On a relatively recent podcast, and I have to say relatively recent because even though this is being written as I’m editing the podcast, it won’t post for more than a month, we spoke about changing American elections to eliminate undue influence and money and I said that I supported publically funded elections but I didn’t have time to go into any depth.
This is where I’ll go into depth. It isn’t something I haven’t talked about before, but it’s been a while, so here goes nothing.
Money has really poisoned the American electoral process, you have people buying influence from politicians, which really corrupts everyone equally. It makes the politicians beholden to investors, not the American people and frankly, the politicians couldn’t care less about the will of the people that they were supposedly elected to uphold, they’re too busy trying to make money hand over fist and attract more deep-pocket backers. The only way to really fix this problem is to remove money from the equation.
So we just don’t let anyone give any money to anyone. Now this is probably more useful for federal elections, but I’m sure that someone can figure out how to adapt it for local elections as well. There’s a big pot into which anyone can throw any amount of money they wish. No one is legally allowed to financially support any specific candidate, it’s a general fund with no earmarks. As of a certain date, all candidates legally registered for the election will get an even cut of the pot. Candidates are not allowed to put any of their own money into their campaign, buying elections is not permitted, you have to do with what the American people have decided to contribute toward the election and no more. All candidates are independently audited to make sure all money is accounted for. If you can’t be financially responsible with your campaign funds, you have no business being President. Of course, the pots remain open, people can continue to contribute money and as the campaign continues, those funds are released to whatever candidates remain in the race. If you drop out, you forfeit your share, as well as any funds you have in reserve. You spend it or you lose it.
What this does is give us an even race, not only between Republicans and Democrats, but third parties as well. They actually become viable, at least financially, once they have as much money to spend as the big boys. I’m sure they’re still going to lose, but at least it gives them a chance to get their ideas out there, even though we know they won’t resonate with the majority of American voters.
The other benefit is that we actually get to see how a particular candidate and their team handle money. Do they blow it all at once? Do they budget and plan? Since all of their funds are independently audited, the public gets to see their process and how effective it is, certainly something that we need to know in order to give someone our vote.
And yes, I know what people will say, big companies will just run independent ads and outside campaigns for their candidate of choice. No they will not. While we can’t stop them for creating ads for particular issues, they will be forbidden, just like non-profit organizations, from supporting or espousing any particular candidate in their ads. If they do, they can lose their business licenses.
We really need to get away from the idea that money is speech. It is not speech. It is money. If you want to speak out for a candidate in some unofficial fashion, by all means, feel free. If you want to say that your group officially endorses this candidate, go ahead. But that’s speech, not financial support and there will have to be some guidelines which describe how this can be done equitably.
At one point in time, I wanted television networks, as part of their FCC licensing, to be required to provide a certain number of free political ads per day, maybe five minutes total, spread throughout the day in 30-second blocks. Maybe part of the big financial pots could be used to pay a flat fee for these spots. That way, all candidates would get equal TV coverage, but as TV has stopped being such a big thing, as people have moved to online entertainment, have cut the cord and dropped cable service, etc., that’s probably not such a big deal these days. Just let the candidates decide what they’re going to do with their money. If they want to put it into TV or radio or Internet advertising, that’s up to them. Again, it’s about seeing their tactics and their fiscal responsibility more than anything else.
So what do you think? I know it would never be politically viable because the politicians we have in office benefit from keeping the system the way that it is, they don’t want a level playing field and they sure don’t care about what’s best for America or the American people. Corporations would throw billions into fighting such a system because it means they couldn’t buy political influence and have politicians in their pockets. But that’s exactly why we should do it, having that kind of absurd political influence is what keeps American politics corrupt and I think that ending that inherent corruption outweighs any potential negatives in the new system.