Campaign Finance Reform, revisited

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
    Location:
    Terlingua, Texas
    #1
    I ran across this little gem:

    "Thursday, January 15


    The ink is barely dry on the Supreme Court's devastating decision in McConnell v. FEC -- the so-called campaign finance case that GOA was involved in. That decision severely restricted broadcast
    communications, thus making it more difficult for GOA to hold
    legislators accountable on Second Amendment issues.

    Now, the IRS is already leaping forward to expand the Court's ruling to include GOA newsletters, e-mail alerts, and other Second
    Amendment communications.

    Put out for comment on December 23, 2003 -- when, presumably, no one would notice -- proposed IRS Revenue Ruling 2004-6 creates a broad new set of ambiguous standards which groups like GOA must follow in order to avoid losing all or part of their tax-exempt status.

    Under the proposed Revenue Ruling, the IRS would create a vague "balancing test" to determine whether GOA communications would be "permitted" by the government.

    If the communication occurred close to an election, mentioned an
    officeholder who was running for reelection, and was targeted to put pressure on congressmen through constituents in each
    representative's district, all of these factors would push toward
    outlawing the communication.

    Although the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection law was repressive enough, the proposed Revenue Ruling would go far beyond this anti-gun statute:

    * Unlike McCain-Feingold, the proposed Revenue Ruling would not be restricted to broadcast ads. Rather, it would apply to
    newspaper ads, e-mail alerts, newsletters, and other
    communications by organizations such as GOA.

    * Unlike McCain-Feingold, the proposed Revenue Ruling would not
    automatically exempt communications which occurred more than 60 days prior to an election -- or which fell below a certain
    monetary threshold.

    * Unlike McCain-Feingold, the proposed Revenue Ruling would
    contain no fixed standards for compliance. Rather every GOA
    newsletter or alert would have to be published with the
    realization that the government, after the fact, could apply its
    vague criteria to determine that is was "impermissible.""

    Hokay. So GOA (Gun Owners of America) is a pro-gun outfit. So what? These proposed rules apply to such as Planned Parenthood and the Million Mom March, as well. I guess the American Medical Association would be equally affected...Pick your favorite organization, whatever it may be: You were already muzzled within 60 days of a national election. Now, it's proposed to be even longer, per the IRS.

    Us great unwashed need to learn to be more respectful of Incumbents, who Know What's Best For Us.

    'Rat
     
  2. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    Location:
    Atlanta
    #2
    If accurate, this is outrageous.

    NRA was against McCain-Feingold from the get-go for 1st and 2nd Amendment reasons, as you know. I believe that many liberal lobbying groups were also opposed.

    It should be obvious by now that it is impossible to remove money from the political equation. Right, Mr. Soros?
     
  3. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #3
    Sorry, 'Rat, I'm critical of McCain-Feingold from another perspective - it didn't go far enough. I think the idea that "money = free speech" is an anathema to democracy. I'm all for campaigns that have the public airwaves open to all who want to participate as part of the public duty the corporations must perform for the access we grant them. I'm also for public financing of campaigns. If you are for making "one person, one vote" the bedrock of democracy then it is the only way to prevent the commodization and corporate control of candidates we have now. If it takes a constitutional amendment to give Congress the right to severely curtail the power of money in politics, I'm for it.
     
  4. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    Location:
    Atlanta
    #4
    Money does not = free speech. You practiced free speech when you wrote that. A homeless person sitting in a public library at a computer could type that.

    Check out http://www.politics1.com/ind04.htm for all the Presidential candidates. Should they all get the same amount of money and exposure? Why not?

    Realistically, because it'll be more annoying than having 1000 telemarketers call you at dinnertime. But since it wouldn't be fair to discriminate, you'd have to provide for them all evenly. And, you'll encourage more candidates, and probably spell the complete death of every political party in this country.

    Besides, 'rat is talking about the gov't limiting (not expanding) political speech, even between members of a particular lobbying group. At its ridiculous extreme, a group could lose its tax-free status if even one member utters to the other even one sentence about for whom they intend to vote.

    And do you really expect Congress to curtail the power of money in politics? Seriously?
     
  5. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
    Location:
    Terlingua, Texas
    #5
    Sayhey, are you trying to tell us that anything which reduces the money-flow from fat cats outweighs your First Amendment rights?

    It's unimportant that a non-profit group cannot even send emails to its membership about a newly-arisen issue, without losing its tax exempt status?

    That you, yourself, could be denied ad space by a newspaper, should you find a "smoking gun" about a candidate to whom you're opposed, if it's within 60 days of the election?

    It doesn't bother you that only recognized media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers) are "allowed" to offer political opinion about named candidates in that time frame? And we all know that the networks and newspaper chains are totally open-minded and fair on all issues, right?

    'Rat
     
  6. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2003
    Location:
    PRK
    #6
    I think that what we really should avoid, and what CFR really should have done is remove the curtain of secrecy around the money involved in campaigns.

    If campaign contributions were tax-deductible, or if somehow, every single campaign contribution were disclosed for the public to see in an easy to follow path, then the impetus for CFR would be gone.

    You can't take money out of politics, at least, not in a free capitalist society. Dictatorships dont have money in their politics, but you only have one candidate, and you know who is going to win. Same with monarchies.

    How to limit private property rights (money) from going into political campaigns... that a tough nut to crack and still maintain the private property rights which is essential to a free society.

    You can't say "No contributions to political campaigns". You'd end up with a plutocracy where only the rich could run for office.

    You can't say "Equal public funding of political campaigns". You'd end up with the current mess of incumbents overwhelmingly winning elections because they have a past cache of public recognition.

    You can't say "Term limits". You'd end up with politicians playing muscial offices, or you turn away outstanding officeholders just when they finally know the ropes and can get things done.

    What to do?
     
  7. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #7
    No, 'Rat, I'm not saying much of any of those things. What I am saying is that the McConnell position that "Money=Equals Free Speech" is the root of much of what is wrong with how we elect people in this country. It is the largest road block to real free speech for the most of us. I think the constant fundraising and the favors that are exchanged in that process makes politics the tools of the wealthy and removes most of the rest of us from influence. In that regard, McCain-Feingold did not go any where far enough. I'm for public financing of campaigns. I believe there must be some standards that are set for people to receive such funding, but it is the only real way to get rid of the kind of quid pro quo of political fundraising that goes on now. If first for any candidate to qualify they must meet reasonable ballot qualifications in each of the 50 states (which would rule out 90% conerns on that issue) and second the campaign was shortened in terms of time that political TV ads can be placed on the airwaves (as I said free of charge as a requirement of the use of our airwaves by corporate entities), then I think both the cost and the legitimate access problems can be dealt with.

    Yes, I think limits on the content of speech have to be carefully watched. Especially political speech. Some of the rules you talk about are troublesome and should be stopped and rethought.

    The need to have vigorous debate on the issues by both candidates and citizens must be put as a priority in the forming of any such rules. That does not mean that steps do not need to be taken under the current rules to stop large donors from flooding the airwaves and the mail with anonymous attack ads with no chance to rebut them.
     
  8. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Terlingua, Texas
    #8
    Hokay, Sayhey. I was just puzzled, in that I was focussing on the free speech aspect, and not at all on the money.

    Since you brought up the issue of campaign funding, and I'm in love with thread drift as much as anybody :), consider this:

    1. Congress passed the laws which brought about PACs in a campaign finance reform package. PACs were hailed as the sure cure for all the bad doings of the past. Whee! And they became seen as evil, necessitating campaign finance reform.

    2. To put limits on the amounts which individuals could donate to a political party (separate from donations to candidates) would aid the Republicans. The average donation that party receives, on average, is smaller than for the Democrats. And, there are more people giving giant chunks of money to the Democrats than to the Republicans--Soros, for instance, in the present campaign season. (Per the federal election folks who track donations.)

    Face it: Some pretty good and honest brains have been struggling with this issue for over thirty years, now. Yet, every solution offered has had some number of flaws. Every year the costs of campaigns increase, and without money you just can't run a worthwhile campaign. Damfino...

    'Rat
     
  9. wwworry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2002
    #9
    transparent donations

    &

    free air time on TV. (once a threshold of signatures has been reached) I said it before and I'll say it againL Our country is being sold out to pay for misleading ads on public airwaves.
     
  10. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #10
    I know it is obvious, but it seems to me that the problem is that the people who have been "struggling with this issue for over thirty years" are the same ones who benefit from the corruption inherent in the electoral system. I'm all for a movement for further democratization of our elections. Only outside pressure will bring any real change.
     
  11. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
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    Terlingua, Texas
    #11
    Sayhey, what was it, 1976 when the last reforms took place? Anyhow, I remember various Public Interest groups shouting "Hosannah!" about it. (If not hosannahs, at least comments about betterment.) The idea for the PACs was that "little folks" could band together and have bloc influence. Blacks, Women's Lib, etc.

    I wouldn't object to free TV time, given the airwaves allegedly :)belong to the public. Remember, however, that while the great majority of voters tolerate 30-second spots, they may well change channels if there are extensive and/or lengthy "politics only" shows. What's the bigger audience, Larry King or any NBA game? You want to try to explain your ideas for changes in pollution control or the tax codes, during prime time?

    'Rat
     
  12. wwworry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2002
    #12
    THose 30 second ads do not work and they cost a lot of money. I say they cost me a lot of money because either my health insurance is paying indirectly for the tv time or my phone company is paying for 29 congressmen scrambling for re-election. Then you look at spending bills or tax law and they are filled with favors for specific big donors.

    Yes free air-time may be boring but it is bound to be more informative. Politics is boring but very important. Why should television be the exclusive domain of money?

    What I am trying to do is not place limits (though I am for them) but to make the whole process cheaper. It would be better if we did not spend so much on campaigns.
     
  13. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Terlingua, Texas
    #13
    wwworry, I agree that such programming would be more informative. However, there is a good bit of informative programming on C-Span. How many actually watch? You, yourself might not be bored, but how big a sector of the viewing audience sees it as you do?

    Per what I've read, those 30-second ads, particularly the attack ads, are indeed effective. Remember Willie Horton? Or Bush I and the ad with Dukakis in the tank?

    You say you would like to make the process cheaper. Don't you think that politicians at all levels would strongly agree with you? :) More than one incumbent has commented about the sense of shame felt due to the unending need to beg for money for the next re-election campaign--which begins on the first day in office.

    Personally, I'd like to see these caucuses and primaries limited to the period of, say, June through August. No time limited on door-knocking, of course, but none of these dog-and-pony shows that begin in the fall of the year before the election. If we can be hushed during a certain time period--unless we're "recognized mdia"--why can't "we" hush "them"?

    Separately, and a subject for another thread, doesn't all this large-scale national focus upon politics show how we've created a governmental structure which is just way too big? That is too heavily involved in daily life? "Done quit preachin' and gone to meddlin'?

    :), 'Rat

    'Rat
     
  14. wwworry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2002
    #14
    I think they are effective but not at all informative. Do we really want that? Do we really want ads that don't inform or mis-inform determining elections? I would think not. Especially since they come at so great a cost to our political process.

    I do not think incumbants really want to change the system no matter what they say. Incumbants are re-elected at a 96% rate so obviously the system woks for them.

    I don't doubt many people would be bored. Many people are bored with the current 30 sec. misinformation ads. Is fear of boredom so great a concern? Why would you not want to even try free air time? What could it hurt?

    Most of political discussion today is on the horse-race or soap opera aspect of the process. Who is winning. Who is mad at who. I wish it were more boring.
     

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