Symposium 2015: Is it time for a new round of campaign finance reform?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Every time you hear the words “campaign finance reform” in the press, they’re inevitably accompanied by “hot-button issue” or some similar harbinger of doom.  We’re warned repeatedly that there will be donnybrooks the likes of which man has never seen if we try to modify the current dog’s breakfast of methods by which our elected officials belly up to the public trough.

Hogwash.

Campaign finance reform needs to be one of the primary issues as we move along in the presidential election cycle.  As it stands now, a politician who tries to run for office and eschew any sort of support from big business or lobbying concerns will soon find himself outspent by his competitor who chooses to open his wallet and funnel in contributions.

The game is rigged, boys and girls, and the only way to un-rig is it to make the big money contributors back off and shut off the gravy pipeline that ensures those who are most beholden to the special interests are the ones who get elected.  One look at the gun control debate is all that’s required to see how soul-rotted our current system is.  Right after a cataclysm like Sandy Hook or San Bernardino, the “thoughts and prayers” crowd makes its voices heard, the usual suspects on the left trumpet for everyone to renounce their firearms, and then everything goes quiet.  If anyone dares propose actual reform, no matter how rational or limited it might be, the NRA and its stool pigeons wrap themselves in their misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and paint anyone supporting the measure as five steps to the left of Stalin.

And it works.  Almost every time, it works.  Because of the money.  Well-meaning folks with honest causes don’t have pockets nearly as deep as corporate entities that stand to profit from the status quo.

Corporations aren’t people, no matter what the Supremes say.  They shouldn’t be allowed to act like them.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Politics can be a pain in the derriere. That is the reason why I stay as far away from it as the East is from the West. It’s simply bad business and the sooner citizens realize that, the better it is. I just believe too much cash is invested in politics when it could be used elsewhere, for further development. As with their campaign finance, funds that are raised for promoting candidates, policies in elections and various other political ventures, this seriously needs to be reformed.

The reformation to such finance campaigns in the United States is to ensure a change within the political environment, with regards to the involvement of money in politics. This reformation is necessary as political campaigns induce too much expenditure and have proven to be an utter waste. The expenses incurred include those of travel. The cost associated with travel expenses for staff and candidates are exceedingly great. Think about the costs of communication. It’s very costly for candidates to communicate with voters. The purposes and types of these finance campaigns differ, and cost might vary depending on which country or state is in question. For example, in some states, television advertising might be made to candidates avail for free, however limited by law. As for the United States, they are big on incurring heavy expenses in campaign budgets. As such, officials should take great pleasure in reforming the campaign finance.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Campaign finance reform has been an ongoing problem since modern campaigns have turned into mega-money raising marathons coupled with various campaign finance laws that have given rise to corruption and control by special interests, super PACs (political action committees) and other money raising conglomerates.  Current financing structure makes it complicated and difficult for the average individual to run for office without owing their lives to big-money donors.

The controversial Supreme Court decision of 2010, concerning Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, basically said that political spending is protected under the First Amendment.  The ruling freed corporations and unions to limitless spending on political activities as long as the spending was done independently of a party or candidate.  The decision did not influence contribution limits to individual candidates, political parties and PACs (political action committees).  Another Supreme Court ruling in 2014, McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, ruled that individuals are able to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to political parties and PAC’s without the worry of violating the law when they come against a limit on all contributions, which were set at $123,000 for both 2013-14 and a limit of $48,600 on contributions to candidates.  This decision did not challenge the limits on individual contributions to candidates for president or Congress which are now $2,600.

With limitless contributions, it is easy to see how quickly millions of dollars could be accumulated through wealthy individuals, special interest groups, and others, which enables them to control the course of campaigns.  The super PACs, which supposedly operate independently of candidates, have both the endless funds and influence over campaigns and even the candidates themselves.  With these current laws in mind, a new round of campaign finance reform is one solution to cleansing the latest reforms while instituting new ideas and strategies that would allow for the operation of a less expensive and influenced political campaign process.

Campaign finance reform requires a broad number of reforms and reformers to change the way politicians raise money.  It needs to become a non-partisan, all parties issue in which everyone, in spite of income level, is able to participate in the process and run for office without continually asking for contributions from the wealthy and influential.  Funding needs to be available through the public as well as self-financing, and when wealthy individuals and corporations make contributions, they must report where their money is spent.  More importantly, small donors have to be made part of the fundraising system as well.  Americans want to see an end to the takeover of the political system by major contributors who want and rely on favors and other perks for themselves once an election is over.  Political bribery at all levels must end from the presidency down to other elective offices.

With the pressure of reelection constantly looming in the minds of almost anyone running for office or reelection to office, campaigning for money has become a routine way of life for candidates.   One aspect of the process of campaign reform is the building of grassroots donor programs, which is one way that political reformers change the process of campaign funding while empowering small contributors.  The regulations may still exist, but the push continues for a ground swell of enthusiasm and direct involvement by ordinary, everyday voters, with five dollar donations, to take on the big money that rules politics.

Other campaign reform ideas include revising or overturning current campaign laws to stop the exchange of huge amounts of donated money in return for special treatment, giving the Congress and states the authority to regulate money in elections, supporting public campaign financing that strengthens small donations, demanding openness with campaign funding and disclosure and release of contribution information, insisting on doing away with super PACs and other groups that abuse spending, and working to strongly enforce campaign finance rules.

Only through revised campaign finance reform will those outside of the political process be able to participate in and have the opportunity to become supporters and possible candidates themselves.  Their ideas must be considered in order to improve the political process and lives in general.  All citizens deserve the chance to run for office and income should not be an issue, and campaign finance reform can be part of the answer to citizens leading the way to changing politics and removing big money out of the process.

Cartwright—Good luck with this one.  Again, the political establishment is not going to let this happen.  They’re in too deep.  They’re selling their votes and peddling their influence left and right to special interest groups for huge sums of money.  It takes lots of money to run a campaign for federal office, whether it’s the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the President. The money has to come from somewhere for these massive and expensive campaigns.  This is partly the reason why it is so difficult to unseat an incumbent.  They usually have a massive war chest of campaign funds to use for advertising to crush most of the opposition.  This also leads to career politicians.  Why get out when you can live the high life in Washington on the taxpayer’s dime?

Do we need campaign finance reform?  Absolutely.  We need to ban PACs and Super PACs and special interest groups from manipulating the election process.  As the system is today, Chinese communists can funnel massive amounts of money into the election process through various means, predominantly Super PACs.  Do we really want foreign companies, countries, or politicians involved in our election process?  I don’t think so.  It’s not what America and our election system is about.

Another option is to institute term limits for congressmen and senators.  Perhaps by doing this they wouldn’t constantly be on the campaign trail trying to raise money for re-election, particularly during their final term in office.  Use the debate system to let candidates get out their messages or give each candidate the opportunity to buy allocated hours of prime time television on the networks so they can stand and talk about themselves, their campaign platform, what they’re going to do for America, and why they deserve your vote.

The system wasn’t designed for the political elite and their establishment or the enormously wealthy who can fund their own campaigns.  The Founding Fathers envisioned every day Americans in public service in the Congress and as President.  I think the system has become vastly corrupted from their original intent.

Along those lines, I’ve also long believed that service in the Congress should be like jury duty.  You would have to meet certain qualifications in terms of education, not have a criminal background, and so on.  If you’re number is randomly drawn at the election time, you get to go to Washington as a congressman or senator and serve your country and your state or district.  Then, you have a whole new House of Representatives every two years, and one third of the Senate is new every couple years.  That would eliminate career politicians and the need for campaigning for election and reelection.  Perhaps then the Congress would do the work of the people and not focus on self preservation via reelection.  It’s a fanciful idea but not going to happen.

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