Sunday, December 18, 2011

Campaign finance corruption (2012)

[This was written in 2012]

The heart of the corruption problem is money and campaign financing.  See The corrupt system and how to fix it and particularly "C. The significance of campaign finance laws"  in the foregoing link.  As stated there:

A prime indicator of how corrupt the system in the United States has become, and how far the special interest money has taken control of the political process, is the highly contentious animosity over campaign finance laws that Congress has not been able to settle through torturous rounds of legislative enactments and revisions during the past twenty years.

I contend that we cannot fix our broken government in Washington until we fix the campaign financing problem.  I would like to propose for debate four possible fixes for the campaign financing problem.

1.  A shift to greater public financing.

2.   A constitutional amendment limiting the right of free speech under the First Amendment to human beings.

3.  A system under which campaign contributions are required to be made on an anonymous basis, i.e., there is a legislatively created Campaign Contribution Remittance Agency whose sole function is to receive contributions from donors who specify which candidate they want to receive the contribution and to remit such contributions to the specified candidates without identification of the donor.

4. A system under which no private communications between lawmakers and their constituents are permitted, and all communications between lawmakers and their constituents are required to be memorialized (preferably  verbatim) in electronic form and posted on the Internet in searchable form.

There may be other possible fixes that can be suggested.

Debating the foregoing possible fixes to the campaign financing problem, and implementing a fix, will require a national undertaking.

A basic contention of my candidacy is that we cannot fix our broken government in Washington DC, extricate ourselves from the gridlock there, and have a satisfactorily functioning federal government until the campaign financing problem is fixed.  Accordingly, that must be a high, if not number one, priority of the American people.

My platform is to end corruption and gridlock in Washington DC, and I am making action by Congress on the campaign financing problem virtually the only legislative policy issue for voters to cast there votes about.

Some tweaking and ideas: 

If there is a constitutional amendment limiting free speech rights to human beings, Congress may otherwise allow or limit speech by corporations, unions, associations, and other entities as may be determined pursuant to the regular legislative process.  This should done in a way that fits with the free speech rights human beings have.

Tentatively, here is some more of my thinking:

Only human beings could make campaign contributions.  There would be no dollar amount limits on such campaign contributions.  There would no "bundling" allowed, and all contributions would be required to be made on the donor's credit card or by check mailed to the candidate.  Subject to provisions for allowing anonymous contributions (discussed below), names and addresses of donors, and amounts of contributions would be posted on the internet.  Corporations, associations and other non-human being entities could expend funds to advertise their positions on laws and other governmental mattes that affect their economic interests and to urge  employees, customers and others (who are natural persons) to make campaign contributions to specified candidates.  All such advertising and communications shall identify the corporation, etc., expending the funds, and there shall be filing of reports and posting on internet about such expenditure of funds and activities.  It would be a felony for a human being to receive compensation or payment from a corporation pursuant to an understanding that the employee or other natural person would make a campaign contribution to a candidate.

There needs to be debate about whether a human being should be able to make campaign contributions on an anonymous basis.  There can be legitimate concern about retaliation by other members of society who disagree with what the donor's objectives in making his or her contribution, and there can even be concern about retaliation by lawmakers and governmental regulators against donors by reason of their campaign contribution.  To address this concern, it should be considered whether there could be a governmental Campaign Contribution Remittance Agency, which would receive campaign contributions from human beings who would be identified in the confidential records of the agency and would pass along the contribution to the identified candidate accompanied by such statement of purpose of the contribution as the human being wished to make.  The amount of the contribution, the candidate it is for, and the statement in question would be posted on the internet.

The issue of public financing of campaigns

No dollar amount limit on campaign contributions by human beings does mean that there will not be equal free speech.  Human beings with more money can make larger campaign contributions and it can be expected that candidates will pay more attention to what those human beings are saying than to other human beings making small contributions.

Public financing of campaigns can be argued to make for equal free speech by all.  This needs to be debated.

More tweaking and ideas:

If the First Amendment right of free speech is limited to human beings, and Congress can regulate the speech of corporations and other entities, Congress could have a "Truth in Political Speech" law that says corporations, in their speech, shall not say anything that is false or misleading or fail to state a material fact that a voter or a lawmaker would consider relevant in making a voting decision based on or taking account of the statements that the corporation makes in its political speech.  This is a well known standard that is used in the securities laws that in the selling of stocks, bonds and other securities in order for investors not to be misled or deceived in making their decisions to buy the investments in question.  Much effort goes into making sure that information in offering documents is accurate and truthful.

In the securities law, there are "forward looking statements"  that are based on management’s expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions, and that the securities law requires to be made in ways that keep in front of the investor the uncertainties that attend expectations or projections about future events.  As a result, such statements are  accompanied by caveats saying that actual future results and trends may differ materially from what is forecast.

Candidates and other human beings would not be subject to this truthfulness standard concerning their political speech.  There could, however, result in significant improvement of the political speech of candidates and other human beings if corporations and other entities were making a lot of political speech that was subject to the truthfulness standard.  Candidates could then questioned about their statements by reference to the political speech that is subject to the truthfulness standard, i.e, "You candidate X say doing this (e.g., a $100 billion stimulus program will reduce unemployment by 1% point).  What support for your statement can you point to in the political speech of a corporation or other entity that is subject to the truthfulness standard that lines up with what you say.  If you can't, why should we voters believe what you say or even think that you yourself believe it?

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