Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DEMOCRATS AND CORRUPTION....If Democrats are going to make hay out of Republican corruption as a campaign issue this year, isn't it about time to start cracking some heads? Their smartest move would be a genuinely bold and aggressive anti-corruption proposal, one that Republicans couldn't possibly support and that would make any Republican counter-proposal look weak and opportunistic by comparison. I doubt the public will even begin to wake up for anything less than a proposal so dramatic that it promises to turn Congress upside down and forces the GOP to play catchup for the rest of the year.

The best time for this is before the Republicans roll out their own proposal, right? And that doesn't leave much time. So where is it?

POSTSCRIPT: Last year I suggested a few anti-corruption ideas here. But that was just brainstorming. I sure hope the Democratic leadership has some more dramatic ideas than these on tap.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: And please, just a few short, punchy proposals, OK? Let's not see a reprise of Nancy Pelosi's pathetic 60-point snooze-fest from last year's election.

Kevin Drum 1:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (104)

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This begs the question that the democrats have the fire in the belly to win in 2006. Or that they have what it takes to win.

Posted by: lib on January 6, 2006 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, do ya think the Democrats have the mojo to make any hay out of the Republican corruption issue? I don't see much life left in the party - I think they're content with their minority status, just like the Republicans used to be. It's so much easier when you don't have to lead, just hang back and grumble a little bit about the direction the country is going. If anyone else sees any piss'n vinegar in this bunch, please point out some believeable examples.

Posted by: Taobhan on January 6, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

1. Public financing of elections (including television ads).
2. Short election season.

Posted by: NJC on January 6, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

Democratic representatives Frank and Obey and a couple of others recently proposed about a dozen specific reform and anti-corruption measures for the Congress. They haven't exactly been embraced by the party leadership. Said leadership likely assumes that it can just sit back and prosper from the GOP's dog days.

It's third party time.

Posted by: sglover on January 6, 2006 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

1- Limit contributions to sources inside the candidates' district. Real teeth in penalties for violations from false fronts or money laundrying.

2-Limit contribution's size in some meaningful way.

3-Reclaim the public's airwaves by asserting that ownership claimed in the Federal Communications Act. Make free airing of campaign programming (news and candidate sourced) a requirement to licensing.

4-Shorten campaign period

that's a start.


Posted by: Ridge on January 6, 2006 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

The Fugs said it best..."why does it always come down to a choice of bad and worse?"

Posted by: curiouscat on January 6, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

As long as the Democrats have as much to lose by cleaning up Washington as any other politician, you're not going to see any real reform. You might see something like "Campaign Finance Reform," or other paper promises with loopholes you could pilot a 747 through.

As far as lobbying and contributions go, while the government has control over how we do business, business is going to find a way to influence it. The answer is to take some of that power away from the Federal government, but good luck selling that one too to the people who hold that same power.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 6, 2006 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

No gifts, gratuities or free services from anyone--not just lobbyists. Violations would be a felony.

If not publicly financed campaigns (won't happen), then much tighter limits on campaign contributions and establishment of expenditure limits

Posted by: DevilDog on January 6, 2006 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

For Pete's sake, public financing of campaigns is not going to stop corruption. All you have to do is ask yourself: who decides who gets the money? We already have a system heavily weighted towards two parties and incumbency. You think public financing is going to improve that, or is the cash going to go to the Good Old Boys?

Posted by: tbrosz on January 6, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

To make any anti-corruption proposal effective, it must be accompanied by broadcast campaign that provides examples of Republican corruption and a call to action for support of the measure that will stop the corruption described. The ads should be run in all congressional districts, with a super of the congressman's contact info to run on the screen for the final five seconds of the spot.

Right now, most voters don't even realize the Republicans control the House and Senate. What's more, the public doesn't see Republicans as any more corrupt than the Dems, according to several polls. Spots like the one described above are essential to establish a baseline of understanding before any anti-corruption legislation will have the desired effect.

Posted by: DevilDog on January 6, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

20-year minimum sentence for a felony public corruption conviction (with allowances for less time based upon cooperation).

Public disclosure after each vote of the contributions received from interests affected by the legislation.

Eliminate earmarks and "omnibus" bills, in order to clarify legislation.

(It's one thing to adopt parliamentary procedure to get more done, and quite another to use it to abuse the process and cloud what's being voted on.)

Freedom of Information amendment to strengthen the Act, including a whisteblower protection provision.

Not sure if this would be constitutional, but require all fundraising events to be simulcast outside the district and/or with an admission price to be simulcast and/or taped for constituents to participate and be involved in. The whole concept of being able to pay for a personal audience with a representative of the voters is repugnant.

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and minimum 72-hour filing of legislation, with last-minute additions prohibited, for all legislation not deemed "emergency" (somehow we need the language to be precise enough not to invite abuse of "emergency" - perhaps requiring the legislation to have a short-as-possible time limit before needing to be reaffirmed by the normal process).

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK


It's the carrot of campaign contributions that is at the root of the corruption. In other words, "Support the bill I want, or kill the bill I don't like, and I will give you the money you need to run an effective campaign and stay in office."

Take away one of the main reasons elected officials are susceptible to bribery and you reduce corruption.

Posted by: DevilDog on January 6, 2006 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure if this would be constitutional, but require all fundraising events to be simulcast outside the district and/or with an admission price to be simulcast and/or taped for constituents to participate and be involved in. The whole concept of being able to pay for a personal audience with a representative of the voters is repugnant.

Oops. I mean that all fundraising events that occur outside the district, or charge an admission, should either be simulcast or taped and made readily available for all constituents. "Events" would have to be defined so as not to be construed as requiring that any and all meetings or lunches with individual lobbyists would need to be treated this way (obviously they shouldn't).

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps even an audio recording or written summary of the event would suffice (independent auditing groups and partisan rivals could monitor the fundraisers to assure the reporting is accurate; penalties for inaccurate reporting of fundraising events would fit under the rubric of "felony public corruption convictions" with a recommended 20-year minimum sentence).

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with the idea that public financing of advertising -- perhaps supported by an excise tax on all advertising, payable in-kind, thru a system of vouchers.

Contrarian that I am, I also think the Democrats might want to take a non-obvious route here, by NOT proposing "structural" reforms. To a very large extent, the problem is the very nature of the Republican Party, as it has evolved in power. The most important reform is just to throw the bums out.

Democrats should "defend" Republicans from corruption charges in a back-handed way, pointing out that it is the policy of the Republican Party to hoodwink Conservative Christians and deprive sweatshop workers of minimum wage protection and all the other things they've done. "Corruption" would imply that they are betraying their Republican principles, when the truth is that this is modern Republicanism in action.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on January 6, 2006 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

"An opinion poll really gives you a percentage chance of an outcome set by a very small number of selected people with really no incentive to give accurate opinions," he says.( Macleans )

"Betfair gives you odds set by thousands of individuals backed by their own money so it's a very true reflection of individual opinion."

PAM the terminatrix was supposed to be released last MARCH!

Roll out Policy Analysis Market's and let Freedom Reign.

George W Bush permanently retired with extreme prejudice by the ides of March?

My 2 peppercoin e-cents.

Posted by: professor-rat on January 6, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK


Again, if somebody can come up with a mechanism that distributes this "public" campaign money without favoring the incumbents or the status quo, let me know. At some point, some person or committee is going to be able to say "this candidate gets cash. This one doesn't." Rich candidates can get past all this, but then that's pretty much the way it is now.

My take on it is that public campaign financing is going to only further ossify an already incumbent-heavy electoral system. Maybe if it were combined with term limits?

Posted by: tbrosz on January 6, 2006 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

ban tv and radio ads.
make the candidates run grass root campaigns

Posted by: arthur shea on January 6, 2006 at 4:39 AM | PERMALINK

I think you are confusing policy and politics. Gingrich made great hay over much less visible corruption, winning the house in the process. In addition he did not, manifestly, limit the ability of his party to raise funds.

The Ambramoff case involves a Tony Soprano murder-for-hire case, among other things. This is not politics as usual. Since the Reps broke existing law, that's what they should be punished for at the polls.

If campaign contributions are the root of the evil here, then the GOP wins--both sides do take campaign contributions. And while it is arguable that campaign contributions are legal bribes, the Republicans are charged with LEGAL bribes.

The trick is to tie the entire GOP to Ambramoff, who not only acts like a gangster but looks like a gangster. Taking campaign contributions from Indians doesn't make Democratic legislators guilty of felonies, so let's stop pleading guilty.

Posted by: steve High on January 6, 2006 at 5:18 AM | PERMALINK

No gifts!

And make Kerry pay back his wife for lifestyle support. Heard she give him a mansion to life in while campaigning.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 6, 2006 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK

It's 3 AM so I'll leave most of the thinking to the dem big wigs. But . . . back in highschool they made us all campaign with 30 dollars (fliers, posters, etc.). If someone could prove we went over then we were out of the running.

I'd like to see what the different parties would do with ~ 10% of the money they spend today. If the cap was low enough to stop 80% of TV ads and phone spam I'd even be willing to contribute my federal income taxes to fund them, Libertarians and all. I'm convinced that the onslaught of ads creates burn-out and decreases turnout.

Posted by: B on January 6, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

There are some good ideas here. I am posting a link to TPMCafe where they are discussing same issue. Will post link to this discussion over there. (Is that rude?)


Posted by: jf on January 6, 2006 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

Reinstate equal time. Ban political contributions.

Posted by: Mac on January 6, 2006 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

The corruption WILL continue until we remove all people who are in government because it pays well and gives them "Power". Power corrupts.(Period) Doesn't matter which side of the aisle you're on, the result is the same.
I've said it a million times. Dem's, Repube's. Just two different sides of the same coin.
We need to get people into gov't who understand that the job is not about their individual power but is about doing the will of the people. They are our federal public servants.
Anyone who sees it differently has no place in our countrys' gov't. Unfortunately, presently that is ALL we have in our gov't.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 6, 2006 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

I had this insane idea a while back...

1) Pool and redistribute political contributions equally. Thus anyone can contribute as much as they want to their candidate, but they also end up contributing as much to all the other candidates. No first amendment issues here. But the detail of how to limit the number of candidates to something reasonable needs to be addressed.

Posted by: Seor Ding-Dong on January 6, 2006 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

I know that the DLC and Bruce Reed aren't well liked in the blogosphere because they are [gasp!] centrist and occasionally like Republican ideas, but back in May they offered up a 10 point list of reforms that would 'Drain the Swamp' as they called Washington.

It is pretty good stuff. I hope Dems keep banging the corrupt and incompetent drum because people get that and it is easy to prove.

Posted by: Expat Teacher on January 6, 2006 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

1) All contributions go to the FEC, and are then distributed anonymously to the candidate. Give as much as you want, but the politician will never know it was you, your PAC, or your worst enemy.

2) And/or contribution limits: Individual citizen in district $5000. Individual out of district $3000. Corporation with headquarters in district (only one hq can be designated in the USA) $2000. Corporation with headquarters out of district $1000.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 6, 2006 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Expat Teacher,
Yeah I'm pretty centrist also but I occasionally like Dem ideas. Just the opposite but centrist none the less.
My hope for the corrupt and incompetent drum is that it be a bi-partisan effort. It IS after all a bi-partisan problem.
Also, could you look at your link to see if it's good. My cursor won't point to it. I would like to read that 10 point list.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 6, 2006 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

1) The Democrats select which Republicans are on the Ethics Committee and vice versa.

2) Whenever there is no general agreement over the Ethics Committee membership or rules, every elected member of Congress works for free.

Posted by: reino on January 6, 2006 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

One more thing, and this goes against the mainstream: no contribution limits.

If you're a legislator, you find one sugar daddy to give you millions of dollars, and you then spend the rest of your time legislating. Politicians should not spend 80% of their time raising money.

Posted by: reino on January 6, 2006 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Public financing, public financing, public financing.

People don't want to pay for political campaigns, but now it is clear that we do pay. We pay when the people who fund the campaigns get back much, much more than they pay in in the form of in tax breaks and handouts. If they didn't get back, they wouldn't pay in. Public financing will pay for itself in improved money management and good government.

Max is out front, as usual:

"Public financing. Proportional representation in the states (which I believe can include elections to the House of Representatives). Independent regulation of campaign finance and debates. Full access to the process for third parties. Sunlight on everything."

Posted by: Mark Gilbert on January 6, 2006 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Right now it takes so much money to run for office that only rich people can afford to run. Is it no wonder they then craft legislation to favor rich people?

The solution appears self-evident. If the pie was cut up a lot more fairly, we wouldn't have this problem.

Posted by: bobbyp on January 6, 2006 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Last night on Hardball, Norah O'Donnell said Pelosi and Reid have a reform plan ready to roll. Based on comments from you and Josh Marshall at tpm it seems no one else knows about it. Just curious what the scoop is.

Posted by: Bren on January 6, 2006 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Well, this is pretty much the wrong tack to take. Anything that requires math is a bad proposal. Anything that comes from a policy wonk is a bad proposal. Anything that you can't say in two sentences is a bad proposal.

Symbolic politics. Find someone and crucify him. The charges don't even have to be completely accurate as long as there is some meat there and as long as there's no way the guy can be exonerated before the elections. Attack someone who the Republicans can't possibly throw overboard and make that person the face of the Republican party.

Posted by: Anthony on January 6, 2006 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of comments suggested shortening the election season--great idea! Here we have our neighbors to the north (Canada) being in the midst of an election. As one Canadian friend of mine says; he hates all the election rhetoric too, except in Canada they only have to suffer 5 weeks or so of that crap, where we have to go through 2+ years....hey, maybe we should consider the parliamentary system (we could also throw the buggers out instead of having to wait for the next first Tuesday in November.)

Posted by: RogerL on January 6, 2006 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats make proposals? Ha! No way. We are in the Kos era, when Democrats sit back and hope the Republicans fold up. Proposals and policy are for wingnuts.

Gee, if Democrats actually propose something someone might not like it. We're better off watching the Republicans vote in more tax cuts, explode the deficit, destroy the environment, and appoint their friends to high places. Then we can sit back and point out fingers at 'em.

Great strategy, huh?

Posted by: Dicksknee on January 6, 2006 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Polosi and Reid have a secret reform plan ready to roll? Roll it already.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 6, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Prediction: As per normal, the Democrats will dither, equivocate and wring this hands over this golden opportunity from heaven just long enough for the Rethuglicans to come out with their own, bogus but bold "reform proposal," which will help neutralize this as a political issue in advance of the '06 mid-terms. My God, what does it take for these clowns who call themselves political leaders to grow spines and some guts?

Posted by: Doofus on January 6, 2006 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: HOWLER MONKEY on January 6, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Outlaw lobbying

Posted by: Marshall on January 6, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

There are rumors (pushed by Republican hacks) to the effect that both Polosi and Reid live in glass houses. If they are really ethically challenged and can't make the reform proposals, find somebody else who isn't and have them make the proposals. If nobody in congress is clean, fire all of them, Republicans and Democrats. Who gives a shit for anybody who hasn't got a firm grasp on right and wrong.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 6, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

End contributions. Public financing of campaigns with a spending limit of x cents per voter in the district. This would include primaries. Yes, any nut will get to spout his/her insanity, but it would be woth the cost. Also require free TV time for the candidates.

Posted by: Arthur Arfa on January 6, 2006 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Attack someone who the Republicans can't possibly throw overboard and make that person the face of the Republican party."
Posted by: Anthony on January 6, 2006 at 8:57 AM

And THAT my friends is called politics and is precisely what is wrong with our gov't. Oh and BTW that is also a type of corruption in one of it's purest forms. It is lying to the people for political gain. Corruption.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 6, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Get it through your skulls, people.

The Democrats are not opposed to corruption - they're just pandering to a different set of rich bitches - the Hollywood elite and other chiche socialites - for their money.

Posted by: Thinker on January 6, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, when the GOP is doing damage to themselves, you don't need to dive in and help. The scandal stories are resonating just fine on their own. I think the notion that there needs to be a lot of deep thought about this only suggests that Dems don't get what the problem is. The answers are not hard:

- Don't go around taking money and trips that have the appearance of impropriety.

- Conduct the public's business in public in an open and honest way

- Make clear that corruption and graft will not be tolerated

- De-emphasize the importance of lobbying to create legislation

...etc etc...This isn't hard. We shouldn't act as if it is, or as if it needs more than a basic statement to the effect of "they took money when they shouldn't have. We won't." If we can't say that, then yes, we're as bad as they are (and frankly, I'm not sure that we aren't).

Posted by: weboy on January 6, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

lieberman--everybody's favorite quisling--signed on as a dem co-sponsor to mccain's lobbying reform measure? are you kidding me? doesn't this undercut the dems ability to take the lead on reforming congress? isn't lieberman once again providing bipartisan cover for republican shenanigans.

man, this is beyond ridiculous. if the dems can't reign in a jackass like this (p.s. screw you, wittman) they deserve permanent minority status.

can anyone explain to me why the democratic party is so perpetually feckless and so horribly bad at competing politically?

I'd rather have a republican in lieberman's seat; at least the democratic party woldn't feel forced to constantly placate the senator from the tiny state of CT.

Posted by: mencken on January 6, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Would these new proposals have affected Hillary's! $700K problem she's having?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Why not just enforce the laws already on the books?

Posted by: Sean-Paul Kelley on January 6, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Public financing of congressional elections: This is key as it will free up members of Congress to have to be on the phone all the damn time begging for cash. Is it a perfect solution? No, but it's damned close.

Posted by: Mitchell Freedman on January 6, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Enact a bullet-proof Constitutional Amendment providing for public funding of all Federal elections at the 100 percent level and further providing that thereafter, evidence that any Federal official has accepted so much as a ballpoint pen inscribed with a company logo will be enough to make out a prima facie case of bribery.

And yes, I know there would be problems allocating the money fairly. But that really doesn't strike me as a big deal. You'd just have tiers - e.g.: Tier 1 $$ requires getting X number of signatures on a petition and getting on the primary ballot. Tier 2 requires merely a showing of some degree at Tier 1. And so forth. Why, it'd be positively democratic. Not to mention taking the advertising hucksters out of politics. And it would shorten the election season dramatically.

Posted by: Chainsaw on January 6, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Anthony's right. Take back the House that Jack Built, and then we can entertain campaign reform ideas.

Ambramoff is a GOP gangster. He is Tom Delay's best friend, and the worst friend of the American taxpayer. Why? Because corruption costs money--it's the GOP Gangster Tax.

See Ambramoff and Delay hugging? The LOVE what they've done to this country. Higher gas prices. A mismanaged war. Even basic emergency services left in charge of a GOP party hack--and New Orleans still in ruins today because of Republican corruption.

Let's take our country back. Vote against EVERY Republican on the ballot in November.

Posted by: steve High on January 6, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

If Democrats are going to make hay out of Republican corruption...

What Dems are you taking about Kevin?

Your centrist Dem Party doesn't ever make any stand against Bush or the GOP. It just isn't cool Pal. It just not how everybody feels. It was way more fun and a lot more safe to bitch slap Howard Dean around and now you want someone to complain about Bush? Kevin, you've always been for the party that plays it safe and doesn't take a stand.

What's not to love about todays congressional Dems. You don't want to look weak on terrorism, so we can't have them look weak on new and interesting ways of fund raising either. It not any different really that Bush's illegal wiretapping is it?

Posted by: Cheryl on January 6, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I have half an idea. Let's go back to having one representative in Congress for each 30,000 citizens. This would eliminate most of the need for money among representatives, since it isn't that hard to reach 30,000 people by foot, for pete's sake. It kinda takes the whole media thing out of it.

Well, yes, there would be 5,000 members of the lower house, but I think that could be managed, they could telecommute, for example.

It would also fix one of my pet peeves, that the voting power of Californian voters (and Texans for that matter) is diluted when compared to the voting power of voters from North Dakota, even in the House.

Ok, let's be slightly more sophisticated. Which ever state has the smallest population, they get one, and their population establishes the unit. Bigger than 30k, so a more manageable House.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on January 6, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

One crucial thing Dems should focus on is the VERY direct connection between the corruption and the Republican slavish service to special interests.

This makes the corruption part of a much larger, and nearly inherently Republican issue. That corruption is simply the criminal tip to the iceberg of selling out the American public.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Push for:

1) Transparent government. No more hiding the transcripts and attendance sheets from policy meetings.

2) Honor the rules of the house.

3) End gerrymandering and mid-decade redistricting.

Posted by: ChrisS on January 6, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

- Guaranteed TV airtime for candidates
- Government funded debates between candidates
- Free websites for each "qualified" candidate (those with prove of a minimum level of support)to describe platform and answer critics
- A minimum of 72 hours for any legislation to be read and unchanged prior to each vote
- Full transparency for all gifts, consultations and donations by lobbyists and special interests
- Government funding for accountants to assist representatives (to prevent undue burden) and auditors
- Permanent ban on all government employees (congress, WH, etc.) who violate the law
- Increase of wages for congress, WH and SCOTUS to reduce corruption and entice high quality candidates
- Signed contract by all running for any election promising not to run for re-election if they fail to keep promises made to voters (this alone would wipe out the Republican incumbents).

It's a start...

Posted by: Kiwi Magic on January 6, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

'can anyone explain to me why the democratic party is so perpetually feckless and so horribly bad at competing politically?'

I think it might have something to do with an inherent respect for openness of debate, differences of opinion, the workings of democracy. Republicans these days appear to me to be automatons spewing the same talking points
in unison. No deviation is allowed. I personally don't want the Democrats to become
that embarrassingly narrow. However, I do hope that the fine citizens of CT get rid of Lieberman at the next opportunity to do so and elect a senator who at least shares most core Dem values.

Posted by: nepeta on January 6, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

They are all pretty good ideas so far, but why re-invent? All that ia needed is a swift look at what the straightest, most honest parliamentary democracies do and to suggest the adoption of all the most stringest practices.

They are things like:
an absolute limit as to the amount spent on getting elected by each candidate. We could set it at, say, $25,000 for a Congressman and $100,000 for a Senator. (Look at UK, Germany, Holland, and ?? for the detail); (20 years ago a candidate in Britain could still spend only $875.) How it works is that any part of the elction process which names or alludes to the candidate is measured as an expense, with the Party Unspecified not included;

someone has already suggested a set period for campaigning;

plainly, there would have to be a much longer period and a much higher limit set for a Presidential Election.

an absolute prohibition on taking bribes (---- to call lobbying monies by their correct name.) All such contributions would be paid only to the central party. A limit as to the total amount corporations might pay, scaled, perehaps;

paper ballots only, since any electronic process is so open to abuse. When there are counters, supervised by teller observors from all the political parties it is pretty hard to cheat;

voters may vote at only one, allocated, polling station;

Congressional District boundaries will be set by a completely apolitical commission;

Congressional District boundaries must be contiguous and straight-lined.

There's a start!

Posted by: maunga on January 6, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

'can anyone explain to me why the democratic party is so perpetually feckless and so horribly bad at competing politically?'

It is because they are financially dependent upon Hollywood and its femmed-out agenda.

Posted by: Thinker on January 6, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta say, Kev, I agree with the majority of comments so far. The Dems lack the courage and the imagination for soemthing like this. As I've sadly mentioned before on this site, it's going to take the retirement and/or passing away of this generation of Vietnam-era Dems before we have a progressive movement(or hell, even an opposition) with the backbone, determination and heck, just plain balls to take on these guys.

The Dems keep playing the game like they've got something to lose by being bold and sticking it to the GOP. They don't seem to get that they've got nothing already so they can't lose anything! They need to start playing like they've got something to win instead.

Posted by: bprogressive on January 6, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

My suggestion is simple, if you work as a member of congress (elected member or appointment member of staff), you cannot accept a position with a registered lobbying firm for 24 months after you have left your congressional assignment.

Posted by: John P. Bertsch on January 6, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Survival of the Richest.

Posted by: NeoDude on January 6, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Ambramoff is a GOP gangster.
Then, uh, what were your boys doing on the take? I hear that 40 of 45 Democratic Senators have "benefitted".

Of course, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. And speaking of guilty, what was the outcome on Hillary's! $700K donation problem?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

'can anyone explain to me why the democratic party is so perpetually feckless and so horribly bad at competing politically?'

1964 Civil Rights Act
1965 Voting Rights Act

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 6, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

And like the IRS is an organization which we send "voluntary" contributions, this central entity which takes campaign contributions will always be only voluntary right? Right.

These reform ideas sound worse than what we have now. Campaign finance reform was supposed to have fixed this corruption, remember? You cannot force individuals to do the right thing in a free country; you can only call them to be responsible and punish them if they break the law. How hard is that to understand?

Which candidates will be eliminated from receiving funds from this centralized money pot? Who decides who receives the money and who doesn't? The political bent of the beaurocrats will determine what direction the money will flow and we all know what political mindset they have. Are you saying that everyone has their price and will eventually be corrupted if the money is high enough?

Posted by: Orwell on January 6, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Congressional District boundaries will be set by a completely apolitical commission
Didn't Drum just vote against this?

Oh wait, you only meant for this to happen where it benefits Democrats. Sorry.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: THE KING AND ME on January 6, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

We get the government we deserve. TV ads and sound bites shouldn't be the basis for our votes, but it is.

Americans ARE corrupt. Corrupt enough to believe that getting rich quick is more admirable then working hard. Corrupt enough to spend billions on lotteries, to approve of invading countries to get cheap resources, and corrupt enough to buy the greasy arguments of self-interest.

Maybe you and yours don't feel this way, but most Americans do, although they will deny it. But you don't have to go far to find people who will admit it. And apathy is consent, ultimately.

Reform all you want; as long as most Americans are cynical or apathetic, it won't really help. The only way to ensure clean government is eternal vigilence by the majority of voters, ethical voters demanding ethical representitives.

With Democracy, we get what we deserve, always.

Posted by: Archie on January 6, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans. Actually, they are just two factions of the War Pigs Party.

Although Democrats are happy to see their brothers, like DeLay and Ney, go down, it is not because they want to end corruption in Congress, it is because they want to increase their supply of graft. Abramoff is a small player when you compare his money to the amount of money the energy, pharm, defense, and Israeli lobbyists have to spend. The reason Abramoff was busted was because he had to steal his money. The other big spending lobbyists do not have to do that, and neither faction of the War Pig Party wants to disturb a fabulously generous spoils system.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Con-nut:>"Ambramoff is a GOP gangster.
Then, uh, what were your boys doing on the take? I hear that 40 of 45 Democratic Senators have "benefitted"."

Hey Nuts, you hear wrong, way wrong.

2 Democratic Senators have been wrongly smeared by the Media.

Harry Ried got contributions from the same Indian Tribe that Abramoff shook down. Reid never got money from Abramoff. Same with Dick Durban.

The Media is working hard to make this corruption scandal look bi-partisan, but it ain't. Not even close.

Posted by: Joey. Girard on January 6, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think I agree, Kevin. Reform packages can be a muddled mess and as we all know, ineffective as well.

We have laws on the books already. Let's call for enforcing those while we expose the lack of oversight demanded of Congress.

This ties in very well with enforcing the Constitution against the Presidents wishes. We have all the laws necessary to run an honest government, and a Constitution that lays out a plan for keeping Americans and Democracy safe. Stick to the plan.

Democrats believe in America, the ideals set forth by our founding fathers, and the ability conduct the nation's business in a forthright and above board manner.

I think this is the underlying tone the Democrats should strike. Not passing more redundant laws.

Posted by: ww on January 6, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Just at look at the dude's picture. He looks like he was switched at birth with Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano.

If he's not a gangster, why is he looking at 9 1/2 years (with good behavior)?

Oh, yes. Amramoff is a gangster.

He was head of College Republicans back when George Bush was still packing his snot-locker. And the personal contributions of Ambramoff and his wife were !00% GOP.

GOP gangster? Hey, I hate sayin' it, but it's true.

Posted by: steve High on January 6, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

The Media is working hard to make this corruption scandal look bi-partisan, but it ain't. Not even close.
Ya, ya, and Kerry is going to win in a landslide.

BTW, the lists I've seen are a lot longer than 2. And I still haven't heard anybody talk about Hillary's! $700K. But maybe you're right, maybe only the Repubs are crooked.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, maybe we are right. Only the Repubs are indicted. Why? Because the Justice Dept. likes to indict gangsters. They're funny that way.

GOP gangster Ambramoff switched at birth:


Posted by: Steve High on January 6, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Hostile:>"Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans.

You're wrong, bucko. Democrats are 62.34% corrupt. Republicans are 98.76% corrupt. Thats a 33% point spread.

And the Democrats are little-c corrupt, a whimpering, small change corruption. They get a little gift here, a little book deal there, they change a don't-care vote or throw a little sop line into an omnibus spending bill.

But the Republicans are out to show us all what real corruption looks like: bring the donors into committee and lock the doors. Have the donors write the bills and run the regulatory agencies.

All appointed positions in Republican Washington are filled with industry hacks. Our troops are starved while private military contractors overcharge and profiteer. Tens of billions of public money are diverted into mystery pockets.

Saying the Democrats are as corrupt as the Republicans is like saying a shoplifter is as bad as Al Capone.

And you think you're hostile? Go to hell!

Posted by: Joey Girard on January 6, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Con-nut:>"Ya, ya, and Kerry is going to win in a landslide."

Is that what you believe? LOL!

I certainly never thought Kerry would win. I did know that Dean could, and probably would.

Kerry was a miserable candidate who probably threw the race for his Skull and Bones brother.

Windsailing? what was he thinking?

Posted by: Joey Girard. on January 6, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

And the Democrats are little-c corrupt, a whimpering, small change corruption
$700K is small change?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Con-Nut:>the lists I've seen are a lot longer than 2.

Well Mr. Nuts and Flakes, why don't you share it with us, then?

I bet you got it from the Washington Times or some other "reliable" source....

Posted by: Joey Girard on January 6, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Is that what you believe? LOL!
No, that's what I heard here. I keep a sample of some of them just for occasions like this:

From Drum himself:
- at the moment my prediction worth every penny you pay for it, of course is that Kerry will win with 272 electoral votes

- Kerry will win the popular vote 55% and electoral vote 340.
- Say 300+ in the electoral college.
- Kerry, just over 50% of the popular vote, EV 300
- I predict Kerry breaks 300 on the EV.
- Kerry is going to get at least 284 electoral votes. I think it will be closer to 326.
- I've had dreams in which the number "322" conspicuously appears over and over again...this election IS gonna be a landslide
- Kerry will get 53-55% of the popular vote, giving him around 320 electoral votes.
- It will be a landslide for Kerry
- to get around 320-330
- Mark it down, Kerry wins by 4 points nationally, takes some states nobody sees coming, inlcuding Tennessee and Arkansas.
- 4 point Kerry victory, and I should know.
- Kerry - 51%, 310+ electoral votes
- Kerry ends up with 311.

Ah yes, the predictive power of the moonbat.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Well Mr. Nuts and Flakes, why don't you share it with us, then?
What for? You wouldn't believe it if it was tattooed on Al Bore's ass.

As above, we see that you lefties only pay attention to the voices in your heads.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of predictions, what odds that GOP gangster Jack Amramoff does time?

He COULD go into the Witness Protection Program and tell on Rove. One thing for sure, some Republican is gonna get lubed up with Dixie Peach and used like a woman in there.

Posted by: Steve High on January 6, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

$700K is small change?

Compared to $10 billion missing in Iraq? Yep.

And where does this $700k number come from anyhow?

I don't trust *any* MSM reporting on this stuff. They've been in the Republican Rectum for years now.

Posted by: Joey G. on January 6, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Heh. Only money donated through tax returns will be allowable as campaign funds. No other donations or financial inducements allowed. You gets your salary, and you get a dole out of the tax funds to campaign. No other income allowed, no other expenditures allowed.

God, that would be just amazing -- virtual media silence would descend.

Posted by: Scorpio on January 6, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I gotta agree with BPprogressive one point: large parts of the Democratic leadership will resist doing anything. But some will do something. And that's a vast difference between the parties. The Dems might be wimpy, but the GOP is scary.

Reid and Pelosi have both put out markers and shown they won't take too much garbage. Pelosi did write the White House (in Oct 2001) to say spying is wrong. Reid did ambush Bush on the Meyers nomination. And together they did hold the line on Social Security.

But we are seeing a lot of resistance from the entrenched Democrats. Novak's column whining about Pelosi. Hillary endorsing a flag burning amendment. Lieberman denouncing any critics of his holy war as unpatriotic. Lots of complaining from DC sources about Dean - dismissing him as "insane". etc. Biden voting for the bankruptcy bill, etc.

So, yes, many Democrats are wimps. And yes, they should put out a reform plan.

But what seems to be increasingly evident is that will have to tough - very tough - with some of their outliers. They should kick Moran and a few others out of the party. And they shouldn't let fear of a few Democratic members stop them from being aggresive. They will have to make the tough decision to get rid of any Democrats ensnared in this thing - because there will be a few. But not nearly as many as in the GOP.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 6, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

No-Nuts:>"What for? You wouldn't believe it if it was tattooed on Al Bore's ass.

Well, I believe Al Gore was the inspiration for the lead role in "Love Story," and that was tattooed on his ass, so you're wrong again.

No-Nuts, it's *you* I don't believe. You are.... un-credible.

Posted by: Joey Girard. on January 6, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Compared to $10 billion missing in Iraq?
You know, I'm learning that the Iraq war is the left's excuse for Democrats to do anything illegal, immoral, or fattening.

And where does this $700k number come from anyhow?
Pay no mind, you don't care anyway, its very existence opposes the noise of the echo chamber, it's all an illusion. Or you could Google, but be forewarned: moonbat sites aren't reporting on this and the MSM is very low key on it (funny how those usually correspond). You will need to tread the swamps of the right.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Al Gore was the inspiration for the lead role in "Love Story,"
Ya, and he invented the Internet to. Ol' Wooden Al is a man for all seasons.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The corruption in Iraq is but a mere pitance of the corruption the Democrats and Republicans practiced during the Viet Nam 'War.' I see Rep. Murtha is the ranking member of the appropriations sub-committee of the armed services committee. He claims to want to end the war in Iraq now, but he voted for it and he voted to fund the corruption. Now he wants to stop the war in Iraq, not because it is wrong, but because it takes away funding for his pet defense spending boondogles. He has been around to help spend trillions of dollars on corruption. That is why I call him a Murthafucker, and why I think Democrats are as corrupt as Republicans. I think the ratio of corruption between the two factions of the War Pigs Party is Democrats 99.89% corrupt to Republicans 99.99% corrupt.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well Joey, I'm feeling kind today; and since the MSM is so deep in the Republican Rectum that they've been brushing this under the rug, here you go. There's more to the story, but you're on your own there. Educating moonbats is tiring work and I need a nap.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 6, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

You disparage Kerry, the senator who loves hundred star resorts, yet claim Democrats are still better than Republicans. You have the temerity to tell me to go to hell, yet you still endorse a party that votes for trillion dollar defense spending just as much as Republicans do. If you had any courage, you would abandon your beloved faction of the War Pigs Party and join up or create a better political party. That is what the abolitionists did, sending the Whigs to the history bin.

The Libertarian Social Democracy Party understands your incongruence. The Democrats pander to your desire for social welfare and civil rights while voting to give Bush and defense contractors everything they ask for, killing tens of thousands of innocent people around the world, which creates conflict between the two hemispheres of your brain. LSD cures that.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is sort of an out-of-the-box idea that just occurred to me: since the largest problem is the overall influence of money, in the sense that many large contributors, especially business, donate to both parties, we should forbid donating to more than one rival in any particular political race.

You might be scratching your head thinking...huh...a lot of people are actually calling for the opposite in this thread, that any money donated be evenly distributed, or go to the party and not the candidate. Well, I disagree with those notions, because people should be able to support who they want to win (with max limits), but we should disallow you from spreading money around to everybody.

The idea just occurred to me, so I haven't thought about it more deeply, but it would be a political earthquake if big money corporate contributors suddenly had to pick only one candidate, and this would be public. They could spread their money around to multiple races, but they could never throw money at more than one person in the race.

Obviously, the competition would go up, in terms of competing for fundraising dollars, but I believe the actual effect would be less contributions from Big Business, who wouldn't want to be on the record just supporting one candidate in case another candidate won. Also, corporate collusion to donate to a particular candidate would be defined as official "public corruption", and be subject to the 20-year minimum prison sentence for all corporate officials involved.

I would combine with this tight contribution limits and perhaps setting a defined "political campaign period" during which political contributions would be allowed, while at all other times such contributions would be considered bribes and corruption. Legislators don't need to be collecting money from special interests while performing their job, and they also shouldn't be fundraising, which is not part of their job. Challengers will also be limited to fundraising in the defined "political campaign period".

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Also, strict accounting should be implemented on general political party fundraising. Parties will be forbidden to transfer money to candidates, and rather will be limited to fundraising to improve party infrastructure and outreach. This outright ban on transferring fundraising from party to candidate would be in place in and out of the "political campaign period", but would not affect infrastructure and sending volunteers to help a candidate, within reason.

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Mandatory weekly ethics classes for all elected officials.

Posted by: CrackWilding on January 6, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I so completely agree with this premise...Dems MUST begin to speak truthfully and then ACT to show that they do more than give lip service to eliminating corruption whenever/wherever possible. I still vote for making all the lobbyists wear a BIG ORANGE BUTTON! AND, it would really be simple to create a law that makes it possible for "access" to congresspeople to occur ONLY in their offices in DC or home base. Still, as a lobbyist on WJ said this morning as there is no enforcement of laws presently in place, who would think news ones would be followed? So perhaps it's the ENFORCEMENT thing~!

Posted by: Dancer on January 6, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

On second thought, if we limit contributions to a set maximum (say $100), and we limit contributions to the defined "electoral season" (for the particular seat), then we don't really need to worry about whether someone "spreads his donations" around, since they won't really stand out as much in the first place. This would be a more elegant solution.

As for rich candidates, there is no reason why they should not be subject to the same rules as other donors, even if they are donating to their own campaign. A rich campaigner will only be able to donate to his own campaign the same amount as anyone else. There is no violation of free speech, since we should define dollar donations as something other than speech, and realistically a public office is not intended to be a "seat of opportunity", or a "vehicle for personal ambition and success", but instead a public service. The actual seat and election are owned by the people (the constituents in each district).

No contributions will be allowed period from persons or organizations that are not based in or pay taxes to the district.

Lobbying will have the same restraints as political campaigns, in that any registered lobbying interest may only spend $100 gratuities on any particular piece of legislation. This should be enough to pay for lunch. Lobbying that requires expenses and travel must be justified by being directly related to the purpose of the legislation, in determining its impacts, and the $100 limit will not apply to this, as expenses can be paid by the lobbying interest. Still, the $100 gratuity limit will be in place, unless it can be documented that going over the limit was directly necesary to circumstances of the lobbying event (where $100 won't pay for anything). Then allowances may be made, again with limits, on going over the limit, but again only if the very visit/event itself is demonstrated to be "directly relevant".

Obviously, the $100 is a limit I'm throwing out there arbitarily, and you can substitute your own dollar figure both for candidate contribution limits and lobbying limits (the same would apply to political party contributions as well), though the idea is to keep it at a "reasonable" level for most of the populace.

As for political parties, they will have the same limits, per donor, set annually, and will be prohibited from transferring money directly to candidates. Contributions can and should be used to increase party infrastructure and reach out efforts between and during election seasons, but these contributions must be kept strictly separate from candidate finances (strict accounting will be necessary to avoid penalties).

Finally, for political organizations raising consciousness about political issues, it's not clear that we can or ought to limit these contributions (intellectually and constitutionally), since it is not directly related to a public seat or campaign, but we should always maintain the strict separation, as with political party organizations, between these contributions and candidate contributions/finances (aside from the legal limit they would, as a single donor, be able to contribute as any other).

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

If you really think about it, there is no purpose to allowing contributions to political candidates outside of an electoral race except to influence the candidate directly, which in other words is bribery. We can allow lobbying, with limits so that it keeps to a direct relevance and educational task, but we should not allow special interests to donate to a candidate throughout the time he is doing his job. There's no real reason for allowing it, and it puts challengers in the next election at a clear disadvantage. Of course, to keep things fair, prospective challengers would not be able to raise funds to be spent directly on the election campaign either between elections.

This would obviously requires a legally mandated and defined "election campaign season", which ought to be shorter rather than longer.

Posted by: Jimm on January 6, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

It is possible- and I can only hope- that the Dems will make a larger issue of this than is currently the case. But I'm sure that there is a lot of closet-checking at the present moment. This appears to go deeper than even we will be told, and I think the Dems are being careful not to expose their own "technical issues."

Abramoff was sure not to leave the Dems enscathed. I think even Harry Reid has sent back a small sum.

Posted by: The Lowly Bum on January 6, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

How about a proposal that all government employees and elected officials must record every conversation they have with a lobbyist and make it part of the public record? I'm sure Dick "Energy Task Force" Cheney would love that one.

Posted by: DanM on January 6, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Congress spends money. They are like purchasing agents with the biggest bankroll in the world.

I read once that Wal-mart keeps a VERY close eye on ITS bankroll by forcing all vendors to come to headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas if they want to sell something to Wal-mart. Wal-mart purchasing agents don't fly all over the world getting wined and dined by vendors, they don't even jaunt out for a quick lunch with a lobbyist on K Street. Wal-mart buyers sit in little cubicles in Bentonville where they are watched closely as they make tough deals with vendors.

Posted by: ferd on January 6, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Said it before but here goes it again. At the very least, the law should be changed so that only people who can legally vote for a particular candidate would be able to donate money to that candidate. I cannot vote for instance for the mayor of Seattle, why should I have the ability to donate to his campaign and in that way have any influence on it. This would force the candidates to focus more on their constituents and less on large gala fundraisers in other states. As a bonus, the last time I checked corportations, PACs and other groups as entities were not elegible to vote so no more hiding behind various groups to hide donations.

Posted by: clyde on January 6, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ferd, if you're selling soap, you can bring a sample to Wal-mart headquarters. But our reps and senators should travel to some extent, to better understand international and domestic problems. For example, there are things that a legislator could find out about the war in Iraq only by going to Iraq.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on January 7, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

arthur shea: "ban tv and radio ads. make the candidates run grass root campaigns"

There are 35 million people living in California. How is a candidate for U.S. Senate supposed to reach them without TV and radio?

In most states, it might be possible to meet a large fraction of the constuents for a state house seat just by ringing doorbells. But U.S. House of Representatives? They represent about 600,000 people. If you did nothing but ring doorbells all day, every day, you would still not have time to meet most of the constituents. Modern campaigns have to be run through the media.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on January 7, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

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