The last post was a discussion of winner-take-all voting or strategic voting. This post continues the discussion of things that need to change to make our political system more efficient.
- Campaign Finance Reform:
It makes sense to want to support a representative whose philosophy you agree with with a reasonable campaign contribution. However, the issue gets more questionable when the amount of money gets exceedingly large. Whenever you give money to someone you expect something in return. This is how our whole capitalist system works but is this the way Congress should work?
According to the Center for Responsible Politics, in 2015 U.S. companies spent $3.22 billion on lobbying in Washington using 11,515 lobbyists. With this going on, is it at all realistic to expect that the decisions being made are based strictly on facts, data, and nonideological logic? Human nature says not.
Congressman spend most of their time soliciting contributions to raise money for their next reelection campaign rather than doing actual lawmaking work. Again, this just doesn’t make much sense. And changing this could have the added benefit of motivating more people to run for public office.
Campaign Finance Reform has been around for a long time. First started in 1867, the process took off in 1971 with the Federal Election Campaign Act followed by more amendments in 1974. In 2002, the “McCain-Feingold” Act prohibited unregulated contributions and limited corporate and union money.
The biggest setback to Campaign Finance Reform was the infamous 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision which struck down the major provisions of the act in a 5-4 vote.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in 2010 found that about 80% of Americans opposed the Citizens United decision. However, campaign finance reform action in Congress will not happen since some Congressmen are against legislation blunting the Supreme Court decision. Aren’t representatives in Congress supposed to represent the will of the people? Note that there is a group called “Move to Amend” that is working to change the results of the court decision.
And on top of that, the present system of public campaign financing is also broken.
Congressmen adapt to their environment and the process the way it exists here is causing the problem. In addition to term limits which we will discuss in the next post, some proposed ideas to improve this situation include starting a program to match small donor contributions and creating a site where voters can easily view a representative’s larger contributors and the representative’s associated voting record.
Bernie Sanders did prove in 2016 that someone who collects primarily small contributions can still do well, so this issue can be overcome.
Next: Term limits