OUTLAW CAMPAIGN FINANCE CONTRIBUTIONS

This blog was originally posted in November of 2007, re-printed this date. 

 

TIME TO OUTLAW CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Posted on November 11th, 2007 by Marshall Frank in Politics & Government, Edit

Government is not so complicated. It’s just corrupt

One only has to monitor the illegal immigration fiasco to realize the extent of debauchery that prevails in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. Beyond that, the war in Iraq, the global war on terror, issues with environment, crime, gun control, pharmaceuticals, taxes and social security, energy, pork spending, and on and on.

Keeping it simple, but not stupid, the problems can be boiled down to a common denominator: Political fund raising.

We can talk about soft money and hard money, lobbyists and all the loopholes, but it all equates to this: When an individual, corporation or special interest group donates huge amounts of money to a political campaign, it’s for one purpose: To buy influence. The more the contribution, the more the influence. Anyone who thinks that such influence is intended to improve conditions for American citizens is living on the planet Mars. It’s to promote one’s business. For politicians, it’s to gain and retain power.

The tobacco industry didn’t pour zillions into Washington over sixty years because of political idealism, it was to lower their taxes, up their sales, secure subsidies and profits. Senators, congressmen and presidents who sanctioned such depravity knew that would necessitate a lot of smokers. By enticing the nicotine habit into multi-millions of Americans, the medical profession and pharmaceutical industries have benefitted as well, with hundreds of millions more suffering from cancer, heart disease, and emphysema.

Illegal immigration? Agriculture is a major lobby, as is the restaurant and hotel industry. So is construction. They have poured millions into political funding for a single purpose: to secure favors from Washington in order to inflate profits. Their greatest ally has been this administration and as a result, we have a worsened situation six years after September 11th, 2001.

The problem was summed up by Chicago Times columnist John O’Sullivan who wrote, “In the years 1995 to 1997, there were 10,000 to 18,000 work-site arrests of illegals, while 1,000 employers were served notice of fines for employing them. In 2004, under the Bush administration, work site arrests dropped to 159, and only three employers were served notice of intent to fine.”

Politicians can babble on about humanitarianism and welcoming the huddled masses, but the bottom line is clear as fresh greenback dollars. Hotels, motels, restaurants, and other service industries make huge profits by hiring lower wage employees. When employers are given defacto immunity for violating the law, out-of-control illegal immigration is the result.

Today, we hear an accented voice from East India when we call customer service about a problem with our credit card? Those companies made handsome profits before, but now that they’ve secured the favor of Washington and hire foreign employees for sweat-shop wages, their profits can double and triple. American jobs are outsourced while consumer service declines.

This president did not veto one spending bill in his first six years in office despite billions in unnecessary earmarks tacked on for special interests. Senator McCain calls that “pork barrel” add-ons. It is nothing other than corruption disguised as government, as senators, congressmen and the president pay back favors to those who helped them get into office.

I cringe every time I hear a politician say they are voting in the best interest of all Americans.

President Dwight Eisenhower had warned us back in 1959, to beware of the military industrial complex because the rationality for future wars may depend on political influence and mega profits within the industry of war materials. When we see that over $450 billion has been expended thus far, and private companies such as Halliburton have reaped the spoils, one wonders what the true reasons were behind the unprovoked invasion. The cost to mainstream America? 3,800 lives and 13,000 maimed for life. That’s without mentioning a hundred thousand of Iraqi dead, and two million displaced.

When a local cop accepts five hundred dollars a month to look the other way from a neighborhood crack house, that’s illegal. When a politician accepts money/and or favors to support laws to allow the outsourcing of jobs for lower wages, that’s legal. Call it anything you want, the moral equivalent remains. It both translates to bribery.

The difference is that the lawmakers can pass legislation that allows them to do anything they wish, most of which falls under the umbrella of “lobbying” or “support.” It still translates to the taking of money and favors in exchange for special consideration.

Lawmakers and lobbyists justify all this by hiding behind the protection of the First Amendment’s right to free speech. That’s nothing more than convoluting semantics for personal gain.

I seriously doubt this what Jefferson and Madison had in mind for honest government.

The solution? Well, if I could wave the magic wand and fix it all in one clean swoop, here’s what I would do.

All contributions and fund raising on the federal level should be deemed illegal. No money, no favors, no pleasure trips by lobbyists, no fancy dinners, no free tickets to sporting events and no party times. Not one politician should owe one business enterprise or special interest group a favor. If a candidate wants to pay out-of-pocket, that’s fine.

According the IRS estimates, there were 135 million tax returns submitted in 2006. If every taxpayer paid twenty dollars into a pool for political campaign funds, divided equitably among all major candidates in all federal elections, that would yield $2.70 billion, far more than enough to divvy up between the 468 congressional elections each year, and a presidential race every four years. That twenty bucks is a worthwhile investment for Americans to keep our government honest. That twenty bucks will keep our House members working on behalf of Americans during their two-year terms, instead of attending fund raisers day after day. That twenty bucks will put the lobbyists in the public eye instead of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. That twenty bucks will force politicians to act in our behalf, not in behalf of the almighty dollar.

I challenge anyone to say it’s not doable.

Will it happen? That would require the Washington establishment to legislate their own honesty. (ahem)

Twenty bucks a year — for honest, representative government. That’s a family trip to McDonalds or a date at the movies.

So easy, yet so complicated.

23 Responses to “TIME TO OUTLAW CAMPAIGN FINANCE”

  1. Marshall, as usual, insightful, simple and challenging. Too simple for anyone in government to take it seriously. Great idea but unfortunately will not even be considered by the “powers that be.”

    It does not matter what party we support they are all the same when they get elected.

    If only someone would start listening and doing something but I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

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  2. Marshall. Excellent idea and well thought out. To make it happen you need the backing of an organization like Common Cause, who have the muscle to bring it to the attention of their members, who can then bring it to the attention of Congress. Still a big problem, but you need heavy weight behind the idea. Am I saying another lobby, perhaps, but one that has the citizens at heart. Marvin

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  3. Marshall. An excellent idea. But as I always say, “Don’t let comen sence and reason interfear with Goverment or the Criminal Jusice Sytem”.

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  4. Well said Marshall. I would only add that we need candidates who view the holding of elected office as a “calling” or who are at Maslow’s level of self-actualization. Today unfortunately, running for and holding office is just another form of employment. As we well know, they will do whatever is necessary, including seeking continued support from lobbyists to stay employed. I’m hopeful, but not optimistic, that we will see meaningful change in out lifetimes.

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  5. Well said.
    I have thought of this for years. We need to ban all lobbying, contributions,subsidies, and tax breaks to companies that “outsource” overseas. Immigration needs to be controlled. Be here legally or get out. Is there a future for our country? Big business is running/ruining it. If only we could elect honest caring people to office. I really fear for our children’s and their children’s future.

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  6. Marshall: A good idea but unfortunately we no longer have many “statesmen” in Congress. They look to the next generation. We have mostly politicians, who look only to the next election.

    Perhaps we should take this a step further. Prohibit any elected representative from running for any office except the one to which they were elected. And, we should dock them a day’s pay for every session of Congress they miss while out raising funds or gathering votes. We hired them to represent us, not run for (re)election. Make it a business rule. No work, no pay.

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  7. No doubt fund raising has it’s influence and should be outlawed. If the maximum donation would be reduced to $20 per person, the amount would not buy much influence.
    Another idea might be to do away with elections entirely. Representatives could be drawn from a citizen pool like juries.
    No money raising required and a cross section of American citizens represented..
    The two party system with winning being everything will likely result in the downfall of America. We cannot waste our way in “pork” and subsidies in order to achieve prosperity.

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  8. If you back off and look at elections as they stand now, it is an exercise in futility since my vote doesn’t really count. The vote (that counts) is the ones with the almighty dollars who bought their candidate. Think about it I would have all funds raised for an election, pooled into an account to reduce our national debt (thank you G.W. Bush) and or fund a national health plan. Let the TV, and the rest of the media be obliged to donate equal time or ink to each candidate, eliminating the need for fund raising, partially

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  9. Another great article and great replies from your readers. My husband and I would gladly board a bus, with like-minded people, and carry signs with the ideas stated above and march in front of the Capitol! Why don’t you start writing a column in the paper, Marshall. Title it “How to fix our broken government” and feature a letter from a reader to go with your comments each week. I’m serious.

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  10. Good article Marshall,
    One of your responders suggested that there are no longer any statesmen in Washington,DC.
    I couldn’t agree with him more. The absence of statesmen, unfortunately exists in every state and local form of government in our land. As far as so called donations are concerned party affiliation doesn’t matter. The politicians are,as a matter of fact,working to promote their individual tenures. When I become king this will all change.

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  11. Good Evening, Marshall –

    You have a good idea, and have developed it well here. But I think the possibility of getting a politician to reform is zero. They will find a way to get around any law designed to prevent their accepting bribes.They can and will continue their wicked ways because they have no conscience. Some are worse than others, such as our current President, but power is their game. We are their victims, and we’re stuck with them.

    Regards, Bill

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  12. the govement should not spendf moore than they take in

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  13. Great article Marshall. True in every sense.
    But, I’d like to see it go one step further. No political parties. Get the American voter to think “outside” the box. Every voter should register as an Independent. Change the whole political scheme. Independents can’t vote in the primaries. Think of what that would do to the so-called “parties”. I think that would get their attention and make them sit up and listen to the American voter.

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  14. It would certainly be a step in the right direction but I’d like to couple it with the admonition to never vote for a lawyer again.
    For years now the politics at all levels of government has been controlled by attorneys. Is it any wonder that this country is in the shape it’s in ?

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  15. Marshall…the thinking citizenry is full of great ideas….$20/voter is one but people aren’t even checking off the one or two dollars the tax form allows for now. Americans don’t want to pay, like the politicians they want to get.The big problem is how to get it accomplished. It concerns me that civics is no longer part of the grammar school curriculum. Kids don’t learn anything about their Constitution and Bill of Rights so how can we expect them to grow up cherishing them?While were’re cutting off the corporate contributions lets replace all the Bibles in hotel rooms with copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and give traveling adults something to read that will help them and the nation. Note…the Canadian Loonie has surpassed the dollar, all Canadians are entitled to health care and Canadian kids can go to College free. We might assk ourselves how our country cousins became so enlightened. Grace

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  16. Hey, what’s wrong with legal bribery, rebates, commissions, kickbacks, consulting fees, no-bid contracts,sweetheart deals, gentlemans’ agreements, finder’s fees and the American version of “our thing”.
    What – are you un-American or something?

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  17. Looks to me the only honest candidate running for President is Dr. Ron Paul.
    He is for all the things you mentioned that has corrupted our Goverment for years.
    I only ask that you go to his website, and lern more about what he stands for, and how we need drastic changes in our Government before it is too late to do anything.

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  18. All so true, Marshall. You’re singing my song. The 20 bucks a year idea is good, but as you hinted, how can we get the thieves to essentially vote themselves out.

    I think Jefferson said something to the effect that we need to revolt when the government gets out of hand. But that was before WMD’s.

    Lots of other great ideas here too, but most would require Congress to act, and act like they actually care about anyone but themselves. Ha ha. Have you ever written to these jokers? “Very nice of you to write but I’m going to do whatever I please. Damn the Democracy, full speed ahead. Thank you very much for your support.”

    At this stage of the game, I guess all we can really do, is bend over and kiss our —es good-bye.

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  19. P.S. Marshall. Your times are wrong on this site, at least in the eastern U.S. I wrote the above on November 13 at about 4:20 p.m.

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  20. Mark Twain said,
    There is no distinctly Native American criminal class….save Congress.

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  21. Very Simple. Unfortunately, probably too simple to work.
    It has to start in the schools. Teach the “ME” generation to aspire to be “statesmen” – – IF that is possible.

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  22. I have been thinking about this more and more. I believe we need to limit ANY campaigning to ONLY six months before an election. It will reduce spending which may help a little bit.

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  23. Right on, friend. I respect only Sen. Chuck Grassley– not a lawyer–votes both ways, but only for the nation. Defeated my Dad in 1958, 1st run for both, good. King Soloman said about 900BC “a feast is made for laughter, wine maketh merry but money answereth all things.” Same old same old
    crooked politics goes on and on.
    Semper Fi