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Thread: Money & Politics in the U.S.

  1. #1
    Alistair's Avatar
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    Money & Politics in the U.S.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/07/opinio...html?hpt=hp_t3

    A great article (IMO) on the nature of the current problem in American Politics.

    EDIT: I was just moderated for not providing my own commentary to this threads original OP, so in an effort to correct that, I will say that desite being generally American-liberal pro-personal-freedom/libertarian on issues such as free speech, I think a very strong and logical argument can and should be made that monetary donation is NOT, in fact, free speech and should not be held to the same level of protection under U.S. constitutional law.

    In my view, there is a basic fundamental difference between speech, i.e. expressing an opinion verbally or in writing and being protected from Government repurcussions for that speech, and what I would descirbe as political corruption via monetary bribery. In short, there can be no way anyone can or should think that large-sized donation to political candidates come free of the implication of strings-attached quid pro quo expectations, stated or not, and that alone makes it something that should be avoided.

    The difficulty is, of course, creating a system where the best candidates can all be equally funded by the State without creating a host of new exclusions or problems. In the U.S., in a system where every candidate was funded, you'd have elections with 10,000 candidated running! Clearly, thats not an improvement. So how can we get around that problem, still have a manageable number of candidates, and a system based more on debates, policy positions and the like, and less on funding differences, and avoid the deluge of too many candidates to manage?

    As an aside, you may want to add to the stickied rules thread in here that posts of articles without added commentary is forbidden. I was honestly unaware of this rule, and apologize.
    Last edited by Alistair; April 8 2013 at 05:46:34 PM.


  2. #2

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    Speaking from the perspective of a country with recurrent party funding scandals, this is much harder than americans think.

    Any system to limit large contributions will have loopholes. And if you close all the legal loopholes, there's always the suitcase full of cash.

    The american system where all the donations are out in the open may even be the best compromise possible.

  3. #3
    Synapse's Avatar
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    Given that I automatically seem to love anything lessig does, I'll have to go give a read.

  4. #4
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Are there any systems worldwide where ALL contributions are banned and ALL political funding comes from a (qualifiable-for) state grant? I.e. a completely level playing field?

  5. #5
    מלך יהודים Zeekar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Are there any systems worldwide where ALL contributions are banned and ALL political funding comes from a (qualifiable-for) state grant? I.e. a completely level playing field?
    Not to my knowledge, but afaik there are usually imposed limits to the amount of funding you can get total.


    

  6. #6
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    My friend had an idea a while back that I thought was pretty assinine at the time, but the more I think of about it, the better it sounds.

    Basically ATM when you make a donation, you either donate to a party or to a specific candidate's re/election fund. His idea was that instead of having the donations go directly to either a party or canidate, they all go into the general election fund, no matter who you are backing.

    The funds would be made available to all the parties on an even split. He suggested having the funds be split amongst the top 4 parties as decided by polling. While currently any party that can amass something like 15% of phone polling can qualify for the general election fund, I cannot recall this ever happening as American politics are dominated by our two top partie. While this move will most likely not result in a totaly different party coming to power, I think it would grealy change how the election process pans out, as Republicans & Democrats would atleast have to acknowledge & discuss issues during the debates that they both would much rather avoid; such as campaign finance. I don't recall Obama or Romney talking about campaign finance reform during the debates, because as it stands its to the benefit of both ruling parties.

    One thing I really like about this idea is it prevents so many loop holes from being abused. One such loop hole has been featured quite a bit in NJ lately as corruption scandal is playing out with an engineering firm. Here in NJ we have whats known as "Pay to Play" Laws. Basically after decades of collusion & corruption these laws came about where any business that has any official state work (like an engineering firm desgining public roads, parks etc.) has to report all of its poltical donations, & they cannot exceed a maximum of $3,000(IIRC). The way many companies (and the one featured in the news) have gotten around this is by having their employees write out personal checks for the maximum donation amount, & then reimbursing them for the donation via a bonus pay. Using the above proposed system, this loophole simply would not work, as you have no actual say on who gets the money, only that a maximum of 1/4 of your donation is going to your desired party/canidate.

    I think this move would radically change the way politics play out & greatly reduce the amount & effects of money in politics. Is Defence contractor A going to donate 5 million dollars next election cycle if 3.75 million of it is going to candidates who may be either indifferent or counter to their goals?

    TL;DR: Change political contributions from being a way to promote a particular candidate or party, to a way that improves the election process in general.

  7. #7

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    One of the big complaints I read about the US system is how the same companies contribute to both parties at the same time.

    Wouldn't your idea just save them the trouble of making two separate contributions?

  8. #8

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    Just make political donations and political advertising in mass media flat out illegal. With the internet and social media you no longer need money to reach a large audience.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CastleBravo View Post
    Just make political donations and political advertising in mass media flat out illegal. With the internet and social media you no longer need money to reach a large audience.
    Political advertising on TV isn't different than the internet or media. It's still political advertising and can be done by individuals or PACs.

    You're talking about limiting the free speech of individuals to promote a person/value they believe in which is why most challenges to the system get squashed pretty heavily in the courts. And here is where everyone gets confused. "Money in politics" is based mostly in political advertising done outside of the elections and outside of the candidate's control. Yes there is some limited coordination but that's minimal. In a fictitious situation, if a group's leadership decided to suddenly switch sides there isn't anything a candidate or party can do.

    If members raised the funds they needed from small contributions only, then many more of us would be the "relevant funders
    This is misleading. Donations are capped per individual to a party. It doesn't matter if you're some poor guy on the corner or executive/shareholder with money coming out of your ears. PACs and similar groups get their strength from mass donations from their many supporters. He brings up John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, The Grassroots Democracy Act. Ok so let's take a look at it.

    http://sarbanes.house.gov/free_details.asp?id=123

    Taking one look at this and I can already see this thing being challenged in the courts right away. He's talking about federalizing that ability to lobby.

    Establish a refundable tax credit to encourage grassroots campaign giving, stimulate outreach by campaigns to new voter populations, and foster civic engagement from a broader group of Americans. Also, launch a pilot Democracy Dollar voucher program to develop the necessary infrastructure for a successful voucher program.
    Wat? Giving tax credits to encourage voting? Um, I guess so. So who oversees this and who is paying for this little operation that will cover 300 million people?

    Establish a “citizen-owned” People’s Fund to provide immediate support to grassroots-supported candidates in elections where outside spending (i.e. non-candidate, non-party spending such as that of a super PAC and 501(c)4 organizations) significantly outpaces national norms.
    So here's an interesting conundrum. A candidate is doing terrible and can't get enough supporters or advertising money. So a tax funded "fairness" fund is automatically created to help him out? Calling it "citizen owned" is a misnomer since it's provided and governed by a federal organization.


    For those that aren't Americans and don't follow what we're talking about, here's a brief example in short terms much like Lessig does in his article.

    Ok so lets say I hit the cap for party donations. I have all of this extra money from my job/drug deals/lemonade stands, etc. What's being argued here is there should be limitation on me blowing all of my cash on a TV commercial spot and an internet website about cats who support my favorite candidate. Then my buddy sees the site and flips out, wanting to help. So we collaborate and later draw in more people to our message. Suddenly our neighborhood is interested but coordinating individuals is pain in the ass. So we form Cats for XXX, Inc. Shit guys, we're a Political Action Committee also know as a P.A.C. But then other groups like Dachshunds for XXX candidate and Cougars for XXX candidate are also interested and they want to coordinate with us. After enough people join we become a Super PAC, Animal Noobs for American Liberties, Inc. (ANAL)! Since we aren't directly connected with the candidate, we have nothing to limit how much we want to spend on advertising, protests, and/or "get out the vote" door to door things. And this is where all of the millions of dollars go. Not to a candidate's pocket, but to advertiser's pockets to promote that person.

    The biggest irony to all of this is that fact that it started as a result of Labor Unions wanting a way for their members to compete with big interests and other corporations in lobbying efforts.

  10. #10
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CastleBravo View Post
    Just make political donations and political advertising in mass media flat out illegal. With the internet and social media you no longer need money to reach a large audience.
    Political advertising on TV isn't different than the internet or media. It's still political advertising and can be done by individuals or PACs.

    You're talking about limiting the free speech of individuals to promote a person/value they believe in which is why most challenges to the system get squashed pretty heavily in the courts. And here is where everyone gets confused. "Money in politics" is based mostly in political advertising done outside of the elections and outside of the candidate's control. Yes there is some limited coordination but that's minimal. In a fictitious situation, if a group's leadership decided to suddenly switch sides there isn't anything a candidate or party can do.

    If members raised the funds they needed from small contributions only, then many more of us would be the "relevant funders
    This is misleading. Donations are capped per individual to a party. It doesn't matter if you're some poor guy on the corner or executive/shareholder with money coming out of your ears. PACs and similar groups get their strength from mass donations from their many supporters. He brings up John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, The Grassroots Democracy Act. Ok so let's take a look at it.

    http://sarbanes.house.gov/free_details.asp?id=123

    Taking one look at this and I can already see this thing being challenged in the courts right away. He's talking about federalizing that ability to lobby.

    Establish a refundable tax credit to encourage grassroots campaign giving, stimulate outreach by campaigns to new voter populations, and foster civic engagement from a broader group of Americans. Also, launch a pilot Democracy Dollar voucher program to develop the necessary infrastructure for a successful voucher program.
    Wat? Giving tax credits to encourage voting? Um, I guess so. So who oversees this and who is paying for this little operation that will cover 300 million people?

    Establish a “citizen-owned” People’s Fund to provide immediate support to grassroots-supported candidates in elections where outside spending (i.e. non-candidate, non-party spending such as that of a super PAC and 501(c)4 organizations) significantly outpaces national norms.
    So here's an interesting conundrum. A candidate is doing terrible and can't get enough supporters or advertising money. So a tax funded "fairness" fund is automatically created to help him out? Calling it "citizen owned" is a misnomer since it's provided and governed by a federal organization.


    For those that aren't Americans and don't follow what we're talking about, here's a brief example in short terms much like Lessig does in his article.

    Ok so lets say I hit the cap for party donations. I have all of this extra money from my job/drug deals/lemonade stands, etc. What's being argued here is there should be limitation on me blowing all of my cash on a TV commercial spot and an internet website about cats who support my favorite candidate. Then my buddy sees the site and flips out, wanting to help. So we collaborate and later draw in more people to our message. Suddenly our neighborhood is interested but coordinating individuals is pain in the ass. So we form Cats for XXX, Inc. Shit guys, we're a Political Action Committee also know as a P.A.C. But then other groups like Dachshunds for XXX candidate and Cougars for XXX candidate are also interested and they want to coordinate with us. After enough people join we become a Super PAC, Animal Noobs for American Liberties, Inc. (ANAL)! Since we aren't directly connected with the candidate, we have nothing to limit how much we want to spend on advertising, protests, and/or "get out the vote" door to door things. And this is where all of the millions of dollars go. Not to a candidate's pocket, but to advertiser's pockets to promote that person.

    The biggest irony to all of this is that fact that it started as a result of Labor Unions wanting a way for their members to compete with big interests and other corporations in lobbying efforts.
    Lol, it already works like this for TV in the UK

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  11. #11
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    Lall, come on now. This isn't the General area. Can you add a few more details like how it works, why you think it should be that way, and how it would function in the US where 1st amendment rights vary much differently that the tightly regulated TV media in the UK? Do you have an opinion on how regular UK citizens should be able to collaborate and promote or denigrate a candidate? From an outsiders perspective it seems you have little recourse and most of the advertising is handled by the political parties themselves.

  12. #12
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Lall, come on now. This isn't the General area. Can you add a few more details like how it works, why you think it should be that way, and how it would function in the US where 1st amendment rights vary much differently that the tightly regulated TV media in the UK? Do you have an opinion on how regular UK citizens should be able to collaborate and promote or denigrate a candidate? From an outsiders perspective it seems you have little recourse and most of the advertising is handled by the political parties themselves.
    My opinion (though this is not the case in the UK) is that each party would need to obtain a qualifying number of votes last election OR can obtain a qualifying number of signatures (lets say 100,000 or whatever), This would be the same threshhold for entrance into the debates etc, and could work seperately on a smaller scale for local elections.

    Any qualifying party gets a fixed amount of state funding, a certain number of free TV slots on the BBC or other state broadcaster and radio. The parties could spend their funding how they liked but the detailed, itemised accounts of how they have done so would be published in full on a monthly basis on the internet. This is already pretty much how the UK system works for party political TV broadcasts so it is clearly workable.

    No other form of political TV, radio, billboard or mailshot/leaflet advertising, by the parties or anyone else funded outside of this state funding would be allowed.

    The idea would be to distance fund-raising from politics as much as physically possible. I appreciate this would be a radical change from the driving factors behind current elections. That's the whole point.
    Last edited by Lallante; April 9 2013 at 12:00:05 PM.

  13. #13
    Alistair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    No other form of political TV, radio, billboard or mailshot/leaflet advertising, by the parties or anyone else funded outside of this state funding would be allowed.
    What about something like a Union or Corporate Newsletter? Such things are very common here, where Unions (especially) but also a number of businesses "pay" to advertise internally to their membership? It's still money. It's still advertising (and an implied suggestion to vote a certain way).

    Would that too be banned? And how hard would the Unions fight such a move?


  14. #14
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alistair View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    No other form of political TV, radio, billboard or mailshot/leaflet advertising, by the parties or anyone else funded outside of this state funding would be allowed.
    What about something like a Union or Corporate Newsletter? Such things are very common here, where Unions (especially) but also a number of businesses "pay" to advertise internally to their membership? It's still money. It's still advertising (and an implied suggestion to vote a certain way).

    Would that too be banned? And how hard would the Unions fight such a move?
    Internal mail/other forms of communication to a club or other established group that had opted in would be fine. Each political party could communicate with its own members as much as it liked, for example.

  15. #15
    Super Moderator Global Moderator QuackBot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    internal mail/other forms of communication to a club or other established group that had opted in would be fine. each political party could communicate with its own members as much as it liked, for example.
    That would be the wifey.

  16. #16
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    In Holland (NL) we have a system where as a new party you need x amount of signatures in every election area. When you are a party with parliament seats you will get money for the new elections and air time, radio and tv, according to size for free.
    Donations are capped at 10k for anonymous ways with a stringent check if its not 100x10k per individual or organization. Above 10k its public. Its frowned upon to accept to large donations because politicos still fear being called e.g. Big oil puppets.

    Funnily enough we are stable at 9 different political parties for abouŢ 50 years. A general type coalition will have between 2 and 4 member parties.

    It has kept direct money influence at bay but looking closely at the system you see lobby groups assisting in a multitude of events from the meat industry organizing summer bbq's for parliament to big gas organizing seminars where press and mp's get lots of air time.

    Peanuts according to the usa and i hope it stays like that.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Lall, come on now. This isn't the General area. Can you add a few more details like how it works, why you think it should be that way, and how it would function in the US where 1st amendment rights vary much differently that the tightly regulated TV media in the UK? Do you have an opinion on how regular UK citizens should be able to collaborate and promote or denigrate a candidate? From an outsiders perspective it seems you have little recourse and most of the advertising is handled by the political parties themselves.
    My opinion (though this is not the case in the UK) is that each party would need to obtain a qualifying number of votes last election OR can obtain a qualifying number of signatures (lets say 100,000 or whatever), This would be the same threshhold for entrance into the debates etc, and could work seperately on a smaller scale for local elections.

    Any qualifying party gets a fixed amount of state funding, a certain number of free TV slots on the BBC or other state broadcaster and radio. The parties could spend their funding how they liked but the detailed, itemised accounts of how they have done so would be published in full on a monthly basis on the internet. This is already pretty much how the UK system works for party political TV broadcasts so it is clearly workable.

    No other form of political TV, radio, billboard or mailshot/leaflet advertising, by the parties or anyone else funded outside of this state funding would be allowed.

    The idea would be to distance fund-raising from politics as much as physically possible. I appreciate this would be a radical change from the driving factors behind current elections. That's the whole point.
    Ok from both Lallante and Sacul's perspective, as a citizen you have no recourse to use your own money towards promoting a candidate using traditional media such as TV or radio. You are required to donate to a party and only they can handle any promotion. Am I understanding that correct? What about the internet? Leaflets pass out by hand? Again, I'm not talking as a party member but as a regular person.

  18. #18
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Lall, come on now. This isn't the General area. Can you add a few more details like how it works, why you think it should be that way, and how it would function in the US where 1st amendment rights vary much differently that the tightly regulated TV media in the UK? Do you have an opinion on how regular UK citizens should be able to collaborate and promote or denigrate a candidate? From an outsiders perspective it seems you have little recourse and most of the advertising is handled by the political parties themselves.
    My opinion (though this is not the case in the UK) is that each party would need to obtain a qualifying number of votes last election OR can obtain a qualifying number of signatures (lets say 100,000 or whatever), This would be the same threshhold for entrance into the debates etc, and could work seperately on a smaller scale for local elections.

    Any qualifying party gets a fixed amount of state funding, a certain number of free TV slots on the BBC or other state broadcaster and radio. The parties could spend their funding how they liked but the detailed, itemised accounts of how they have done so would be published in full on a monthly basis on the internet. This is already pretty much how the UK system works for party political TV broadcasts so it is clearly workable.

    No other form of political TV, radio, billboard or mailshot/leaflet advertising, by the parties or anyone else funded outside of this state funding would be allowed.

    The idea would be to distance fund-raising from politics as much as physically possible. I appreciate this would be a radical change from the driving factors behind current elections. That's the whole point.
    Ok from both Lallante and Sacul's perspective, as a citizen you have no recourse to use your own money towards promoting a candidate using traditional media such as TV or radio. You are required to donate to a party and only they can handle any promotion. Am I understanding that correct? What about the internet? Leaflets pass out by hand? Again, I'm not talking as a party member but as a regular person.
    There would be some kind of de minimis value threshhold.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Ok from both Lallante and Sacul's perspective, as a citizen you have no recourse to use your own money towards promoting a candidate using traditional media such as TV or radio. You are required to donate to a party and only they can handle any promotion. Am I understanding that correct? What about the internet? Leaflets pass out by hand? Again, I'm not talking as a party member but as a regular person.
    I would say there is a difference between using your own time and reputation to endorse and advertise a candidate, and paying people to do it for you.

    So there is a difference between a well known CEO (or union leader) supporting a candidate if asked on TV, and the company (or union) paying to run a TV ad for the candidate.

  20. #20
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Dant View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Keorythe View Post
    Ok from both Lallante and Sacul's perspective, as a citizen you have no recourse to use your own money towards promoting a candidate using traditional media such as TV or radio. You are required to donate to a party and only they can handle any promotion. Am I understanding that correct? What about the internet? Leaflets pass out by hand? Again, I'm not talking as a party member but as a regular person.
    I would say there is a difference between using your own time and reputation to endorse and advertise a candidate, and paying people to do it for you.

    So there is a difference between a well known CEO (or union leader) supporting a candidate if asked on TV, and the company (or union) paying to run a TV ad for the candidate.
    Yes exactly, and any grey area can be dealt with through a value threshhold

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