I am starting a new feature (added to the government Lessons, News of the Day and My Perfect School features) on my blog. I am titling this Public Policy because I will address an area of local or federal policy that should be implemented by those levels of government. Today I am drawing my focus on campaign finances. The topic for today is relevant because of the breaking news.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that part of the 2002 McCain-Fiengold Campaign finance law was unconstitutional. I will not get into the details of the law or the courts ruling. so you can read complete story at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22scotus.html?hp
Campaign finance law is so long, complicated and full of loop holes its not even funny. The limits they place on individual and organizational campaign contributions are affront to the liberties of our Constitution; specifically, the first amendment. Giving money to campaigns can be interpreted as a form of political speech, therefore there should be no law abridging that form of speech.
There are issues that need to be dealt with under campaign finance but they are all able to be handled with provisions inside the Constitution. In Article I, Section 4 it states:
The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as the the places of choosing Senators.
With this clause the Congress has the expressed authority to write election laws which the states must follow. This would include laws governing campaign finances, which were first written following several controversial appointments in by President Nixon. Before that point there was very little regulation. In this day and age thought it should be vitally important that we know who is financing a person’s campaign. In the end though, campaign finance law needs to be rewritten so that is simple and easy to understand. I can see possibly three major provisions in a campaign finance law.
First, every amount of money that is donated must be recorded by the receiver with the name of the person donating and a verifiable address for the person who donated the money. This is directly tied to the second major provision.
Secondly, no amount of money may be accepted from any foreign person, nation, and/or organization outside of the United States. Only U.S. citizens and organizations may be allowed to donate money to political campaigns. It would corrupt indeed if another country could donate money in an attempt to play a part or role in our elections. This provision is linked to the first because it provides for the enforcement of the previous provision. Any candidate who accepts money from one of these illegal contributors must pay the same amount of money to the federal government in the form of a fine.
Thirdly, only individuals may donate to any political campaigns. I am not really sure any more how I feel that corporation and other organization like Unions can give as much money as they want to a political campaign. If the money was raised specifically for the purpose of political action then there should be no problem, but when you have organizations taking money from dues or other sources to give to a political campaign, there is a danger of corruption. This is partially what the supreme court rule on today, removing the limits and restrictions corporations and other organization in donating to political campaigns.
Fourth, only people of a given state may give to any political campaign of that state. Meaning a citizen of California would not be allowed to donate to the campaign of a Massachusetts senator. Similar to what happened when churches and people from all over the country donated money to the Prop 8 campaign in California. It should be up the people of California, or whatever state, to decide that referendum. Money from outside the state could corrupt the results.
Those are the four major provisions that should be a part of any campaign finance law. The key to any legislation though is that it is easy to understand and easy to enforce; which these provisions meet I welcome all comments and questions on this post.