The Supreme Court has taken another cap away from donors to political campaigns. This was expected. The conservatives on the Court seem to think that money is free speech. That is how they base their decisions anyway. So, looking forward, finance reform in our political system seems dead. Except, there is a way we can eliminate the need for mass amounts of money in campaigns.
One aspect of the ruling that I still find hard to swallow is the idea that an individual can give money to whomever they wish. Meaning, that a person in Texas can spend money in North Carolina campaigns. I understand the free speech thing, but how can an election in North Carolina possibly be of any interest to someone who lives in Texas? Unless the Texan wants to “buy” the candidates vote on certain legislation.
With that thought, maybe we could pass a law that you can only give to political parties, PACs, and candidates in your state. I know that the parties and PACs will spend the money wherever they think it is needed, and I don’t have a real problem with that. But, for someone outside the state to give money to a local candidate, even if that person is running for Congress, is ridiculous. That person will not be “representing” the donor. So, there is no apparent policy concern for the outsider. Only a desire to control as many elected officials as possible.
But, we all know that the number one factor in the large amounts of money being spent in campaigns is for TV and Radio advertisements. Both sides spent an obscene amount of money in the last election on advertisement. The best way to reduce spending on campaigns is to eliminate advertising fees. Of course, the stations carrying these advertisements wouldn’t like the idea of losing money like that. So, in fairness to them, the number of advertisements each station is required to carry should be limited. But, both side should get the same amount of air time. Plus, no one will be able to “purchase” more air time than allocated. These restrictions would have to include PACs as well.
By eliminating the cost of advertising, we would reduce the amount of money each candidate would need to effectively run a campaign. By limiting each side to specific numbers of advertisements, we would ensure fair and balanced advertising on behalf of both parties. That might actually allow voters to hear both sides of the equation before going to the polls. Besides, with the number of television stations now, between on-air and cable/satellite, there will be lots of air-time for both sides to use.
To help protect private citizens from being overwhelmed by “robo-calls”, it should be part of the “do not call list” law that these calls are included. We can already use the list to stop nuisance calls from other telemarketers, we should be able to block these political robo-calls as well.
There are a lot of other areas that require spending. Like travel for the candidates, printing costs, etc. But these are relatively small compared to the advertising budgets. Once we get rid of spending on advertisements and make sure each side gets the same amount of time on-air, we can then look at other areas as well.
It is already nearly impossible to charge someone with bribery when they contribute to campaigns. Just look at the infamous “Norquist Pledge”. This is an open, and by most politicians own admission, quid-pro-quo contributions. That constitutes bribery. Yet, prosecutors are hesitant to pursue such corruption because of the difficulty in prosecuting the culprits.
As a result, since the Supreme Court thinks that giving money to outside elections is free speech, the only way to take money out of politics, is to eliminate as much money as possible from the process. Otherwise, we will be faced with a small group of corporate billionaires “buying” the elections.