We will never have honest government, that being a government that has no motivation other than to provide fairly and justly for our people, until we take the money out of politics. We all know this, and yet nothing gets done. We know that obscene amounts of money are now contributed to candidates by all sorts of special interests: corporations, PAC’s (political action committees) trade associations, political parties, unions, as well as some individuals. It cannot be more obvious that these special interests are not motivated by public charity, but that instead they expect things in return. They expect a big return on that investment, and they have found that political donations are a very wise investment. At the very least they receive access to our leaders that the rest of us don’t have, but they are after much more. They want legislation and special favors that directly benefit them, and which are to the disadvantage of their competitors or the public at large.
My personal (and completely unique) solution: because I feel so strongly about this I simply refuse to just talk about it. I am doing something about it right now, by setting the following standards for my campaign:
- I will talk no money from any entity of any type. Only people can contribute to my campaign. To be absolutely clear I will not take a single dollar from a business, a corporation, a trade association, a political party, a union, a political party, or any other type of entity. It doesn’t matter if it is the Red Cross, I will refund it. It is not right for me to pick and choose the entities that I think are “good ones” as the point is that no one except people should have influence over our government.
- I will accept contributions from people (in fact I really need some) but they must be LESS THAN $1,000 from that person in any one calendar year.
Even though my opponent may well have ten or twenty times as much to spend on their campaign than I will have, I would not allow myself to run any other way. We need to take a stand so that we will all know that at least this State Senator is not beholden to anyone except the good people of the 20th District. This means that I will have to spend wisely, and I will have to find ways to reach the voters besides sending out mailers every other day (as each of those mailers that my opponent will send will cost 15k or more). I will have to run what I consider to be a modern grassroots campaign. I will have to stay in contact with people through electronic means, and I will try to meet every voter in the District personally before March 20th. I hope that those that are sympathetic to the cause agree to host small events with a dozen of their friends or neighbors. That is how it can grow as hopefully some of them will then contact other people. I hope that you will allow me to place yard signs up as I am old-fashioned in that sense as I think they are quite effective. The signs say to your neighbor that you think enough of this guy to publicly proclaim it.
I call my new solution the NO1K Pledge. NO1K means no contributions of $1,000 (1k) or more. I am hoping that other candidates will join me in the this and that it gets to the point that the civic minded voter will only vote for candidates who are willing to take this same pledge, namely that they will accept only contributions from human beings and they must be under $1,000.
Subsequent Legislative Solution
As a Senator I will push for legislation to further Campaign Finance Reform (since some candidates may feel it too risky to take the NO1K Pledge without more financial resources). I would favor a limited form of public election financing (our budget woes require it to be limited at this time, but it would certainly be a good use of public funds to rid ourselves once and for all from most forms of corruption and cronyism). My preferred form of legislation would provide that candidates could get funds from the State to be used in their campaign so long as they agreed to take no contributions from any source (I doubt that we would be able to limit this to people, as I would prefer) that were over $1,000 per year, in two different ways:
- People that live in the district could give authorizations by signing petitions circulated by the candidate to allow the candidate to be given $25 by the State. This would be similar to having people sign petitions to get on the ballot, but here people would understandably be more hesitant to sign these authorizations since this is cost being paid by our government. Just as with ballot petitions there could be a process for objections to be filed challenging the validity of the signatures. There would have to be real penalties such as not being allowed any of these funds if a certain percentage were found to be invalid. There would also have to be a limit on the amount of the authorizations, which would depend on the office being sought (perhaps 2,000 for State Senator).
- There could also be a matching program where the State would match small individual contributions (no more than $100 per contribution). My proposal would be for a one to one match. I have seen proposals where the State matches by a multiplier (such as 5x the contribution) but I think that those are too expensive and ripe for abuse. Again there would have to be a challenging mechanism, and a limitation on the amounts.
I would also push for heightened disclosure requirements on advertising being paid for by third parties. Such supposedly “uncoordinated” spending is of course very common, and there are no financial limits on it since the Citizens United decision. I would want the disclosure of who is paying for the ad to be made more prominently, and for information to be made readily available as to the ultimate identity of the supporters of any PAC engaging in political advertising. With such disclosure being made more prominent, it is my hope that the average voter will soon learn to disregard such ads.