest here, have an obvious and clear total solution to the problem of campaign finance control. I do however advocate public financeing at the federal level with each candidate recieving an equal amount of money to run their campaigns. I do not believe we can control the organizations who raise money and use it surreptitiously as you say. We however can monitor a candidates dealings with such organizations. It will have to be left to the voters to decipher truths from sensationalistic extremisms. I do think that once a legislator is elected all dealings done with lobbyists should be recorded and done in an open forum for all to see. Making the act of accepting any money, gifts, donations or whatever in the process of ones job a serious crime would most certainly greatly curtail any corrupt policy making.

Posted by: ILdem at February 28, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #209947
It will have to be left to the voters to decipher truths from sensationalistic extremisms.

What a novel concept, apparently many feel that the voters are not up to the task and a law or redirection of their funds to combat it is necessary…

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 28, 2007 12:40 PM
Comment #209949
There is no right protecting ones ability to obtain funds in the name of promoting address.

I don’t see how you can have free expression without such a right.

Suppose that the Christian right wanted to stop Hollywood from making R-rated movies for adult consumption. If we accept your idea, then all they have to do is get a law passed making it illegal for people to invest in a movie with “indecent” content. If you block the money, you block the speech…

Posted by: Woody Mena at February 28, 2007 1:05 PM
Comment #209952

IlDem, Carville’s solution is unworkable because if incumbents can’t accept money from anybody, then that gives all the power to the media. The media, which is not going to be regulated under any campaign finance system, has free reign to attack whoever they like and advocate for whoever they like while forbidding candidates to answer or respond.

This is entirely undemocratic. We’re dangerously close as it to a situation where the media is an unelected fourth branch of government, one which enjoys influence and powers which are forbidden to others.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 28, 2007 2:28 PM
Comment #209956

Interesting topic…
IL
There are already financial disclosure requirements. E.g. Anyone who donates over $400(?) in a year must report their name and job and employer. There are already punishments in place for illegal contributions. Of course, enforcement is usually too little too late.

LO
We already have fox news being the propoganda arm for the right. I don’t know what fear there is of a media already beholden. The rest of the MSN is vilified as being liberal for telling truth that is counter to the Bush fantasy fallacy. I don’t know what fear there is of a castrated fifth estate.

I still think people should be allowed to advocate but not business or PAC, etc… Perhaps a modified European plan with no political advertising allowed except in a narrow time window before an election. Also, no tax benefits for any organization that promotes candidates OR issues that are political.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at February 28, 2007 3:28 PM
Comment #209962

Rhinehold,
Some say it’s obvious that this is a problem, yet I don’t see it. I will be very willing to agree if I can engage in a discussion about why this is something we should be focusing in.

I came across this piece on Drudge. Kerry finally has a platform to confront the paid for lies promulgated by the Swifties. Here’s a guy taking his bought and paid for Ambassadorship, but it’s not going to be well known. Let’s not even get into Tom Delay and his involvement with Perry here in Texas. The press can’t sell newspapers with it and the donor is apparently disqusted with his own participation, but takes no responsibility. Though the quid pro quo is obvious to all but a moron, you apparently think this is okey dokey and everything is just fine? If that’s the case then I must conclude that you are either a moron or disingenuous.

As to your argument that voters are too stupid to understand, I presume you believe that any type of fraud is kosher. If I say vita lift will cure cancer, give you an enormous penis, and make you wealthy, and contribute heavily to your campaign, you’ll have an Ambassadorship in Belgium waitng for me? Are you saying it is difficult to con consumers over a period of say a year? You know, like Rove did.

Posted by: gergle at February 28, 2007 5:28 PM
Comment #209971

Rhinehold

“What a novel concept, apparently many feel that the voters are not up to the task and a law or redirection of their funds to combat it is necessary…”

I am not one who believes that voters are incapable of making inteligent choices. However I do not believe some are willing to take the time to study options. Most I am personally aqauinted with vote a straight ticket regardless because it is what they have always done. It is easier for them and does not detract from their schedules. This is a shame and I do remind them that they are a part of the problem when they start grumbling about governments state of affairs. I have noticed over the last year or so an awakening of sorts among some of them. The advent of and realization of all the recent scandal, I believe, has led them to ask questions and wonder if maybe they should not be a bit more involved and educated in the process.

I can not say if this is a nationwide phenomenon or not. But I can say that for the first time in memory the words corruption and politics has real meaning to them.

Posted by: ILdem at February 28, 2007 5:59 PM
Comment #209973

LO

“IlDem, Carville’s solution is unworkable because if incumbents can’t accept money from anybody, then that gives all the power to the media. The media, which is not going to be regulated under any campaign finance system, has free reign to attack whoever they like and advocate for whoever they like while forbidding candidates to answer or respond.

This is entirely undemocratic. We’re dangerously close as it to a situation where the media is an unelected fourth branch of government, one which enjoys influence and powers which are forbidden to others.

I understand your concern and do not have the anserws. To be honest I do not believe the media is the crux of the problem. Many republicans put the blame for all their problems on the media. But the media does not write the laws of this country or dictate what purpose our legislators must pursue. Media time is for sale to political interests of all persuasion. And I do not think anyone would argue that republicans do not buy more than their fair share at election time. It is well known that a good many media outlets are biased one way or the other. If one wants to get fair disclosure all they need to do is frequent a media source that is open to the presentation of all sides of viewpoint. Perhaps there is need for regulation to guarantee equal time to all candidates in all media outlets.

To say that it is better to advocate for corruption because we can not find a good solution is not acceptable to me. This is a totally preposterous notion which in itself advocates not even having this discussion because in essence what we are leaning towards is regulated corruption for lack of a fix to the problem.

Posted by: ILdem at February 28, 2007 6:25 PM
Comment #209976

Dave 1

I am aware of the foreclosure statements. I just do not feel that this is enough. The problem as I see it hides and grows from behind closed doors. There is too much privacy and secrecy surrounding our public servants. That and the fact that they are able to write their own rules and laws to protect themselves is simply wrong. Maybe what is needed is a committee totally independant of politics to rewrite our election, and campaign finance laws with the interest of the people in mind instead of those of our legistlators. I know this seems a bit redundant as this is supposed to be the job of our legislators. But I think it apparent they can no longer be trusted to do what is right where such matters are concerned.

Posted by: ILdem at February 28, 2007 6:34 PM
Comment #209983

Gergle,

Hmm, I thought we were talking about regulating all political funding, not just ones that are fradulent. See, fraud is illegal, as I understand it, and I don’t remember ever saying that I supported fraud at all.

I *did* say that I didn’t understand the notion of regulation of ALL political funding simply because some people might be supporting candidates that are not completely honest. As discerning voters we should be able to sniff out that sort of thing for ourselves, shouldn’t we? Not deny all legitimate support for politicians just so we can protect the American voter from hearing something that isn’t accurate?

More importantly, if this is such a huge concern that requires a solution that involves taking money from private individuals and giving it to campaigns for them to spend, then you should be able to articulate those reasons calmly and logically without resorting to hyperbole and rhetoric, right?

BTW, remember, I am a libertarian and our party refuses matching funds as a matter of principle, something that may have hurt our ability to advertise in the past but makes us sleep a little better at night…

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 28, 2007 7:03 PM
Comment #209984

ILDem,

I agree that it is a shame that some people just go in and pull the party ticket that their parents pulled without even taking the time to research the issues, but that’s their right to do, isn’t it? I don’t really think we should be protecting them if they are going to be that irresponsible with their rights…

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 28, 2007 7:05 PM
Comment #210002

LO
You are mis-informed. Any union member can opt out of giving a portion of their dues money for political purposes. It is not difficult and there are protections from coersion. Those that do still pay dues for the non-political services they recieve such as contract inforcement etc. The amount we pay for political expenditures is not great. The advantage of joining with oters.
Unions are by law and practice democratic. If your really hate the management you can vote and/or campaign against the.
Unions have in the past been infiltrated by organized crime. That is a thing of the past. The feds watch unions like hawks. Organized crime also has infiltrated legitamate businesses also of course but unions bear a stigma that they do not deserve.
No we cannot match dollar for dollar what corporations can contribute politically but we can give enough to get noticed and with our ability to campaign and put volunteers in the pricincts smart pols pay attention.
Sometimes one union does come into conflict with another. You seemed shocked. Of course that happens. A unions mission is to do the best they can for THEIR members.That should be no more surpriseing to you then when one company conflicts with another.

Posted by: BillS at February 28, 2007 9:34 PM
Comment #210022

ILDem,

Maybe what is needed is a committee totally independant of politics to rewrite our election, and campaign finance laws with the interest of the people in mind instead of those of our legistlators
Add ‘and special interests’ to the end and you have a deal.


Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at February 28, 2007 11:19 PM
Comment #210044

Rhinehold,

See, fraud is illegal, as I understand it, and I don’t remember ever saying that I supported fraud at all.

Is it? Who prosecutes it? Are you saying the Swiftboat campaign was not fraudulent? Are you saying it doesn’t matter, so therefore you justify ignoring it?

Since this isn’t a legal advice sight and we are not talking about the legal definitions of fraud, I’m not really looking for legal definitions. But then you knew that when you reframed my questions and avoided answering them didn’t you?

If ignoring things helps you sleep better at night, then I wonder about what else you ignore and why that is a good thing.

I agree that public funding will not help this issue. As I stated previously there should be consequence and illumination to some of the flat out lies being purported by these campaigns. Ignoring the problem is not a satisfactory response, it may help your arguments, but not the problem.

The problem I have with many Libertarians is exactly this. If they choose to ignore it, it’s because people are free to choose. Then in the center column you do an about face and decry the biased media. Which is it? A problem or not? Is your solution to everything laissez faire? Sounds more like conservative anarchy (let the status quo win and hope for something better) rather than libertarianism to me.

Posted by: gergle at March 1, 2007 7:11 AM
Comment #210051

Gergle,

Anarchy? I have never advocated any such thing. Without the rule of law all contracts and individual interactions are completely meaningless.

I am not trying to ‘ignore’ anything, I simply don’t understand why the issue is so much of a problem that it can’t be resolved by the people who are claiming it is a problem. I wanted someone to sit down and explain why people who have influence using that influence is destroying our way of life when we have the power to stop it by simply taking that responsibility upon ourselves. Swift Boat guys make outrageous and illogical statements? Ignore what they say. Counter it with logical and consistent information. George Soros doing the same? Ignore what he says.

If you want to get into specifics, let’s do so. but you are jumping all over the place and it makes it hard to pin down what your beef is.

Let’s do a point by point of your last comment:

Is it? Who prosecutes it? Are you saying the Swiftboat campaign was not fraudulent? Are you saying it doesn’t matter, so therefore you justify ignoring it?

Yes it is. It’s hard to say if the Swiftboat campaign was fradulent, however the way these things get resolved is through defamation of character lawsuits, etc. So far, this has not been done so it is still a he said, she said event. A group of people are writing down what they say happened, others are saying that their recounting is innacurate. Who is right? Without a hard look at the evidence, witness testimonies under oath, etc, it is then left up to individuals to determine. This is the way of most things in politics. However, I don’t see what this single even has ANYTHING to do with the need for ‘getting money out of politics’. Money itself is not a problem. I’m sure you don’t have much of a problem with the money used by Moveon, the ACLU, etc. when they try to influence the minds of American citizens. So is it just the money of your opponent that you want to squash? At that point, who’s interests are being served.

What I was looking for was a good argument why ALL money in an election should be regulated, not just the most aggregious example of it. Bribing officials is illegal and shouldn’t happen. But because it happens should we outlaw all legitimate uses of funding politicians so that they can run campaigns? It’s a mindset that makes no sense to me, because a small percentage of an activity is misused we should make that activity itself illegal?

Since this isn’t a legal advice sight and we are not talking about the legal definitions of fraud, I’m not really looking for legal definitions.

True, but I don’t recall the article being about fraud and the illegalities of it. The article was about the abuses of money and how we should prevent it from being misused by regulating all interactions of money and politicians. I simply asked the question, with the ability for Americans to be able to discern for themselves what to believe and not believe, and because the majority of people are not ‘uberwealthy’ and additionally because everyone gets a single vote, not a number of votes based on their wealth, why is it such a problem that requires further entreanchment of the monopoly of government into our lives, effectively taking away our right to think for ourselves?

If ignoring things helps you sleep better at night, then I wonder about what else you ignore and why that is a good thing.

Choosing not to enact a government program to combat something and ‘ignoring a problem’ are not the same thing.

I agree that public funding will not help this issue. As I stated previously there should be consequence and illumination to some of the flat out lies being purported by these campaigns. Ignoring the problem is not a satisfactory response, it may help your arguments, but not the problem.

I agree that the best way to resolve issues like Moveon and the Swiftboat guys are to make it very clear and very public how they are wrong and why. Educate, not silence. Let the ignorant prove their ignorance by countering their arguments with facts and logic. I don’t think we’ve that far apart, I am just looking for someone to explain to me why the ‘evil people with money’ should be stopped from supporting people they agree with. Obvious bribery and fraud are separate issues and are already illegal, it doesn’t mean that ALL uses of money in an election are evil…

The problem I have with many Libertarians is exactly this. If they choose to ignore it, it’s because people are free to choose. Then in the center column you do an about face and decry the biased media. Which is it? A problem or not? Is your solution to everything laissez faire? Sounds more like conservative anarchy (let the status quo win and hope for something better) rather than libertarianism to me.

As I said before, there is a BIG difference between ignoring something and demanding a government program that requires violating the private property rights of citizens be enacted to combat a perceived problem.

As for my article in the center column, one thing I think you’ll notice is that NO WHERE do I call for a government program or intervention into the issue. I believe that it will resolve itself and am glad to see use moving towards that solution. I identify a problem, state why it’s a problem and try to educate people to help them move past it. All without involving the government.

And remember, the bias of the media is a natural one, the desire to push stories that they feel will give them better ratings, while downplaying stories that will be boring to the viewer or reader.

As for my ‘solution to everything laissez faire’? I would say that we should try to make that our first option when it makes sense, yes. Governments have their role, especially in ensuring that individual interaction maintains integrity through contract disputes, etc. It should also protect the rights of the citizens, especially the minority, as the majority seldom needs protecting from the minority. But I do think that as much as possible we should try to take the responsibility to resolve issues and disputes ourselves without using the power of force that the government wields and introducing politics into the solution, a move that will ensure that the problem doesn’t get solved. How many times has Politics actually SOLVED an issue and not just created a permanent wedge issue that a party can use to keep itself in power?

Posted by: Rhinehold at March 1, 2007 9:03 AM
Comment #210067

gergle,

“… then all they have to do is get a law passed making it illegal for people to invest in a movie with “indecent” content.”

Oh contrair, if there was no funding of public opinion there would be no way of them promoting such a law enough to be able to pass it in the first place.

Public vs. private funding is a double-edged sword either way my friend.

I am not implying that people should not be able to fund promotion of an ideal.

I just don’t think that it should be declared unconstitutional or a unaliable right.

If we are going to speak of funding opinion then we should speak of it in the same manner as funding a construction project or an investment plan.

Supporting something with the interest of personal gain (i.e. getting a person elected who supports your ideas) is a matter of investment and so should be treated.

I am not disputing the ends, I am disputing the means.

The ends do not justify the means.

We could solve world hunger by killing all hungry people, that is wrong, that is why we don’t do it.

The ends do not justify the means.

We should be very careful how we approach something as an ‘inaliable right’ or ‘constitutional’.

Hence, it should not be tied to free speech, that would create more loop holes for corperate-government financial curruption to float the WWII Japanese navy fleets through.

Those kinds of things could come back to bite us in the asphincter.

If we are to reform political funding, we should reform it as an investment, I believe this would be less risky and easier to manipulate to our advantage rather than theirs.

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at March 1, 2007 12:06 PM
Comment #210081

Bryan,

Umm, I think you meant Woody.

Posted by: gergle at March 1, 2007 1:43 PM
Comment #210094

gergle,

Oh, wow… uh that makes me feel so small. My apologizes, I was reading twenty some responses before I got around to responding to one.

Uh… yeah, my bad.

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at March 1, 2007 3:34 PM
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