Political Reform in the US

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  • #1
Astronuc
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An idea whose implementation is long overdue. :grumpy:

Please allow me to digress - two threads - one recent and one nearly two years old.

Bill Moyers Journal and "Capitol Crimes"
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=173372

How do we reform the US political system to put leaders in office!
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=87270

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=733533 (re Alan Simpson)

So I heard a discussion with Bill Bradley (D) and Alan Simpson (R), who seem to be picking up steam somewhat parallel with the Concord Coalition, which was started by Warren Rudman (R) and the late Paul Tsongas (D).

Bradley and Simpson discuss reform of the election process, while the CC seems more directed toward improving the governing process. Either way, it's time to the politicians focussed on the people's business and not their pocket books.

June 15, 2007
The top six candidates running for president right now have amassed a collective $129 million so far, and election day is well over a year away. Now two former U.S. senators say it's time to get private money out of elections. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and Alan Simpson, R-Wy., laid out their proposal for publicly financing federal campaigns June 6 at the Commonwealth Club of California.
http://wordforword.publicradio.org/ until about 6/22 when the program will move into the archives.
Listen to Bradley and Simpson - http://www.publicradio.org/tools/media_player/popup.html?name=5559/wordforword/2007/06/070615_wfw_64 [Broken]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concord_Coalition
http://www.concordcoalition.org/
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
BobG
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I think there's a couple of problems with limiting campaigns to public funds.

For one thing, all candidates would have to be treated equally. Eliminating the monetary advantage the major parties have, you might not be stuck with domination by the two major parties, but you be funding the campaigns of some real flakes. I would expect that the chance of a crackpot being elected to office would increase. (Admittedly, two party domination doesn't eliminate that chance, either.)

In the past, the bigger problem has to do with First Amendment rights. You'd basically be taking away people's ability to state their opinion. In fact, that's why past campaign reform has failed to reign in the activities of Political Action Committees, the groups that act independently of the official campaigns in order to bring us things like the Swift Boat Ads.

The First Amendment problem means legislation can't change campaign laws. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to put campaigns into their own special category of 'speech' exempt from normal First Amendment concerns.
 
  • #3
Astronuc
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I afraid I don't see the connection between restricting a contribution of money to a political campaign and a restriction of freedom of expression.

If I have to pay to get a politician to listen to me, where's the freedom in that.

I would like to see public disclosure.

I am more concerned about groups like those mentioned in Moyers's Capitol Crimes, where money is laundered through non profit groups with the knowledge of the politicians, like Tom Delay. He's not the only one, and I'm sure its bipartisan.

=======================================================

After thought - I'm mulling this over

What if there are intermediaries that collect money. One donates to the intermediary who collects campaign contributions by candidate. Then the intermediary disburses the contributions in a lump sum but anonymously to the appropriate candidate, so the candidate doesn't know who contributed what amount. There could be an independent auditor.

The intermeidary can also pass along a list of issues from the contributors without disclosing the contribution.

Would people be inclined to give large sums of money if the candidate did not know? Hmmmm. Maybe - maybe not. It depends on whether the contributor is interested in buying influence or is sincerely expressing an opinion.

Why don't people simply express their opinions in a public forum? Isn't that supposed to be what democracy is all about? Cannot the public form a consensus on some issue, and then let the elected officials determine the best course of action to address that issue?
 
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  • #4
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Several points:

Free speech isn't cost free. Someone has to pay for the mike.

You do not have to pay to get a politician to listen to you. However politicians do have to pay to get you to listen to them.

Public disclosure is good, but would undermine an anonymous contribution system. Corporations would contribute strange amounts like $1,001,527 with a wink and a nod. It would be worse than what we have now.

I absolutely refuse to be a language cop, but it has been suggested that I should be one. I find a number of errors in language usage in this thread and hasten to point out that they are NO impediment to clarity.
 
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  • #5
jonegil
first steps would be secularization, demilitarization, a national health service and a change in the meritocracy
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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I afraid I don't see the connection between restricting a contribution of money to a political campaign and a restriction of freedom of expression.

If I have to pay to get a politician to listen to me, where's the freedom in that.
No, you're paying the politician so that he can get people to listen to him.
I would like to see public disclosure.
AFAIK, there is complete disclosure - that's where articles like this get their numbers.
Would people be inclined to give large sums of money if the candidate did not know? Hmmmm. Maybe - maybe not. It depends on whether the contributor is interested in buying influence or is sincerely expressing an opinion.
I still don't think you have the issue right: a political contribution is buying influence whether the politician knows about it or not. The goal is to get your candidate elected by paying for the campaign.

In a re-election campaign, there is more direct influence-peddling, but in the election we're talking about here, there is no incumbent, so any direct influence would take a year and a half to pay off.

I've never contributed money to a campaign and if I wanted to say something to a politician, I wouldn't do it with money, I'd do it with a letter.
Why don't people simply express their opinions in a public forum? Isn't that supposed to be what democracy is all about? Cannot the public form a consensus on some issue, and then let the elected officials determine the best course of action to address that issue?
How exactly would that be done?
 
  • #7
Astronuc
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I know I was mixing meanings. I was being somewhat facetious, or perhaps sarcastic, which I don't do very well.

Simply freedom of expression simply means one can express one's opinions without being punished for doing so.
 
  • #8
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There is one thing that I would like to see done for starters. It is to take the "dirty" out of politics. The tactics of Karl Rove and a few others are a good example.

The fact that poiltics has always been dirty is not a good enough excuse to let it remain that way. Using mass media, too many campaigns are being run on an "attack the opponent in any way possible" basis, rather than on sticking to issues vital to the people.
 
  • #9
Art
There is one thing that I would like to see done for starters. It is to take the "dirty" out of politics. The tactics of Karl Rove and a few others are a good example.

The fact that poiltics has always been dirty is not a good enough excuse to let it remain that way. Using mass media, too many campaigns are being run on an "attack the opponent in any way possible" basis, rather than on sticking to issues vital to the people.
A politicians aim is to win elections and there are 2 basic approaches to this; the first is by extolling what a great job you will do if elected and the other is to say 'if you think I'm bad just look at my opponent' :biggrin:

The tactic works and so I do not see how negative campaigning will ever be eliminated not least because sometimes the criticisms are real. For example if a candidate knows their opponent is crooked wouldn't you then as an elector expect to be given that information?
 

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