Many people realize that one of the biggest problems we have with our electoral and legislative systems in this country are based in corporate control of our government. Many have focused on Citizens United in the belief that rescinding CU would solve this problem. However, this is not true. We had corporate money in politics and elections long before CU came along. Rescinding CU would be nothing but a symbolic measure which had no actual effect whatsoever.
Let’s begin with election campaigns. The majority of election campaigns are mostly funded by corporate and rich donors. Those donors don’t fund campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts or dedication to democracy. They fully expect to gain from those “donations” in the form of legislation favorable to them. Which they typically get.
The only real way that we can solve this issue is by federally funded elections. It would be more difficult to eliminate PACs, since SCOTUS ruled decades ago that corporate speech is free speech. That’s difficult to argue against without impacting other forms of free speech. However, by eliminating all direct donations to campaigns, we could have the potential to move the goalposts in our favor and reduce the so-called “debt” any candidate has to their “donors”.
Before I even launch into the advantages of federally funded elections, let me address the most common objection to it. That we would have to pay for it. The fact is, you already pay for election campaigns and lobbying. You pay for it with every consumer dollar you spend. With profits corporations make and turn around to “donate”. With low wages from employers so they can reserve their funds for lobbying. With subsidies handed to corporations which cost you, the consumer and taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars a year. You pay with military contracts paid by a “defense” budget which increases tens of billions of dollars every single year. That money gets spent on campaign donations, lobbying and advertising. When Boeing, Raytheon and other DoD contractors advertise on corporate media, that is your tax money they are spending to do so. Now, don’t you feel secure and safe?
One advantage to federally funded elections would be that we could very well include equal funding for not the top two parties but the top four parties. I’ve said on many occasions that one option is a mandate, two options are an ultimatum. It takes at least three options to be a choice.
Another advantage to federally funded elections would be that a candidate would not have to be rich to be a candidate. The majority of congressional representatives are millionaires or billionaires. There are several reasons for this. One is that the rich tend to have more direct connections to other rich people, which gives them an advantage when seeking funding for their campaigns. The other is that it costs money to take time off from work to campaign. That may still remain true, unless we included basic living salaries for candidates, at least once they gained the nomination for their parties. At that point they would no longer be beholden to anyone but the American people they are seeking to represent.
One more advantage would be freeing time up for elected officials to actually do their jobs. Members of Congress have been documented to spend half of every single work day making calls to “donors”. They often start raising money for their next campaign as soon as they assume office or win an election. Thus, they are calling and asking for money from corporate and rich entities while in office, during the very hours they are supposed to be legislating and attending to their official duties associated with their office. It doesn’t even matter if they do favors for their donors, they are already spending 50% of their time not doing what they were elected to do!
Of course, campaign funding reform would only be the beginning but a very important one. To have a truly representative government, reform would have to include other measures.
Some have proposed measures which limit elected officials from acting as lobbyists for a specific time frame after leaving office. My own proposal goes much further. Make corporate lobbying a criminal offense subject to mandatory prison time for both lobbyist and lobbied official. The most recent estimate I heard states that there are 8 lobbyists in DC for every member of Congress.
A Duke University study several years ago found that if 100% of the American public supported specific legislation, that had absolutely NO affect on the legislation passing. However, if corporate/rich donors supported legislation, the chances of that specific legislation passing were 60%, even if the public was 100% opposed to that legislation.
In this particular case, the most powerful would of course claim that making lobbying illegal would be an infringement of their freedom of speech. That’s not true at all. They would still have their freedom of speech. They would just not have ready access to elected officials whom the general public has no access to on an equal basis. It is the direct access to elected officials whom they hold in debt which needs to be considered a criminal offense.
Of course, they could always use advertising to try and sway public opinion. The majority of that advertising would be via corporate media. I’ve told people for years to turn off corporate media. Stop letting corporations think for you.
Though the best option would be allowing them their voice. As long as it is in a public venue, announced in advance with the general public allowed to attend and speak for or against any legislation proposed. Then we would have complete transparency of any lobbying taking place.
Whether by advertising or in public venues, that would completely eliminate any claims by corporations and the rich that their freedom of speech had been impacted. They would have freedom of speech but it would have to be in full public view, not behind closed doors, not using bank accounts. The general public would also have our freedom of speech. With our wallets. If we object to certain legislation, we vocalize it. If our voices are not heard, we boycott. It’s just that simple. Money speaks louder than words (or even human lives) to capitalists.
Now, if you disagree, feel free to say so but include what suggestions you have which you think are better. Dissent without an alternative is worth nothing. It’s all about solutions.