In light of today’s Supreme Court ruling expanding the power of multinational corporations to buy public officials, here is my campaign finance reform plan, from my 2008 Congressional campaign press releases. Also check out my similarly bold positions on other issues.
Kevin Barrett Unveils Campaign Reform Plan to End Legalized Bribery
For Immediate Release – September 29, 2008 – Kevin Barrett for Congress www.barrettforcongress.us
Contact: Dr. Kevin Barrett; Libertarian candidate, Third Congressional District, Wisconsin firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law? Well, we haven’t heard much about it lately even though John McCain is running for president. The McCain-Feingold law is not talked about because it doesn’t work.
We propose a new, simple kind of campaign finance reform that will actually work. We propose that giving any publicly elected official more than $200 dollars in one calendar year be re-classified in the criminal codes as a legally presumed bribe. We also propose that the legal fiction of a difference between a public official and a campaign be eliminated. Giving money to a campaign is the same thing as giving money to a person. Giving large amounts of money to an elected official is not a “contribution”; it’s a bribe.
That’s it. Now let’s take a look at some possible objections, implications, and benefits of this reform.
Question: Wouldn’t the Supreme Court declare this reform an infringement of free speech rights?
Answer: No, the Supreme Court has never considered bribery of public officials to be free speech. Legal presumptions are common, especially in the co-called war on drugs, where a certain amount of drugs presumes you’re a drug dealer, rather than just a drug user.
Question: How would this affect candidates not currently holding public office?
Answer: You can’t bribe someone who doesn’t hold public office. The $200 contribution limit would not apply to those not in office. Non-public office holding challengers get an advantage under this reform to offset advantages of incumbency. Since incumbents are limited to $200 contributions, fewer would be elected, and fewer would accumulate million dollar war-chests.
Question: Would this reform promote the rotation in public office envisioned by our Founding Fathers?
Answer: Yes. This system would encourage a public office holder to leave office if they wanted to try for another office. There would be more open seats and more competitive elections.
Question: Would this reform make elected officials less beholden to special interest money?
Answer: Yes. Once in office, the flow of special interest money would be severely curtailed. Special interests might help someone get elected, but once elected, the special interests would lose control.
Question: How would this reform affect issue ads?
Answer: Issue ads are protected free speech. They’re already regulated and not allowed to be coordinated with political campaigns. It’s better for someone to spend money on their political cause with an issue ad, than to bribe public officials with the same money.
Question: Are there any other benefits?
Answer: Yes. Since incumbents are limited to $200 contributions, they will be spending less time raising money and more time doing the public’s business. No one can campaign full time and focus on their official duties at the same time. Good examples of that are John McCain and Barack Obama. They should either leave the Senate or pull back on campaigning.
Question: Is there a practical way to get this reform enacted?
Answer: Yes. The easiest first step would be for 38 state legislatures to pass a constitutional amendment that applied this reform to federal elections. The worst abuses of power seem to be occurring at the federal level. The reform would cause more open seats in the federal congress. State legislators might be more inclined to challenge for federal office, giving them an incentive to pass the amendment. These simple reforms are constitutional and practical, and combined with clean Internet fundraising, will end legalized bribery of our public officials.