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nellie On December - 16 - 2009

Mad-sci

Watching the health care debacle has convinced me of one thing. We need campaign finance reform to fix what ails our congress. Campaign finance reform wouldn’t do anything to correct a problem like Joe Lieberman—who is trying to live out his final years in the senate as the star of a revenge blockbuster—but it might clear out some blue dogs and give us a GOP that isn’t wholly bought and paid for by Big Oil, Big PhRMA, Big Agra, Big Banks, Big Media, Big Insurance, and Big Guns.

The question I have is, How do we get meaningful campaign finance reform passed when the people who enact the law are the same people who need to be restrained by the law?

Any ideas, anyone?

Categories: News & Politics

25 Responses so far.

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  1. whatsthatsound says:

    In the book, “Freakonomics”, the authors describe how the KKK was wounded by a couple infiltrators who managed to get the inane language and customs the Klansmen used out in the open. People started to feel the Klan was less like a dark, mysterious “secret society” and more like a bad joke. So membership declined!

    The authors make the point that it wasn’t so much the humiliation, as it was the removing of the veil of secrecy, the asymmetrical information, that wounded the Klan.
    Another book worth reading is “The Ugly American”. It describes how people in totalitarian dictatorships were able to get certain information out that damaged the image of the leaders.

    We have to damage the IMAGE of Greed Kings. We have to powerfully push the meme that big shots are not true “winners” just cuz they have fancy houses and glamorous trophy wives and mistresses. We have to make them ashamed of themselves, ashamed of the life they are living, selling out the country. They need to become a bad joke. They need to appear more like Elmer Fudd and less like Hannibal Lector in the public mind.

    Michael Moore is the best person out there doing this, but he can’t do it alone. When screwing the country for personal gain is seen to be as distasteful and humiliating, thought to be beneath real men, as the limp Klan handshake, the Greed Kings will start to change their tune.

  2. bitohistory says:

    Cher, From your comment “The issue is corporate

  3. KQuark says:

    Outlaw lobbying, kinda. Working in industry and seeing how the personal sales process operates it’s the personal contacts that matter and as well as where the money originates. Without that personal contact, think about it, even if Big Oil gives them a big check they don’t feel obligated to that check alone. Instead legislators become obligated to the people like they should. Of course in my system the legislators would not even know where that money came from in the first place.

    I know this will work because I’ve seen it happen in the paper industry. When the industry was buying from individual salespeople it was personal loyalty that played a big part in the sale. For example a salesperson who had personal contact to say a paper machine superintendent would make that purchase in large part based on how many fishing trips they went on together. When the industry went to contract buying all of a sudden those person contacts did not matter. The companies made decisions not based on their personal interests but for the interests of the company. In the legislator limiting this person contact would I believe do the same thing and legislators would start working on behalf of their constituents.

    The nuts and bolts of how this separation occurs is tricky.

    -Obviously you eliminate all perks supplied by lobbyist because they build relationships fastest.
    -You must limit the time a lobbyist is allowed to have with an individual legislator to a very short time.
    -All payments to legislators must be anonymous. The should go through some sort of a clearinghouse to be documented. This is critical the legislator does not know where that individual payment comes from which is critical.
    -Strict limits mus be put on legislators when they leave office on the jobs they can accept and when. For example if you contact a lobbyist X minutes a year you cannot take a job in that industry or organization for 5 years or more.

    Obviously legislators will fight any real changes like these claim that it limits free speech. However I would fight that argument by saying lobbyists are not constituents in most cases and past registering and limits on lobbying has been found to be constitutional.

    • choicelady says:

      I don’t disagree in principle, but I AM a lobbyist! I’m covered by the same rules as ones from Exxon even though they’re silly. About 1/4-1/3 of all lobbyists are like me -- representing non-profit organizations who work on a shoestring. The idea that we can’t take someone to coffee (and in CA you cannot) is ridiculous because it puts that on exactly the same level as taking someone out for a $400 dinner.

      I’d make it illegal to take freebies from ANYONE -- no junkets, no payments, no nothing. I don’t think anyone in Congress needs to do a “fact finding mission” on any organization’s dime. If there are legitimate needs for travel or conferences, let the state or feds have a travel allowance, a per diem. Maybe here is where all interests can pitch in, with money, as you note KQuark, being drawn without reference to the sources. If said legislator wants to live large, let him or her pay for the overage. Lobbyists can’t legally give money in CA -- but our employers CAN, and that needs to END. I am less familiar with DC rules, but I think what’s good in CA should work there, too.

      • KQuark says:

        The point is the perks will be gone along with the big money because it’s anonymous. You would have the same influence over a legislator as any other lobbyist.

        One thing I forgot to add when the paper industry went away from relationship selling to contract selling when the sellers had much more limited times their cases became much more fact based and concise.

      • boomer1949 says:

        That’s what I mean. No extras, no perks, no coffee, no jet to the Super Bowl. No anything would put everyone on a level playing field. If nothing else, it would force politicians to run on their character and not on how much money has been contributed to a campaign.

        • nellie says:

          Getting such a law passed is the tough part.

          Maybe in this case, the initiative process might actually do the country some good. If more states could get laws on the books like CA’s, this could be changed at the grassroots level.

          • KQuark says:

            Yup it’s like a kid passing a law to limit their cookies.

          • boomer1949 says:

            So how does one quietly start a grassroots lobby for “the people”? I did some looking online this afternoon and there is so much out there, how does one know what information is legitimate?

            If I could do something like this, I’d quit my job (I know be happy I have one) in a heartbeat (or heartbeep as my daughter said when she was little).

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Boomer, look into the referendum process too. I don’t remember what it is exactly, but here in CA, we were always taught about that as in conjunction with the initiative process.

            • nellie says:

              Heartbeep — That’s so cute, the original word is gone from my brain now.

              In CA, it starts with gathering signatures. There’s a process for starting an initiative in the states that use them. And there should be information online about what initiatives are being worked on.

              It’s an idea. Maybe it’s worth looking into starting one in CA.

  4. AdLib says:

    On one hand, I can’t imagine the Congress or the current Supreme Court curbing lobbying or corporate “buying” of Congress so I think efforts to stop lobbying would be futile.

    My suggestion is to accept that this game will continue and try to compete and win at it.

    Just as The Planet represents the voices of real people, it would make a lot of sense to create an online organization that gathers contributions from citizens throughout the country to contribute to and lobby politicians to represent us, the people of the United States.

    In the same model as Obama’s online contributions, if enough Americans donated to create a lobby for itself, we could compete with and “buy back” our politicians to work in our interest.

    I know it sucks, our representatives are just that and should be working for us anyway but we all know that it doesn’t work that way in reality.

    So, we either play the game or sit on the sidelines booing those who play it (and win).

    Such a venture would need to start small and grow grass roots style…though it would need to be actively marketed to potential contributors. It should be a non-profit and couldn’t have any huge investors since that could undermine, at a minimum, the appearance of the independence of such a fund.

    You can’t win if you don’t play.

    • nellie says:

      I like that idea, AdLib. Fight money with money.

      Fight millions of dollars from a few people with millions of dollars from millions of people. I think that might be the only way — because I can’t see congress passing meaningful reform either.

  5. PatsyT says:

    Nellie,
    Great topic!
    This Planet has a “Think Tank” and it should be used, especially for purposes like this!
    I was just hearing Michael Steele on Andrea Mitchell Reports, Total Dribble pours out of his mouth!!
    And the low info crowd buys that dribble.
    They are masters at producing talking points and *drill baby* drilling them into
    the publics heads !
    Repeat Repeat Repeat

    Fight Fire with Fire!

    These Corporate interests need to be out maneuvered and out witted.

    Slogans -- Quips -- Snarks -- Bumper Stickers that can be stuck in the publics heads.

    Dems and Progressives are assuming they public will see the truth
    They Have To Be SOLD THE TRUTH !!
    The Truth has to come up and hit them upside the head!
    Plain and Simple
    They have proven that they can not absorb nuance or detail
    so it has to be made digestible for them.

    Slogans and such can have very in depth reasons behind them for the crowd that needs the big info,
    but this stuff has to be packaged, marketed and promoted.

    Look at all the other stuff that gets bought and sold in this country
    Why not some good old fashioned truth?

  6. KevenSeven says:

    I’ve addressed your final question once before here at the planet, and I think you will agree:

    The only event that would force Congress to pass effective campaign reform would be the sight of thirty senators going to Federal prison for three to seven for bribery.

    Even then, I do not know that there is any mechanism to insulate legislation from the influence of any powerful or wealthy groups, short of the destruction of powerful and wealthy groups, which communism attempted and failed to achieve.

    What I would like to see would be the Court decreeing that money is not speech. That anybody or corporation could buy TV ads saying whatever the fuck they want to. They can plaster billboards saying that Obama is a dangerous Muslim and to vote for him would be treason. Waddeva. But they need to have their names attached. There could be zero anonymity in such advertising.

    And there could be zero donation to any campaign for any Federal office. Actually, the limit, what is it? $2300 per cycle? works pretty well. We could permit that, perhaps.

    But the key to keeping the whole vile influence from seeping in is absolutism in the rules. Any and all loopholes and exceptions will open the tent to the camel once again.

  7. escribacat says:

    Looks like some of us are thinking along the same lines. That’s what I keep coming back to as I beat back a growing depression around the latest events. The reform debate has shown that Congress has been bought and paid for — they know who their real masters are.

    That has to be the next big battle, using the same methods that got Barack Obama elected president.

  8. boomer1949 says:

    nellie,

    I firmly believe the practice of lobbying and the lobbyists themselves should be outlawed. Period. To me, they’re no different than stalkers and pedophiles; wink, wink, nod, nod. Would you like a dum-dum? What is your favorite flavor my pretty?

    Our elected officials are unable to police themselves, much less reform campaign spending. Dog forbid they should bite the hand that feeds them. With very few exceptions, most of them would rather screw their constituents than ehtically, morally, and honestly represent them.

    • nellie says:

      But what about lobbyists from environmental groups or for the disabled? Groups like that are very important in getting certain issues addressed. Perhaps taking money out of lobbying might be a first step to see if that makes a difference.

      Forgot to say good morning, boomer!

      • boomer1949 says:

        I guess that’s what I mean … it’s all about the money. Money is the root of all evil and the corporate bottom line.

        One would expect lobbying for the environment, the disabled, ending child abuse or domestic violence to have positive outcomes; lobbying for the bottom line of all the BIGS in your list is nothing but greed.

      • escribacat says:

        I agree with you nellie. The right kind of lobbyists perform an important function — making certain that specific issues get addressed. What needs to be outlawed are financial donations from lobbyists. There’s no way around the fact that it’s bribery. Absolutely corrupt.

  9. Chernynkaya says:

    ‘Morning, Nellie! Your question, I believe, is THE single most important issue--the one from which all bad (or no) legislation stems. And it is about to get exponentially worse. You probably already know about this, but in case some don’t…

    The Supreme Court heard arguments in a revisited case this September, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.

    http://www.scotuswiki.com/index.php?title=Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

    In short, if the Supremes rule in favor of Citizens United, it will allow unlimited campaign contributions to national elections from corporations. The issue is corporate “person-hood,” an already established precedent.

    I find it very suspicious that this case has gotten relatively little press--which I think is deliberate. The Supremes are not immune to the public and our outrage was stifled by lack of news coverage.

    Anyway, what to do? All I can think of is that grass roots organizations across the political spectrum must make this a priority. Teabaggers and MoveOn can unite around this! It will take years, but constant pressure must be maintained.

    On an upbeat note: I have noticed more and more how this issue has been raised by cable interviewers and among Congress members when interviewed about the health care debate. It has become a given that Congress is run by lobbyists, and that acknowledgment is a good first step.


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