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Tilting at Windmills

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September 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CLEAN MONEY....One of the measures on the California ballot this November is Proposition 89, the Clean Money initiative. In a nutshell, it provides 100% public financing for state campaigns; provides matching funds if you run against a rich opponent who declines public funds; and places strict limits on the amount of money that corporations, unions, and other interest groups can donate directly to initiative campaigns. You can read the details here.

It deserves passage, but its prospects are probably dim, judging by the number of people who say they support its goals but then go out of their way to find reasons to oppose it. David Sirota draws my attention today to one such person today, longtime LA Times columnist George Skelton. In Thursday's column he does a pretty good job of outlining the revolting state of modern special-interest campaign financing, but then shies away from reform for reasons that are hard to fathom. First there's this:

California's system would cost an estimated $200 million a year and be financed by a bump in the tax rates for banks and corporations. And that's where Prop. 89 starts to raise my eyebrows.

Here's the skinny: Prop 89 is financed by raising the California corporate income tax by 0.2 percentage points. That's an eyebrow raiser? Next up is this:

There's an agenda here that overreaches beyond public financing: It's to greatly reduce corporate influence in California politics. And while that might be fine, corporations shouldn't be whacked any more than labor unions in an initiative that's principal purpose is to drain special interest money from politics.

....Such a policy would unfairly inhibit a corporation from defending itself against some rich guy with no spending limit. A corporation could get around the limit by soliciting money from executives and shareholders and funneling it through a "political action committee." But that's cumbersome. Unions that are incorporated also would be limited, but they already operate PACs.

This is crazy. Candidates for statewide office who accept public funding aren't allowed to take any additional money from anyone. Not corporations, not unions, not their friends and neighbors. It puts a complete stop to the relentless fundraising that dominates the lives and votes of state officials today.

Likewise, initiative campaigns are restricted in the amount they can accept from both corporations and unions. The limit is $10,000. Both corporations and unions can raise additional money via PACs if they want, and the idea that the business community is unfairly disadvantaged by this is so peculiar I don't know what to make of it. Is Skelton suggesting that industry groups are a bunch of rubes who don't know how to set up and fund PACs? That's nuts. Industry groups raise hundreds of millions of dollars via PACs and know all too well how to set them up and milk them for all they're worth.

But the contribution limits would make life harder for everyone involved which is why plenty of public employee unions are opposed to Prop 89 too. It would still be possible for them to raise large sums of money, but probably not the astronomical sums that are raised now.

Which sounds fine to me. Frankly, Prop 89 probably doesn't go far enough to get special interest groups out of the initiative business. Opposing it because it's too effective makes no sense at all.

Kevin Drum 1:01 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Well, it's probably because the LA Times is so liberal and all.

Face it - we live in a moneyocracy. Money has more rights than people, and probably always will.

Posted by: craigie on September 16, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

You can't turn on the tv here without being subjected to a blizzard of ads opposing Prop 89 for a variety of equally specious reasons. All the opposition has to do is muddy the water to the point that the average voter's not sure what the Prop will do and he'll either pass over it or vote against.

Posted by: fyreflye on September 16, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

So KD, I assume this gets beyond your usual opposition to all ballot initiatives?

Posted by: Me2d on September 16, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldnt normally request this but Ive had a pretty tough week.

I like to search through these threads to find my comments using the command-F key combination. The problem is that it picks up words that contain my name somewhere among their letters. Its not a big problem, it just takes a while longer. However, if you could try to limit your use of these words it would greatly enhance my blogging experience.

Heres a short list of words as an example:

all, allowed, along, also, alternative, analysis, animal, balanced, ballot, California, conventional, general, goal, liberal, local, official, pay pal, permalink, political, practical, reality, sales, skeptical, small, special, subliminal, Tal Afar, thrall, usually, vital and so on. You get the idea.

Posted by: Al on September 16, 2006 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

fuckaling unalbelievalable youal alretard

Posted by: craigie on September 16, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Al, or Al imitator, whomever, that was really, really funny! Bravo!

(Yes, of course I'm serious!)

Posted by: Fel on September 16, 2006 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Really, what a travesty it would be if citizens were to assemble as they see fit, without regulation by the state, for the purpose of disseminating political speech. Really.

Posted by: Will Allen on September 16, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Some kind of campaign finance regime is desirable, and I would probably vote for this attempt. But the problem with most proposals is that they prohibit private parties from giving their endorsements to candidates and causes they choose. EG "Kinky" Friedman , former C/W singer, is running for Texas Gov. (and arguably doing about as well as the Democrat) and if I was a C/W singer who wished to perform a song for my old pal, this might be considered a "material contribution" to his campaign, and if he was already tapped out, illegal - that can't be right.

There may be ways to solve these problems, but most times Reps and Dems are just trying to tilt the balance toward corporations or unions respectively, and not paying any attention to free-speech issues.

Campaign finance reform cannot be hashed out as cynically as redistricting. After even the worst redistricting decision, every voter at least still gets to vote. After a bad FEC decision...I don't get to SPEAK!

Posted by: Andrew II on September 16, 2006 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

$200 million a year is probably 1/5 of how much is spent on complete largesse towards the prison guards' union, the most powerful of the special interest groups (yet only one of many) that have a stranglehold on Sacramento.

It's virtually nothing. This will pay for itself a hundred times over.

Posted by: theo on September 16, 2006 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'll take this over the current system. I'd also be more comfortable that any revisions that need to take place would be more even and fair AFTER we elect a bunch of politicians under a system like this.

I understand the fear that a purely egalitarian system could end up electing all kinds of people who have zero business sense or business support and result in all kinds of populist legislation that would be damaging to the economy.

But what we have now is almost certainly worse. Corporations control legislatures and effectively write themselves hundreds of billions of dollars each year in tax breaks, subsidies, and government contracts.

Yeah, under a more egalitarian populist election system Grandma and Grandpa might be more likely to vote for constructing lots of extra parks with a duck ponds that we don't need, but compare that to some real world examples: in California we had energy company employees literally leaving their jobs at Enron to write the California energy "deregulation" laws which ultimately cost California upwards of $60 billion dollars AND gave us Arnold to boot (recall he met with Ken Lay at the height of the blackouts to plan on leverages the man-made crisis to recall Davis). After writing the deregulation laws, they went right back to their corporations.

Or consider Halliburton's personal representative, Dick Cheney, giving his former company tens of billions in no-bid contracts. Or energy company lobbyists who write legislation to repeal environmental protections. Or oil execs killing investment in alternative fuels. Or defense contractors exerting pressure to kill weapons systems from Israel that could be fielded today to save thousands of troops' lives because they don't want to lose their contract to produce a copy-cat weapons system for the US military even though it won't be ready until 2011 at the earliest.

You also need to cap the amount of money that outside groups can contribute towards advertising for/against candidates and ballot initiatives. Ideally, an elected official who is up for re-election (or preferably the political party itself) should have to sponsor (i.e. take responsibility for) commercials that advocate for or against a particular ballot initiative.

That would help curb the absurd proliferation of imaginary political organizations like "Patriotic Americans who love puppies and hate terrorists" (which for all we know could be a front group for puppy-stomping neo-Nazis) from sponsoring dishonest and/or extreme political ads. As it stands now, you often can't tell from an ad what party (if any) supports or opposes a given ballot initiative. That needs to end.

Also, if you limited the cash, it would help prevent any one group that supports/opposes a ballot initiative from monopolizing and radicalizing the message. Smaller groups that normally would get drown out of the dialog would now have a reason to contribute some money to such ballot initiatives: it would give them a bigger voice in the matter (a small drift towards egalitarianism).

Well, it's nice thought anyway. It will never happen. There's just too much money involved. Even if such a ballot initiative were to pass (seems unlikely given how much money is involved and invested in the current system), it wouldn't last long. The current slate of politicians are already bought and paid for by corporate interests, and they'd find a way to repeal/invalidate/kill it in order to appease their campaign contributors and to help keep their own monopoly on power.

Posted by: Augustus on September 16, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

If you think they aren't going to figure out how to game this system as easily as they've done with any other "reform," you should think a bit harder.

When a hundred candidates come up with the required signatures and donations, who gets to pick the one who's going to run? Or do they all get the funds?

Minor party candidates get half pay.

Corporations are frozen on donations for ballot measures. "Non-profits," (guess who) are not.

You want simplification? Skip the elections and have our rulers simply select their successors, and crown them in a ceremony.

Posted by: enrique on September 16, 2006 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK

so we can assume you'll be casting a rare ``yes'' vote on a California proposition? :)

Posted by: secularhuman on September 16, 2006 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

Augustus wrote:

"consider Halliburton's personal representative, Dick Cheney, giving his former company tens of billions in no-bid contracts."
______________

When did he do that? The LOGCAP contract was competitively solicited by the Corps of Engineers in 2001, just as it has been since 1989.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 16, 2006 at 4:40 AM | PERMALINK

If I were in California, I would not vote for this before looking into Arizona's experience with it. It sounds great, very idealistic, money is ruining politics.

However, the principal effect in Arizona has been to give political viability to some of the nuttiest of the religious right. A motivated member of a megachurch can run on a platform of vile reactionary views and, at a minimum, stay in the game. Sometimes even win. Either way, it shifts the debate. Same with ballot initiatives -- prepare for some serious-ass culture war if initiative campaigns become more even-handed. "Populist" initiatives become "ugly."

The one positive thing about the current, disgusting campaign finance system is that politicians (and initiative leaders) have to whore themselves out to so many different people and groups that it induces a modicum of moderation. Very rich people can sometimes (but not always, Mr. Huffington) buy their way into office, but the majority are filthy, filthy whores -- it's impossible to avoid having some conflicts of interests between their tricks. The most egregious industry shills tend to be so not only because of campaign contributions, but also because of constituent interests, i.e., the industry they're spreading for employs tons of people in their district.

In a sense, "too effective" may be a valid reason to vote against it. I don't know all of the details and ramifications, not being a Californian, but I do know that if it is too effective there is a risk that the entire state government will start to look like a Kansas school board.

Posted by: skeptic on September 16, 2006 at 4:55 AM | PERMALINK

When did he do that? The LOGCAP contract was competitively solicited by the Corps of Engineers in 2001, just as it has been since 1989.

Thank you Rush Limbaugh.

Funny thing, in 1992 it was then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney who led movement to privatize most of the military's civil logistics activities. Under the direction of Secretary Cheney, the Pentagon paid $9 million to Halliburton's subsidiary, KBR, to conduct a study to determine whether private companies like (wouldn't you know it) KBR should handle all of the military's civil logistics. KBR's classified study concluded that greater privatization of logistics was in the government's best interest.

In an amazing coincidence, shortly thereafter, on August 3, 1992, Secretary Cheney awarded the first comprehensive LOGCAP contract to KBR. But I'm sure the fact that KBR was bidding in a contract process they helped create, and that they were the only bidding company to know the classified contents of their own recommendations, and that they were supported by the Secretary of Defense, had no impact on them winning the contract. Oh, and three years later, in 1995, Halliburton hired Cheney as its CEO. What a lucky break.

KBR lost the next LOGCAP bid - yes, lost - to DynCorp in 1997 after the GAO criticized KBR and the Army for massive cost overruns, poor accounting, and such in handling the contracting costs in Bosnia.

Curious thing, though, the Army nevertheless kept KRR on the job (effectively handing KBR the most lucrative part of the contract that DynCorp had won fair and square) due to some continuity of services loophole. KBR didn't win that contract.

Wouldn't you know it, after Cheney became vice president in 2001, DynCorp was fired and KBR was re-awarded the full LOGCAP contract. It's a little hard to maintain that KBR 'won' the bidding when all of the bids, proposals, and entire process remain classified. Gee, why wouldn't Cheney let the GAO oversee the process this time around?

Also, yes, a large chunk of Halliburton's contracts in Iraq are under a no-bid Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) contract.

The "bid" contracts however aren't really "bid" contracts by any normal definition. They don't go to the lowest bidder, nor are they held to the bids (cost over-runs have been rampant and without any negative consequence).

Curiously, the Bush administration has on numerous occasions specifically intervened to prevent Army auditors from withholding payments or finding Halliburton for poor accounting, charges for services never performed, price-gouging, and outrageously wasteful behavior (e.g. a Halliburton truck driver testified that brand new $85,000 Halliburton trucks were abandoned or "torched" if they got a flat tire or experienced minor mechanical problems... and charged straight to Uncle Sam).

You know, it's one thing to be a zealous advocate of your party. But certainly there should come a point when you are willing to put facts ahead of your party's talking points, to put what's best for your country ahead of whatever it takes for your party to win. Or at the very least, there should come a point when you start to resent the fact that your party plays you for a sucker, lies to you, and tricks you into spreading their lies for them and their own personal enrichment while they bankrupt our country, cripple our military, destroy our environment, and shred our constitution. Or do those things not matter as much to you as seeing your party 'win'?

Posted by: Augustus on September 16, 2006 at 5:45 AM | PERMALINK


Here in Arizona, the Clean Elections Campaign has done wonders for politics. Take for example, Pederson (D) challenging the incumbent Kyl (R), is a real estate developer with big bucks in his back pocket. But there is a "millionaire's provision" in the McCain-Feingold legislation, so Kyl is seeking an exemption.

A state provision kicked in this past primary cycle in which an outside group did a poll costing in the neighborhood of 50K, and the Clean Elections Campaign also kicked in 50K and gave these monies to the disaffected candidate, and thus, equalizing the impact. As such, there is "fairness". In addition, an elected official, overspent his monies, was challenged, and the lawsuit arrived into the courts, and the elected official lost. Thus, he surrendered his seat 16 months into his term. The system works, but it takes vigilence.

As to California adopting in similarity, Arizona's Clean Election Campaign, it makes it easy to understand, from both the general population, and from the Elected Official's standpoint, for the ease in which 'special interest' exercise their 'agenda'. And just as important, the elected officials have to raise their initial contributions of $5.00 from a number of constitutents, and that is easy to do-- but all will complain as that is now the norm, if one has a large number of supporters to begin with. At the end of the day though, the universal belief from former candidates and now elected officials, the 'system' works well.

And if I were a political strategist, I would encourage Democrats to staunchly support such a 'system' on the premise, that with the initial monies for the campaign readily available, the "issues" and the "authenticity" of the candidate, becomes the more relevant and important, from media relations to GOTV.

Of course, the 'wingnuts' will invariably show up as candidates, and can be permitted or given their opportunity to self-destruct, otherwise, they will remain active for many years to come. But the extremists with risible support declaims that these candidates are not wingnuts. Funny that! In any event, wingnuts without the support of Dobson and like-minded, cannot survive the public scrutiny, and eventually disappear from the political scene. And getting these wingnuts out the way, will always help the public discourse.

Posted by: Jaango on September 16, 2006 at 6:25 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see how a politician spending money can change a person's vote. While it might make a person from one party more well known than another person of the same party, it isn't going to have any effect on the candidates of the other party. Would you all have voted for Bush if he spent 20 billion dollars on his campaign? Do you imagine that your opponents would have voted for Kerry if he had spent 20 billion? I see two types of money in political campaigns. People trying to buy the favor of the candidate they expect to win, and fools who think throwing money at a candidate will influence the opinions of the voters.

Posted by: Randy on September 16, 2006 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

Free speech is not the same as bought and paid for speech. Conservatives don't get that. We have also enshrined and protected corporations to the point that they now have MORE rights than the average citizen. This is flat wrong and we need to call it out as being wrong.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 16, 2006 at 6:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure any of this is useful as long as it's perfectly legal for the news media to carry every piece of right-wing spin, lies, and slander the GOP machine and its minions can think up.

I mean, so what if there are controls on what politicians can collect and spend on advertising if only one side is getting free media coverage of its message? If there had been no paid broadcast advertising in the last election, most of the GOP's most important meme-spreading would still have been left on the air.

Posted by: Avedon on September 16, 2006 at 7:10 AM | PERMALINK

Hardly anything is as irritating as "I'm all in favor of this, but..."

Little-known fact- the rage that sent anti-war demonstrators into the streets in 1967 was not anger against the war, but exasperation with "liberals" who were all in favor of peace, but....

Political columnists, who must navigate the treacherous reefs and shoals of working for millionaires but writing for impoverished masses, become masters of being "all in favor, but..." It is the low-hanging fruit of the dangling-participle tree.

This form of spiritual poverty will always be with us. The best we can hope for is that these obsequious pundits will die in a tragic cabana accident or choke on a cocktail weinie as they attempt to curry favor with the well-to-do. There is no recorded instance of a pundit dying from obesity, in spite of the corpulent examples before us.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 16, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Really, what a travesty it would be if citizens were to assemble as they see fit, without regulation by the state, for the purpose of disseminating political speech.

Really, the travesty is the SCOTUS decision that held that money == speech.

Money != speech. Really.

Posted by: Gregory on September 16, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

But certainly there should come a point when you are willing to put facts ahead of your party's talking points, to put what's best for your country ahead of whatever it takes for your party to win. Or at the very least, there should come a point when you start to resent the fact that your party plays you for a sucker

Eloquently stated, Augustus, and I agree with the sentiment, but alas, the droppings of PA's various and sundry Bush apologists provide innumerable data points to the contrary.

Posted by: Gregory on September 16, 2006 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

fyreflye: You can't turn on the tv here without being subjected to a blizzard of ads opposing Prop 89 for a variety of equally specious reasons.

My friend, you need TiVo. For a hundred bucks or so plus ten or fifteen a month, you can avoid ever seeing a commercial.

Posted by: anandine on September 16, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

You want simplification? Skip the elections and have our rulers simply select their successors, and crown them in a ceremony.

No, if you truly want simplification, jettison all limits on campaign contributions, enact draconianly strict disclosure requirements, and let the press (including bloggers like Kevin Drum) keep us informed about who is getting money from whom. Then voters can decide for themselves. There should be no worries about an "unlevel" playing field -- surely there are as many rich liberals as there are rich conservatives in a state like California.

Posted by: Freddie on September 16, 2006 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see how a politician spending money can change a person's vote.


What if they use it to uncover their competitors pedophilia or donate a good chunk of it to charity?

Everyone else: sorry for responding. I used to work with a preschool.

Posted by: toast on September 16, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Great comment Augustus @5:45

Campaign financing is basically legal bribery.

Corporations and unions should be barred from donating any money, or gifts to politicians. Theres an inherent conflict of interest, donating money to the politicians who regulate your industries and unions.

Politicians spend more than half their time on the phone raising campaign cash. Thats just plain stupid.

Theres no need for all this money either, since candidates can create web sites, to let voters know where they stand on all the issues. Before television and radio, politicians somehow managed to get elected, without obscene amounts of money.

If it was up to me, I would mandate at least 4 town hall meetings a year with constituants.

I would also mandate two free cable channels, out of the hundreds that aren't being used, to run campaign ads, so there is no excuse about "being unable to get their message out to the voters".

Posted by: AkaDad on September 16, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

100% in agreement with Gregory.

The fundamental problem is Buckley v Valleo -- a mixed decision which found the regulation of personal contributions allowable (good) but also firmly equated money to political speech (atrocious).

I've debated cmdicely on this, and he's staunchly in favor of that position. Despite the legalistic arguments, I still find the notion flatly absurd on its face.

Free speech is the essence of liberty. My speech (or your speech) as a less-than-wealthy person isn't any less intrinsically valuable than the speech of a millionaire. We, in fact, don't need money to get our message out if somebody else is willing to publish or otherwise propogate it. What is true in the Colonies with broadsheet publishers is as true to day in the internet age.

Mass media monopolies are a fixture of the modern totalitarian state.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 16, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

anandine advised:
My friend, you need TiVo. For a hundred bucks or so plus ten or fifteen a month, you can avoid ever seeing a commercial.

I have an even better solution. I almost never turn on the tv because it's wall to wall crap (except for The Wire which I'm following via DVD and which I'd subscribe to HBO to watch if I wasn't forced by FCC fiat to pay for even more crap to do so.) Only when I succumb to the shameful temptation to check out Seinfeld reruns am I overwhelmed by the blizzard.

Posted by: fyreflye on September 16, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I am the Republican candidate for the Washington State legislature in Dist. 33 this year. On Tuesdy I will advance through the primary (no opponent.) Mine has been an extremly low-budget campaign financed by individual donors, a labor union (the one I belong to)and a few pro-life and second ammendment supporters. My incumbent opponent has five times my total funds raised and she could easily raise five times that if she felt the need. She is a retired cardiac surgeon and her husband still practices medicine.

My campaign strategy revolves highly around doorbelling and street corner sign-waving in order to direct people to my website. Once there, I direct them to my published books. I also explain in detail my sound-byte campaign theme of STOP SCHOOL DROP-OUTS.

Lessor factors that may help me this year are the facts that I speak well in public and have a very simple name that is easy to fit into signs and also to remember. Also I am fortunate that there is a big-budget "Mike" out there this year in Washington who has flooded our district that exclaim "MIKE!" in huge letters. Also to my advantage is the fact that I generally get good ratings from those who evaluate candidates, even though I have never held public office.

In a way, I am kind of a prototype for the type of candidacy that would have its hands out for public funds. If the website thing and my low budget tactics work, public money would actually be wasted on me. I might hire a couple young staffers, but real advertising is so expensive
I shudder to think what it would be like to throw money around in that realm.

At any rate, if you go to my website mikecook4house.com you will find my exposition (read whining) on why doorbelling is so difficult anymore.

Posted by: Mike Cook on September 16, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I am baffled by your silence on the great enthusiasm with which the administration is pushing its pro-torture bill.

Posted by: gregor on September 16, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Cook:

Oh jesus. Too bad I don't live in WA 33 so I could vote against you :)

I've had enough debates with you on ID to know that you're the Antichrist.

And your views on Iraq verge on the fascistic.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 16, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

gregor:

There were several threads yesterday (still on the main page) that took up that very subject -- one specifically about Colin Powell's letter to McCain supporting his anti-administration position on GC Common Article III.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 16, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bob:

Nothing after the post on the Powell's letter on 9/14.

The characteristically angry and petulant President of yesterday's press conference remains unnoticed here.

Posted by: gregor on September 16, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

jonny

Posted by: jonny on September 16, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing after the post on the Powell's letter on 9/14.

My impression is that Kevin is trying to have a life on Fridays and Saturdays. He might be metamorphosing into a frog (sans la couverture maladie universelle).

Posted by: B on September 16, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

gregor:

Oh right, when he shook his arms and pointed his fingers and called
Powell's response "flawed logic." Heh -- if *anybody* should know
about *that*, right? :)

"Flawed logic" of couse because he painted Powell's position as a
straw man -- that somehow Powell believes that the way the West treats
prisoners and Islamist fanatics treat prisoners is somehow the same.
Which of course has *nothing whatsoever to do* with the military
support of GC Common Article III.

But ironically enough, many of the prisoners released by Islamist
groups who held them captive *have* noted that they were treated
fairly well ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 16, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Such a policy would unfairly inhibit a corporation from defending itself against some rich guy with no spending limit.

American corporations, pitiful helpless giants.

Posted by: cld on September 16, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

That whole "surely there as many rich liberals as there are rich conservatives" argument really, I must admit, drives me out of my mind. Limiting public service to either millionaires or people who will then go into ideological hock to other millionaires is a BAD THING, regardless of who you are. A thing is not wrong or right depending if it will benefit me or not, it is either wrong or right. And the system we have now, where we SEE politicians giving quid pro quo to the fundraisers (hello, Senator Santorum), and we SEE the number of millionaire politicians now filling our state houses, that is wrong to me.

If the price we pay for limiting big money donors is a few wingnuts getting on the ballot -- and then, of course, losing, because they're wing nuts -- that's okay. Some people will argue thatt he mark of a candidate's viabiity is his fundraisig. insanely, I'd like the mark of a candidates viability to be getting elected based on the strength of his views and ideas.

Posted by: jonrog1 on September 16, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

There isn't a Republican alive whose soul isn't a black spit of squid ink.

Posted by: cld on September 16, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Really, what a travesty it would be if citizens were to assemble as they see fit, without regulation by the state, for the purpose of disseminating political speech. Really."

I agree completely... assemblies of CITIZENS should be the way it's done. Not assemblies of corporations or laundered money transfers, or secret meetings or the golf club luncheon, or the free ride on the corporate jet.

Money is not a citizen.
Corporations should NOT be citizens.

The SOCTUS decision that held them equivalent is an amazing bit of 'logic' [sic]... and should be overturned. In a civilized country, people would be in the streets with torches.

Posted by: Buford on September 16, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican fallacy that campaign contributions is a form of political/ free speech needs to be assaulted directly.

If you get pulled over by the police for breaking the law, you can't make a financial contribution to the arresting officer on the grounds that it is free or political speech.

When you go to court, you can't make a financial contribution to the prosecution, to the jurors, or to the judge.

However, you can give campaign contributions to the legislators... you know, the guys who make the laws that the police officers follow, that the prosecution enforces, the jurors decide, and the judge adjudicates.

And yet the last one is "free speech", all the rest are "bribery".

Take the Bush administration - it dropped the settlement amount the government was seeking from tobacco companies by 92% - from $130 billion to $10 billion. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that tobacco companies contributed 1000% more to Bush's campaign than Gore's.

Posted by: Augustus on September 16, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm coming a bit late into this thread, and I'm too lazy at the moment to do an intense google search, so could someone give me a layman's explanation as to how campaign money/advertising/etc is considered free speech, when it is 1) incredibly expensive, which I would think is the opposite of "free", and 2) largely a zero-sum game? For example, if me and my evil brother-in-law are both running for the same congressional seat, we are both going to want to spend an incredible amount of money on TV advertising. But there are only so many valuable slots available for those TV ads to run. Therefore, the TV stations will sell to the highest bidder, and so the one with the most money gets the slots, and the other is shut out (and by corollary, is silenced). How is that a promotion of free speech?

Posted by: jonathan on September 16, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

My proposal for the California initiative woes--anyone from CA knows what I'm talking about--is that initiatives need to get 50% of the registered voters to approve, not just 50% of those who vote. This would mean that special interests have to do more than turn off a whole lot of voters. It means that the initiative really has broad support (considering it's rare that 100% of registered voters vote, the initiative would have to pass with maybe 60%). Sketchy props, funded by wealthy people will likely be less prone to fund this sort of thing since it has to have real support and their propoganda will only go so far.

Posted by: gq on September 16, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

fyreflye I almost never turn on the tv because it's wall to wall crap

Oh, no, lots of good stuff: Daily show, Colbert, cooking shows, NFL football (I watch as long as the home team has a chance of winning, which in San Diego is usually into about mid-October), old movies on TMC, Nova, anime on Adult Swim. Just because I watch a lot of TV doesn't mean I watch Survivor, Who wants to be a whatever, cop shows, network news, or teen soaps.

Sturgeon's law may be true that 90% of everything is crap, but TiVo lets you conveniently watch whatever part of the good 10% interests you.

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Posted by: Bush on September 16, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

What conservatives really mean when we say that free speech equals a campaign contribution and vice versa is that any effort you dedicate to a cause has a certain monetary value. If you really believe in something and really want to give 100% to support it, why should anyone be able to tell you that, no, you can only give 5% and if your cause fails, tough titty.

Your money is your life energy. If you really believe in a cause you are either (in poker terms) "all in" or you are just kidding yourself and others. Sure, if Bill Gates goes "all in" he could buy an election or two. But he won't. George Soros won't either, but he will put in a bunch. Conservatives can overcome the Soros effect by smaller fish shelling out for a $500 plate of chicken and a fiery Bush blistering of the Defeatocrats.

We ink-squid souled types are, for the most part, not shy about confrontations. We are opposed to leftists and center-leftists on just about everything. That being said, I do hope the fundamental right vs left social war brewing down in Mexico can be defused. It wouldn't take a lot for Obrador to set this whole continent on fire and there probably exist foreign interests willing to help him do it.

Posted by: Mike Cook on September 16, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

So if I run for office then the government will give me money? How much? Can I run for multiple offices and get multiple amounts of money?

Posted by: Matt on September 16, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: f on September 17, 2006 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Prop 89 is financed by raising the California corporate income tax by 0.2 percentage points. That's an eyebrow raiser?

raising coporate taxes precisely to prevent them from spending their own money on political campaigns, and to enable more money to be spent in their opposition, is a stupid idea.

Besides, California corporations that are expanding are expanding faster outside the state than inside, increasing numbers are closing their facilities and moving out, and increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are staying out of the state altogether. The business climate is bad enough that when solar PV cells are finally commercially viable (not getting their money from taxes on profitable businesses) the large new factories will be built in another state by the companies that now make them in California. If California ever gets around to building new windfarms, it will import the windmills because it isn't profitable to expand manufacture in this state.

businessmen rate CA as one of the most hostile states to work in, and you want to make it more business-hostile yet (otherwise the unions would be taxed as much as the businesses). And for what? to stifle and control political speech.

At some point you have to ask yourself whether you have any liberal principles at all. you stated explicitly that there was no liberal issue in the Schaivo case, and now you want increased government control (which means incumbent control) on political speech. Under this law, businesses would have been taxed to finance the writing of rejoinders to "Common Sense", The Federalist, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates (which were printed up and distributed by Lincoln's backers, not Douglas' backers.)

Prop 89 is anti-democratic and anti-liberal.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The business climate is bad enough that when solar PV cells are finally commercially viable (not getting their money from taxes on profitable businesses) the large new factories will be built in another state by the companies that now make them in California.

Don't make me laugh. You know damn well the factories are going to be in China, or Indonesia, or the Marians, or someplace where it's legal to beat employees, pay them a dollar a week, and lock them in fire-traps.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 17, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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