Saturday, January 24, 2009 4:08 PM
From Francoise Farron: Alert
The Obama administration asks for our input into government decisions at their websites: <change.gov> and <WhiteHouse.com>
I would ask everyone urge the new administration to establish ASAP public funding of election campaigns, making private and corporate campaign contributions of any size and provenance (i.e. including candidates' own money), illegal.
The current system constitutes bribery, clear and simple, but the real outrage is that it is legal.
It will be extremely difficult, for some items impossible, to realize President Obama's agenda as long as corporations own the congress. I am not talking about passing new legislation only, although one might rightly ask: what insurance company would continue bankrolling their campaigns if members voted for single-payer health care?
I happen to believe most strongly that we would not be in the dire situation in which we find ourselves, if EXISTING laws had been enforced.
We had enough laws on the books to have prevented the 9/11 tragedy, the S&L deabcle, the recent housing meltdown, the breakdown of financial services, the outrage at Guantanamo, and many, many other crises.
Enforcement is an executive function, but congress has oversight duties as well, and I readily admit that I do not know exactly who is supposed to do what. What is clear, however, is that neither branch of government did their job responsibly to let, for example, financial institutions become "too big to fail," while we have anti-trust laws on the books to prevent precisely that.
I remember that congress held hearings when S&L troubles began, and the FDIC went insolvent. At that time (1983) the "problem" was of the order of $15 billion, not exactly small change; but the inaction of congress for years after that early assessment let the crisis develop until it had swollen to the ultimate $200+ billion which, with the interest on what had to be borrowed to pay for it, became a $500 + billion item, (off budget, of course - as if we didn't have to pay for off-budget items) which could no longer be hidden.
Why did congress not act in a timely fashion?
Just ask yourself: What financial institution would have continued to bankroll their next campaigns, had they ascertained the S&Ls' insufficient cash reserves, investigated the inflated real estate appraisals and other questionable practices while the problem seemed still manageable?
What oil company would continue to bankroll their campaigns, had members refused to fund the Iraq war without being cowed by charges of lack of "patriotism?" They had the purse strings to simply not fund that illegal, counterproductive war.
Following campaign money shows unequivocally, that the current system of funding campaigns not only costs the taxpayer much, much more dearly than funding campaigns out of the public till, but citizens' lives would be saved and greatly improved. In addition, if government funded campaigns, it could demand the electronic media to give an equal amount of free air time to each bona fides candidate as a condition of retaining their licenses to broadcast. One might be astounded to learn how little money is really needed to get candidates' messages out, instead of the obscene sums that have been spent by candidates, courtesy of the biggest corporations, foreign and domestic.
This appeal would be incomplete without mentioning the opponents' arguments:
1.) Sen. McConnell (R -KY, and others who parrot him) claims that public funding would abrogate free speech without, however, showing how it would accomplish that?
Truth is that on the contrary, it would EXTEND free speech to citizens of every walk of life who cannot, under the current system, even contemplate a candidacy for lack of funds. (This just might IMPROVE the quality of our representation)!
2.) The same Sen. McConnell claims that Buckley v. Valeo (1976) ruled that limiting campaign contributions abrogates free speech. NOT SO. It states that limiting campaign EXPENDITURES might be considered a limitation of free speech. However, that same ruling states most clearly that government has an OVERRIDING INTEREST IN LIMITING CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS because of the "CORRUPTING INFLUENCE OF MONEY."
The year was 1976, when candidates spent in the tens of thousands. I wonder how the same justices would fashion their ruling today when candidates (collectively) spend billions, corruption is rampant - you can shred the Constitution and the only truly bipartisan activity of congress is that both sides of the aisle feed at the same trough.