The way things stand now, the candidate who has the most money to spend usually wins the election. That pretty much guarantees government by the fat cats, for the fat cats and of the fat cats. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court said that money was speech and therefore businesses could “talk” during campaigns. If you think speech is money, try reciting Hamlet to your landlord in lieu of rent. Speech is speech and money is money. Even scarier, we have shadow money in the campaigns — it could come from foreign nationals, the Mafia, Al Qaeda and we’d never know. It would not surprise me if Hugo Chavez threw an election with money to show how stupid we are with our current laws.
Every legislative attempt to rein in campaign donations has been gamed. Even politicos now agree that it will take a Constitutional Amendment to create a sane, just and workable system.
I heard this idea a long time ago, I don’t know where, so if it is your idea, stand up and claim it.
Only voters may donate to a campaign, and they can only donate to one person seeking to be his/her US Representative, his/her US Senator and his/her Presidential/VP ticket. Three up to the max checks in the primaries and, if they lose in the primaries, three more in the general election. This is all the money the person has to campaign with. Any unspent money is returned pro-rata or donated to a pay down of the national debt. Congress can set the bar as high as they want it, a million dollars, ten million dollars. Whatever.
All donations are in traceable funds: check, electronic transfer, credit or debit cards. No cash and especially, no in kind gifts — such as donuts or confetti or the use of a private jet. The candidate must pay all his or her bills, all his or her television ads, bus tours, you name it. Just as your ballot is secret, your contributions are not posted on the internet (as they are now — along with your address), but may be made public in allegations of wrongdoing.
This is what you cannot do or it will earn you a five-year stay at Club Fed where there is no parole:
1. You cannot donate money to others to give. You’ll both go to the pen.
2. You cannot discriminate for our against someone who does or does not donate. You’ll go to the pen.
3. You cannot spend money in your own right to help elect someone (make an ad, host a fund-raising party). You donate, and the candidate makes the ad and hosts his own fundraiser — with your list).
Everyone who draws a federal paycheck must record the fair market value of everything given to them, whether it is a hamburger or the true cost of a golf weekend at Pebble Beach if it is work-related. This is taxable income. Lobbyists will also have to provide their expenditures to not only to the IRS but also to the federal employee for tax purposes.
Special interests groups are always welcome in the national conversation, they just can’t bring money to the table. There is a profound — and profane — difference between supporting a candidate and prostituting one. We need a Constitutional Amendment to assure transparency in political finance.