Richard Reeve calls campaign finance reform "Joke of a Nation".
January 9, 2002 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Richard Reeve calls campaign finance reform "Joke of a Nation". Sadly enough, he backs it up with some good points. Is a city, state, or national office going to become the new status symbol of conspicuous consumers?
posted by Ufez Jones (14 comments total)

 
Maybe it's not the "new" status symbol per se, but I really feel that nothing in this country will change until campaign finance reform takes place. Too many monied interests for favors, too many officials spending their time raising funds to do their duty, etc. This whole rich people using their own money throws it for a loop though. What to do?
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2002


Education! The reason that campaign finance is so important lies in the stupidity of the masses! All contributions to any candidate running for any government office should be heavily taxed, and that tax should be put into the education system to teach our children to see through and rise above the psychological warfare being waged upon them via mass media. Limiting the amount of money put into fooling the general public is not a realistic fix for this problem.
posted by zekinskia at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2002


Unfortunately, financial backing is usually the way the establishment media define a "serious" candidate.

Having worked on political campaigns, I can testify that the current campaign finance regime does as much to hinder smaller campaigns as it does to help. Individual contributions should be indexed to inflation, they're still at the amount set post-Watergate, $1000 per election cycle (primary and general), which means that, as Reeve notes, anyone running for election must spend most of their time concentrating on raising money instead of actually advocating/explaining his or her positions.

Television airtime takes up a huge chunk of resources, and is therefore usually not an option for smaller campaigns. Given the fact that television is the primary new-source for many Americans, this should be changed. The airwaves are a public resource, and broadcasters rent them at the public's discretion. Airtime should be provided for free, and a registry fee of about $5000 could distinguish the serious candidates from the nuts.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:46 AM on January 9, 2002


All contributions to any candidate running for any government office should be heavily taxed

I am going to be thinking about you all day now you crazy thing. I can't say how bad I think this idea is.
posted by thirteen at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2002


Ty Webb has it right -- take away the need for all the money (namely expensive media exposure plus all the costs of the consultants and other leeches who feed off this), put up a flat registry fee for airtime, and you wouldn't need campaign finance reform.

Of course, the National Association of Broadcasters is a mighty big lobby in Washington, and they don't want to lose all that guaranteed revenue....
posted by briank at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2002


There's an interesting article in the NY Times today (yeah, you have to register.) about Bloomberg. Basically, it's a bunch of various interest groups complaining that Bloomberg managed to get elected without their help, so now they don't have any sway over him.

Ty: if you are going to make the airwaves free, how do you decide who gets to advertise on the relatively small number of popular shows? And how do you respond to the person who says "I think GWB's policies are the worst kind of reactionary misanthropism out there, and the mass media isn't publicizing them, so I have no choice but to buy advertisements during prime time TV to inform the public. Your telling me that I can't is in direct violation of the 1st Amendment - you are seeking to infringe my right to political speech."
posted by jaek at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2002


i found this primer from the center for responsive politics helpful on why we need campaign finance reform.

also i think the recent disclosure by cheney that it was indeed enron, a major contributor to the bush election campaign and the GOP, which sat on the administration's "energy task force" makes an exemplum of corporate controlled government and why we need more transparency, oversight and accountability.
posted by kliuless at 12:56 PM on January 9, 2002


-----jaek asked: "if you are going to make the airwaves free, how do you decide who gets to advertise on the relatively small number of popular shows?"

No one is claiming that it wouldn't be a complex undertaking. I imagine some sort of lottery system where candidates are given time on various networks at various times. In addition to this, broadcasters would agree to devote some airtime to substantive political discussion, monitored by an independant, non-partisan group (not like the FEC, which is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, or the ridiculous Commission on Presidential Debates, which is essentially a corporate front group).

----"...I have no choice but to buy advertisements during prime time TV to inform the public. Your telling me that I can't is in direct violation of the 1st Amendment - you are seeking to infringe my right to political speech."

If a new system were in place to guarantee access to Tv time, i think the context of Buckley v. Valeo would be changed. If all candidates were given equal acess to the airwaves, it would be about who has the coolest commercials, Bloomberg could hire ILM, or Corzine could hire Pixar or what have you.

on another note, the logical extension of the "money equals speech" argument, and the reason why i think it's completely flawed, is that if money equals speech, then the government, by giving any kind of monetary handout, tax breaks for GE for example, is essentially handing out the means to more political influence and working at cross purposes with itself, which is not unheard of (tobacco subsidies/penalties are a good example), but still extremely shady.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2002


If a new system were in place to guarantee access to Tv time, i think the context of Buckley v. Valeo would be changed. If all candidates were given equal acess to the airwaves, it would be about who has the coolest commercials, Bloomberg could hire ILM, or Corzine could hire Pixar or what have you.

You really think so? You don't think that the battleground would merely shift to another area of campaigning, like perhaps the much heralded automatic phone banks that the NAACP used to great effect in the 2000 election?

on another note, the logical extension of the "money equals speech" argument

The argument isn't "money equals speech", the argument is "political advertising equals speech." It's hard to conceive of a more blatantly unconstitutional law than one which says "You may not purchase a TV advertisement to rally people to support your political cause, unless it is done in a strictly government-approved manner."
posted by jaek at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2002


Buckley v. Valeo is going nowhere. However, the courts have upheld public financing schemes whereby if one candidate opts out, then the other candidate gets more money. (Mark Green got lots more $ than he otherwise would have, becuase Bloomberg didn't take the public money and spent more money then he'd have been allowed under the public system.)

For every self-funded winner (like Bloomberg or Corzine) there are plenty of losers (Perot, Checchi, Huffington, etc., etc.) Indeed, Mark Green lost his election because he race baited to win the run-off against Ferrer; Corzine won largely because his Democratic primary opponent was the most unpopular person in modern New Jersey politics and his Republican opponent and his Republican opponent was swept away in the Jersey trend towards Democrats of 2000 and 2001.

If Riordan beats Gray Davis next year, that Riordan made a lot of money in the property game and running a successful law firm won't be why: it will because people are sick of Gray Davis.
posted by MattD at 3:19 PM on January 9, 2002


jaek wrote:
------"The argument isn't "money equals speech", the argument is "political advertising equals speech.""

And what are you going to use to purchase political advertising, clam shells? Money equals political advertising equals speech.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:02 PM on January 9, 2002


"if you are going to make the airwaves free, how do you decide who gets to advertise on the relatively small number of popular shows"?

In New Zealand, we have this neato thing called "Party Political Broadcasts". These are broadcast slots allocated to parties by an Electoral Commission using a complicated formula based in part on the proportion of the votes a party received at the previous election. Parties cannot buy airtime on their own account. They can spend what they want on producing ads to show in that airtime, though. Obviously this only works on a party basis.

It has the added advantage that since perhaps 0.5% of the population votes for the McGillicuddy Serious Party, the MGSP usually gets two or three ad slots. I still treasure the spectacle of the Laird McGillicuddy addressing the nation from his bath, promising Full Unemployment for All as part of the Great Leap Backwards.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:09 PM on January 9, 2002


This one American wouldn't be averse to defining all advertising, of whatever nature, as something other than First Amendment protected speech.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:35 AM on January 10, 2002


This one American wouldn't be averse to defining all advertising, of whatever nature, as something other than First Amendment protected speech.

You ARE the red diaper baby.
posted by thirteen at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2002


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