We have a representative form of government but we (the citizens) are not getting the "representation" we deserve because special interests (i.e. "super PACS", wealthy individuals, lobbyists, unions and corporations) give millions of dollars in campaign contributions to candidates and ballot issues. Special interests do not give that money because they are altruistic, they give it with an expectation of getting some kind of legislation passed (or defeated) so as to benefit them. This means that special interests are buying influence from those who are elected to represent us and are thereby diminishing the representation we are supposed to be getting from our elected officials. If you think you are getting good representation call up your U.S. senator’s office and ask to talk to the senator. Unless you are a big contributor you are going to be shunted off to a staff person. If on the other hand a Washington D.C. lobbyist who has hosted a large fund raiser calls his/her chances of talking directly with the senator is far greater than yours. So who is the senator supposed to be representing and who is the senator actually representing? If you want to see the power of today’s special interests just look at our federal tax code and all of the different credits and deductions. Look at the last farm bill and military spending to see who is being subsidized.
The current campaign finance system allows unlimited amounts of special interest donations from anonymous and possibly foreign sources. It allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns as a form of First Amendment “free speech”. It allows groups to organize themselves as non-profits with non-political activities so they do not have to disclose contributors as long as at least 50% of their time and money is spent on nonpolitical efforts (although no one is really monitoring them to make sure that at least 50% of their time and money is spent on nonpolitical efforts).
In politics money is power; power is access; access is influence; and influence is what affects the bottom line. By allowing people who are not U.S. citizens and/or who are U.S. citizens but who live outside of the district where the candidate is running or the issue is on the ballot to contribute money to political campaigns we are allowing our representation to be diminished. Which means we are not getting all of the representation we should be getting.
If our elected officials had to not only get the vote of the U.S. citizens in their district but also had to get all of their campaign contributions from U.S. citizens in their district I can guarantee you that:
- Candidates would be paying more attention to their constituents;
- there would not be the tremendous waste of government money being spent to help special interests; and
- special interests would no longer have the disproportinate influence that they have now.
The current campaign finance system is rigged against most U.S citizens and needs to be not just changed but completely replaced. To accomplish this I would propose a Campaign Finance Reform Constitutional Amendment (see below) which is neither right nor left; Republican or Democrat; but which simply gives all the power to fund political campaigns only to the United States citizens who will be represented by the successful candidate or who will be directly affected by the outcome of an issue on the ballot. It would make our elected officials much more responsive to the citizens they are supposed to represent (and much less responsive to special interests).
Campaign Finance Reform Constitutional Amendment [With explanatory comments]
Notwithstanding anything else in this Constitution to the contrary [Comment: This language is to pre-empt the First Amendment’s “Freedom of Speech” clause as presently interpreted by the Supreme Court.], only a natural born or naturalized United States citizen who is at least 16 years of age [Comment: This language is to remove all doubt that corporations are qualified “persons” who can contribute to a campaign. It also will preclude non-citizens and PACs from contributing.] and who resides in the voting district where the election or vote will take place may provide either financial or non-financial support or opposition to a federal, state or local candidate or to a state or local ballot issue. [Comment: This language is to prevent individuals who do not reside in the electoral district (and thus who the elected candidate will not “represent”) from contributing or opposing a candidate or ballot issue. No longer will citizens, corporations, unions or foreigners be able to buy representation outside of their own electoral district. Only the U.S. citizens who will be represented by the elected official or who will be directly affected by an initiative or referendum will be able to give money.]
The maximum financial contribution that a citizen can make to any candidate or issue is $2,500 in the first year that this Amendment takes effect. Thereafter, that amount will be annually increased (or decreased) by the Consumer Price Index. [Comment: If you look at what candidates spend per vote to get elected this Amendment will allow candidates to run very viable campaigns. This will also prevent the very rich from self-funding a campaign.]
All financial contributions must be made from the contributor’s own funds [Comment: This language is to prevent any “indirect” contributions]. No money, the source or amount of which is other than as allowed by this Amendment may be used or spent to influence the outcome of an election or a vote. [Comment: This language is to stop Super PACs, special interests and the very rich from coming in from the outside and trying to influence/buy an election.]
All contributions must be publicly disclosed, by the recipient, within ten days of their receipt. [Comment: This language is to ensure transparency.]
Nothing in this Amendment shall be construed to restrict or abridge the freedom of the press. [Bloggers and editorial writers will still be free to express their opinions on candidates and issues.]
Congress shall have the power to enforce this Article through appropriate legislation.