Saturday, August 21, 2010

Campaign Finance Deform

Campaign finance reform is a fraud.  It does nothing to stem corruption in our political system (or the appearance thereof) or make things more competitive, and it is based on many faulty notions about politics and the law.  It is just a last-ditch effort by desperate individuals who want to take the easy way out (or so they think), rather than rolling up their sleeves.

First of all, let's get one thing straight: federal campaign finance law is very strict.  Despite what you may hear from fools like Ralph Nader about the two parties being "bought" by corporations, during election time, that simply is not possible.  The fact is, corporate contributions, at least at the federal level, have been banned since the early 1900s.  PACs of all kinds can only give a maximum of $5,000 (primary and general) per candidate.  In order for a corporation to donate money to a candidate, it has to first form a PAC, which must raise funds from individuals and other outside sources.  Individuals can only donate a little over $2,000 per candidate.  Contrary to popular belief, political parties, not corporations, can receive and spend the most, at least until recently (things like McCain-Feingold).  There are, of course, 'special limits' (which are ambiguous), but even those are only about 100 grand or so.  I would assume not just anyone at any time can use those.

You may still be asking, "But what about those reports of various industries giving hundreds of thousands to certain candidates?"  Well, there are one of two possibilities (or both in the same election cycle).  The first is bundling, whereby a supporter of a particular candidate for office asks his friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc., for campaign contributions to that particular candidate.  The contributions are bundled (hence the term) into one lump sum and given to the campaign.  Sometimes, when a person gives a contribution a bundler within his place of employment, it is officially registered as having been "from such-and-such company" or other organization.  However, don't let this fool you.  The second possibility is simply corporate PACs in a single industry all giving donations of thousands of dollars to particular candidates.  Keep in mind that every industry, especially in a large economy like the United States, has 100s or thousands of firms with large profits individually.  Each one donating at least $1,000 can add up quickly.  But it is simply not possible for a corporation to donate directly to a candidate.  You really think the election- and contribution-monitoring officials wouldn't notice that?  The FEC fucking got on Citizens United's case about Hillary the Movie, for christ sake!

While there are rare cases of bribery, most contributions are investments.  People give money to interests, causes and candidates they agree with, not those they think can be bought.  If contributors honestly believed that they could bribe a politician with a big enough donation, why would they stop at donating people they agree with? Why not have a corporation buy someone like Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders and give millions to their campaigns?

The sad truth is that money is speech.  What campaign finance reform proponents fail to realize is that it costs a lot of money to campaign, take out ads, hold rallies, etc.  This stuff ain't cheap.  To get your views out there and try to convince your fellow Americans or leaders to see things your way requires funding!  So in that sense, yes, you are stifling free speech by limiting donations and the amounts people can spend on various "electioneering communications."  And besides, we don't even spend that much on elections, relatively speaking.  We spend more as a nation on things like advertising and Wal-Mart.  Besides, isn't a few billion dollars raised during a presidential election a small price to pay to oversee and submit budgets worth trillions?  A few billion dollars isn't even 1% of the federal budget these days!

Countless studies by economists such as John Lott and Jeff Milyo and scholars such as John Samples as well as former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith all ponit to the plain truth that campaign finance reform doesn't work.  Much of what people think happens regarding contributions and political behavior post-election doesn't.  In fact, Ansolabehere, Figueiredo, and Snyder, Jr. (2002) dispel a whole host of myths regarding campaign finance and repeatedly drive home the point that most contributions are from individuals, not "special interests."  People still vote their conscience regardless of whether they got donations from BP or AFL-CIO.  Correlation is not causation.  People have got to stop assuming the worst just because someone voted a certain way and received contributions from specific interests favoring that vote.  What does pointing that out prove?

And now there is the insane DISCLOSE Act, which will just make things even harder.  We don't need this shit !  Barack Obama and countless Dems say that it is a response to the recent Citizens United case (which did not, btw, repeal current limits on corporate contributions), but it is reckless, nonetheless.  In addition to a bunch of new regulations on business, which won't make a difference, it will make regular campaigning, speaking out and contributing even harder, as if it weren't hard enough.


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