Friday, January 04, 2008

[Sorry for the screwy formatting, I'm not patient enough to pick through the HTML]

Here are some of the replies to my question on campaign finance reform.

One Democrat says no:
Public financing likely can’t work – you can’t prevent a rich candidate from spending his/her own money, which would dwarf what others would get from the public funding (unless the public funding ran into the billions of dollars). I think ideally if one takes more than a token amount (e.g. $250) from a contributor you should be barred from voting on any measure which directly or indirectly affects that donor for a year or more. Obviously this would be a challenge to enforce what with shell companies and other means of disguising contributions, but I think if enforced in an aggressive manner it would be the most fair method.

One libertarian surprisingly says yes:

As a devout Libertarian, while I am wary of the state controlling ANYTHING, I still thin public financing of campaigns is the way to go. As far as your concern about exclusion and threshholds, that is already present in a big way. As a member of one of the two major parties, you are probably not even remotely aware of the onerous requirements to get onto a state ballot in the first place, nor the many and constant changes and raising up of the bar to get on the ballot that many states play with every single year in order to try to exclude third parties.
I guess my point is that the state(s) already have enormous power to exclude third parties anyways, so the public financing issue won't really be important in creating some sort of barrier to third parties.
One hard core liberal Democrat says yes:
Interesting to ponder. I do think, though, that clean money campaigns
are designed specifically to avoid the sorts of government-influence
problems you fear would undermine the system. Any process can be
corrupted -- the point is to set up a fairer system than the one we're
now dealing with, and then to guard it from degenerating into something

In public financing, the state doesn't own/control things, the people
do. (Mind the difference between a totalitarian communist state vs. a
democratic socialistic society.) If we set rules that disallow
government interference in giving access to public campaign funds --
which is a key point in public financing legislation; candidates need
only satisfy an agreed-upon set of benchmarks, not pass any sort of
political litmus test -- then we get what we want: a cleaner, less
corrupt system.

Bottom line, I don't think we want to avoid taking steps to improve one
part of our electoral process because other parts are imperfect (e.g.,
partisan secretaries of state). Let's fix the rest, too, not give up
for fear that our best efforts will end up subverted! Otherwise, why
bother doing ... anything?

The last person quoted suggested that the California reforms being proposed are a good idea, as they don't prohibit private fundraising, just provide an incentive for the private financed campaign to stay within the public limits. The nickel version is that if the private campaign exceeds the public funding caps, then the state provides matching funds to the public campaign equivalent to the overage spent by the private campaign. Not a bad idea.

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