Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting Money Out of "OUR" Government, maybe

When you look at what is happening with the so-called health care reform maybe you are like me thinking why. Answer:There is a huge problem--the monies the lobbies and the corps spend. This problem seems to rear its ugly head issue after issue.

So what to do???
Maybe the answer lies in campaign reform.
Meanwhile, the states have been plagued by the same problems afflicting campaigns for federal office. As the costs of campaigning for statewide office and state legislative seats skyrocketed over the last few decades, legislators have begun to place greater emphasis on fundraising. PACs, ,
and large donors have played an increasing role as sources of campaign revenue, and incumbents have been outspending challengers by larger and larger sums.

About the only way I can think of to change the balance is to challenge the way “our” elected officials get money for campaigns. But, what about the free speech issue and freedom of the press? And See:

Basically the courts say that candidates' must be given the right to opt in or out of any system of campaign finance. Maine is one state where the court upheld their version because it is voluntary.
The Maine law is a little different though:

Maine's campaign finance law, known as the Clean Elections Act is different from those in other states because those who agree to accept public funding must forgo any private contributions (beyond a small amount of "seed money" and qualifying contributions) and run an entirely "clean" campaign.
The law was passed by Maine voters in a referendum in 1996 and came into effect in 2000. Candidates who demonstrate citizen support by collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions from voters within their districts (50 contributions for a State House race, 150 for the state Senate, and 2,500 for a gubernatorial race) are eligible for fixed and equal campaign funding from the Clean Election Fund. To receive their money, candidates must agree to forgo all private contributions (including self-financing), and limit their spending to the amount from the fund.

Other states have “clean election” laws.

A Supreme Court decision in January 2000, Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, was the court's first ruling on campaign contributions and free speech since Buckley v. Vale. In it the court essentially reaffirmed Buckley vs. Valeo, by allowing state limits to campaign contributions, but not spending, so long as the contribution limit was not "so the sound of a candidate's voice below the level of notice, and render contributions pointless." However, the decision did counter a trend whereby federal courts have recently been striking down contribution limits even above the $1,000 (per individual) permitted in Buckley v. Valeo.
As of 2008, five states have passed "clean election" laws, laws that provide public money for state election campaigns if a candidate agrees to strict spending limits.
Maine was the first state to enact such a law, by voter referendum, in 1996.
In June 1997, Vermont became the first state to pass a bill modeled after the Maine law through its legislature. Both laws served as models for the clean election initiatives passed by Arizona and Massachusetts voters in November, 1998. The Massachusetts law, however, was repealed by the legislature in 2003. Connecticut's legislature passed a clean election bill in 2005, and it was amended in 2006 to remove an unnecessary step for third party candidates.
New Mexico expanded the program to include candidates for judgeships on the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of New Mexico in 2007.
New Jersey's legislature passed a clean elections pilot project in 2004, which put into place two legislative districts for the November 2005 election. Following its success, three more districts have been selected to be part of the 2007 Fair and Clean Elections Pilot Project.
Out of State Contributions
Out-of-state or out-of-district campaign contributions corrupt the political process because an elected official may become more beholden to these contributors than to the community she represents. Alaska and Oregon have adopted limits on out-of-state or out-of-district contributors. Both have been overruled by federal courts as violations of the First Amendment. While the Oregon law has been repealed, the Alaska law has been suspended and is on appeal in the Alaska Supreme Court.
Because these laws so well embody the principles of localism and republicanism, the New Rules Project offers them here as models that should be reinstated.

All this is really great but as long as it is voluntary, in the name of free speech, I am not sure what good it all is. (By the way another thought just occurred to me. Note the Out of State restriction on Alaska's law. Maybe this is why Palin left office early? Why wait for the Alaska Supreme Court to decide. Maybe you just run from another state?)

I really do hate“Out of State Contributions”. It lets any big group, or its lobby, to select even your state and local candidates for you. Suppose you are big Energy and there is a reliable Energy candidate in some state-you will put your money where their mouth is. Now I realize too that the reverse may be true, Green Energy may like a candidate in your state or local government so they can back them.
But shouldn't each state's population be deciding their own government therefore their own laws and taxes spent. Maybe that wouldn't work either. Some would just move from a red state to a liberal blue state somewhere. Or the conservative would move to a nice red state. Actually this is happening on a small scale already. Well, one thing about it when the media draws its election forecast maps it would be easier. Or would some pay somebody else to move into the opposite view state. Hey this has the makings of a great movie or short story.
So just as the health care laws are difficult and hard to write, I can imagine the nightmare of election reform. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy and laws are, or at least should be, difficult to write. But, it may be the only chance we have to get at least some money out of the system.

For those who love charts and statistics here is an interesting site.

Here is a link to a “working paper”, for a forthcoming book, on campaign finance “after Obama”. The beginning sentence is an attention grabber about the total collapse of public funding for Presidential campaigns.

I highly recommend you visit Vote Smart to take a look information on Congresspersons. It is an excellent site. I thought about volunteering to work for them years ago. Very fair-minded site. I couldn't get their widget added but will try again. Also this group may be one to consider a donation if you can.

Then too maybe we just need to redefine corporations as entities when it comes to the Constitution. This will be the next post.

P.S. Note the italics on the section about the "Oregon law". I stand corrected by Dan(please see comments section). He states it is not a law it is an amendment to the Oregon Constitution and has not been repealed. Also see where they were working to change


  1. The "Oregon law" was not a law. It was an amendment to the Oregon Constitution. It has not been repealed.

  2. Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.
    I will try to find a link about it to add as a post script.

  3. Dan,
    I am now on the list for updates.
    Thanks again.

  4. I enjoy reading your thoughts and links. I depend on you to keep me abreast...if you will.

  5. I am most happy to do so. Give''s me an excuse to research.

  6. Very interesting post and so much information..

    My thought is:

    No matter the laws; corruption finds a way. I wonder if anyone is honest anymore or if money laid in your hand is the deciding factor for everyone.

  7. I believe, not sure yet, there may be one or two in Congress that are not totally bought and paid for...
    I am doing a little research off and on on the two.
    Unfortunately they are not from my "wonderful" state!