Dueling Twins

Campaign Reform

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The 'Dueling Twins'

In England we have come to rely upon a comfortable time-lag of fifty years or a century intervening between the perception that something ought to be done and a serious attempt to do it.

H.G. Wells

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Counterpoint:

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Campaign Finance Reform

by James Hall, from the Left

It's not very often that I agree with James From the Right, but then campaign finance reform is something that nearly all Americans can agree is necessary. Unsurprisingly, the campaign finance situation currently favors incumbents, but even they weary of the constant work of fund-raising these days, and fear the opposition of big-pockets millionaires who can dispense with fund-raising altogether and outspend them. McCain-Feingold is built upon these fears.

The present system mostly benefits wealthy donors and corporations who can afford to give a lot and thereby gain access to the highest halls of power. These people will continue to find the loopholes in any system we create until we do the following: 1) Grant public access to television for all serious candidates vying for office; 2) Publicly finance the rest of a candidate's expenses. These two things take the special interests right out of the picture and put the voters back in it.

The chief expense involved in any political campaign is television. Current FCC regulations give the public's airwaves to private corporations for a song and a dance. Instead, for their lucrative licenses each television and radio station should be required to give public interest broadcasts to candidates during the election cycle. This can be accomplished by scheduling live debates, giving candidates time for statements on the issues, and giving each candidate some free air time for campaign commercials.

Once television is taken care of, the remaining expenses are light. Public monies can finance a campaign staff, printing literature, and even personal appearances by candidates so that voter gets to know them. This form of public financing is money well spent, because it prevents tax money from being spent later to pay back wealthy donors and corporations who get more than their money's worth from tax breaks,corporate welfare, one-sided laws, and public appropriations that ultimately we the common taxpayer pays for--in spades.

With television and campaign staffing publicly financed, there's no need for politicians to get themselves in hock to special interests in order to campaign vigorously for any position. Special interests can run all the issue ads they want, too. And newly elected politicians can then go about serving the people who elected them in the first place. What a refreshing idea.

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Final Word:

Fine, James: I'll dump Dick Grabhardt, if you'll dispense with Trent Loot. Right now, however, politicians eagerly play the partisan game, telling their supporters that any change in the campaign finance system helps their political enemies. Some even equate money with free speech, as though only millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations had a right to the loudest voices in our land. Last time I looked up "free" in the dictionary, there were no dollar values in the definition.

Unfortunately our politicians will continue to try and rig the system to keep themselves in power until we assure them that there's a cost to their actions. Only then will they do our bidding.

Until that day arrives, Americans can best serve their country and themselves by supporting campaign reform from the bottom up. Many cities and at least three states across the country have approved publicly financed campaigning, and there's room for more. If we can continue this fine trend at the local level, and put pressure on our national politicians to pass a bill requiring television time for public candidates for office, we can go a long way to getting our government back.

James Hall, From the Left

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Point:

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Campaign Finance Reform

At the outset, let us all be realistic and admit that very few politicians seek serious Campaign Finance Reform. The incumbents have such a distinct advantage to an unknown challenger that those in power have every incentive to maintain the current system. So what is all this commotion about a 'so called' reform? Well, as most efforts for renovation, the design of the fundamental foundation is ignored and the facade is only altered.

McCain-Fiengold has been discussed at length, with most of the criticism that it will restrict Free Speech, and therefore, will be struck down as unconstitutional. Critiquing this bill is useless since this proposal is not a thoughtful attempt for real reform. It strictly distorts the debate and creates a reason to oppose an earnest change in a system that everyone knows is flawed. Only those who have direct vested interest in benefiting from the lobbying process would defend the current scheme. The reason that the public yawns at the discussion is that they know that the pros will only accept an approach that secures their retention and hold on power.

Insiders know that the real fight is always over gerrymandering. With the new demographic from the 2000 Census, we will have a reshaping of districts that will force several incumbents out of a seat. This realignment in politics is the raw essence of political combat. Who will have a vote and who will be relegated to lobby. So what is a realistic formula for a modicum of common sense that can be achieved?

The one aspect of the current system that most politicians hate is the fund raising chicken dinner circuit. The time, effort and drain on their schedule and constitution is about the only real incentive that the present crop of legislature have to ring out the enormous amounts of contributions that are necessary to run for office. Most politicians are affluent, but are not mega rich. They understand that if the present trends continue, only the wealthiest millionaires will run, with the use of their own personal funds. Money doesn't guarantee a win, but if a neophyte has the money and is willing to spend it, the race will become enormously expensive. This may be the only genuine reason for a restructure of election campaigns that will convince the current partisans to get serious.

Two simple but effective changes could dramatically alter the landscape. As a condition for the granting of a public license for their broadcast frequency and cable access, all television and cable networks would be required to donate free air time for any candidate that could qualify for a double digit result in the electorate. The low threshold for third party candidates is crucial to garner public support. It may be one of the few ways to wake these sleepy citizens from their slumber. The second reform would be that only contributions from registered voters within a candidate's district would be legal to use. The elimination of all PAC, corporate, union and lobbyist assistance, in whatever and all forms, is a major source of the endless spiral. Groups would be able to advocate ideas and policies, just not endorsements of candidates or parties. It is time for the voter to consider which candidate holds a particular position, and the free media air time would allow for that message to be broadcast.

Prospects for true reform are always slim. The pain for current office holders is tolerable, and their gain in greater control over their time with the reduction in continual fund raising outings, should not be underestimated.

Debate must not be stifled. We need more discussion and less spin. Influence can never be eliminated from the process, but the volume of useless noise can be reduced. Only pressure from the electorate will create an environment for a climate change. Politicians are no different from any other enterprise executive. They respond to circumstances that favor their interest! Being played like a yo-yo by influence peddlers gets old fast. An appeal to reduce the influence of the fat cats, has merit for the career politician.

This approach is presented because most political activists still believe in the election process. More dispirited warriors, have shed their naiveté as their confidence in the moral congruity in the American public has waned. Term limits are a natural compliment to campaign finance reform, but the two mix like oil and water to the incumbent. Linking them together is logical, but not practical.

Loopholes will be found and circumvention of the rules will be sought. We should not forget that politics is always about the use of force to compel others to adopt certain behavior. The only freedom that we have, is that which we struggle to create and defend for ourselves. Politicians are courtesans in drag by nature. They will never agree to meaningful reform unless they perceive that there is a distinct benefit to them, over the pain that is the alternative, from the present circumstance. Your job is to invent that pain for them! My task is to offer them a solution for relief. Both of our duties is to see that we the people don't get defrauded in the process.

James Hall aka SARTRE

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Rebuttal:

Not to be misled the family schism is incisive, and this temporary aberration, that looks like agreement, is short lived. The laws of probability have just come up that James from the Left is right for once!

Maybe the topic lends itself to unanimity, so why do the politicians just ignore all of us? Obviously, we are inconvenient gnats that just irritate. So why doesn't pressure ever form to force change? If those on the Left are serious about reform, why not join the dedicated gang that is known as RIGHT and make history?

Could it be that their buddy government supports will get furious that you are rocking the boat or is it that you only want to reduce the expenditures, while keeping the same hacks?

If we can agree on this one, why not accept that the current crop of thieves need to be retired? Surprise me and join in on that one too. Or maybe the next question will be how we discourage and restrict the Left from voting at all.

James Hall - 'The Right'


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The danger inherent in reform is that the cure may be worse than the disease. Reform is an operation on the social body; but unlike medical surgeons, reformers are not on guard against unpredictable side effects which may divert the course of reform toward unwanted results. Moreover, quite often the social doctors become part of the disease.

- Eric Hoffer

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