Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform – part 1

America is no longer a nation ruled by the people and for the people.  That changed slowly as lobbying became a huge influence industry.  Then the final blow came from the conservative Supreme Court with the Citizens United ruling that determined corporations have the same rights as people and  that spending money as one wishes is the same as free speech.   (another topic and goal is an amendment to the constitution to stipulate that corporations are not people and money is not free speech)

America is now fully run by corporate interests.  Legislators are afraid to do anything against the wishes of their donors.  Congresspersons and senators are required to spend more than half their time in DC making fund raising calls.  Between the influence of the donors and the time lost fund raising it is no wonder nothing gets done in DC.

If we want to reclaim America as a the nation our founders intended us to inherit we will need to get the money out of elections and end the influence of big money lobbies.

Like many others, I believe that nothing happens without campaign finance reform.  We now understand that even the good laws that get passed are subject to change from corrupt officials.

I have seen several proposed laws for partial reform.  Of course anything is better than nothing.  But if we really want to stop this corruption then we need a comprehensive approach.

Here is what I propose as the ideal:

End gerrymandering of congressional districts.  No political party should be in charge of drawing districts.  That is just asking for bias and corruption.  We need a bi-partisan effort, preferably by people who are not politicians, to be in charge of re-assigning district boundaries based on natural boundaries and neighborhoods.

Lobbying with cash donations and gifts needs to be illegal.  There is no way to end corruption while special interests pay for consideration that cannot be countered or matched by citizens.   There is no way to get legislation that benefits individuals when cash flush corporations and special interest organizations can throw millions of dollars to support their positions.

I know this sounds radical and extreme.  But the practice of lobbying has become aggressive and pervasive.   Here is some information about lobbying in the USA.

In 1928, there was criticism of the American Tariff League’s payments, in concert with the Republican National Committee, to help elect Herbert Hoover.

In 1953,  the Supreme Court narrowly construed “lobbying activities” to mean only direct lobbying–which the Court described as “representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees”. It contrasted it with indirect lobbying: efforts to influence Congress indirectly by trying to change public opinion.   .. and the court affirmed that congress does have the power to regulate lobbying. Supreme Court decision in Rumely v. United States

Lobbyists, who used to focus on persuading lawmakers after election, began to assist congresspersons with reelection fundraising, often via political action committees or PACs.

Lobbyists helped congresspersons understand how to use earmarks to channel money to specific causes or interests.  (Special provisions called earmarks can be tacked onto a law, often at the last minute and usually without much oversight,)

As a result of a new political climate, lobbying activity exploded during the last few decades. Money spent on lobbying increased from “tens of millions to billions a year,” by one estimate. In 1975, total revenue of Washington lobbyists was less than $100 million; by 2006, it exceeded $2.5 billion and in 2016 over $3 billion.

Today, lobbyists are held accountable by two pieces of legislation, the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. These laws define a lobbyist in very specific terms. The problem with the laws, critics argue, is that they define lobbyists too specifically. It’s simply too easy to work around the definition and therefore not be forced to register as a lobbyist.

There were 11,143 registered lobbyists in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics which means there are about 20 registered lobbyists for each member of Congress. More than three $3 billion was spent on lobbying in 2016, or about $5.5 million per lawmaker.

There have been attempts to regulate lobbying activities but the regulations have no teeth and there are too many loop holes.  Lobbing influence has become toxic to democracy.  The people are no longer fairly represented.  Lobbying must end.

These 2 ideas are just part of the plan.  The rest of my plan for comprehensive campaign finance reform will be in the next post.

information gathered from:

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    • Maggie B
    • August 15, 2018

    The amount of $$$ spent by lobbyists is staggering. With ALEC also writing proposed legislation for the conservatives, that seems like one more form of lobbying that should be illegal.

    • Connie S.
    • August 18, 2018

    If only we could get rid of lobbyist, most of our problems would be solved. Our insurance for health, car, home would be reasonable. Our prescriptions would be affordable. If we could limit campaign donations to $1,000. and the same amount given for a campaign donation should be matched my the donating individual to fix our infrastructure. Why are we forgetting about our bridges, roads and beautiful country and giving money to crooks to be elected to congress? I think campaigns should be limited to 6 months period. All candidates should have equal time to bring their case to the people without having to pay x amount of money. All TV stations should allow them time on their networks to be heard. That way, the ones with the most money don’t have an edge on the others. The sitting president should not be allowed to campaign. Let him run the country instead and let the people decide who should be elected. The people are losing more and more power every day. We have to do SOME thing.

      • Gail Segreto
      • August 20, 2018

      We are on the same wave length! the Part 2 of this topic describes more of what you are suggesting.

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