Campaign Finance

This is why I think the campaign finance scheme that the feds and most states use is fatally flawed.

A GOP activist filed ethics complaints Thursday seeking to tie Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox to two touchstones of liberal Democratic politics: Howard Dean and Emily’s List.

The complaint, filed by Doug Grammer, chairman of the Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs, accuses Taylor and Cox — both Democratic candidates for governor in 2006 — of improperly using state telephones for political calls. It cites, among others, a three-minute call by Taylor’s office to Howard Dean’s presidential campaign headquarters and five calls from Cox’s office to Emily’s List, a political network for abortion rights Democratic women.

Yahoo, rah, rah! We did it to them. They’ve done it to us. They’ll do it to us again. We’ll do it to them again. And what will be accomplished other than making lawyers like me a little richer? Not too much.

I’m an advocate of no limits, but immediate disclosure. That is to say there should be no caps on campaign contributions, but those contributions and all expenditures must be reported within forty-eight hours of receipt or expenditure. But that’s just me.

14 comments

  1. 4ofspades says:

    No caps would create a huge percieved influence issue. The entire process of filing disclosures is broken. You can get tagged for an ethics violation for simply making mistakes in your disclosure.

    There should be someone who reviews the disclosures when they are supported, and if there are minor mistakes, the candidate or elected offical should be allowed to correct them.

    That would help cut down on frivoulus ethics charges.

  2. kspencer says:

    From the left (more or less), that’s been my chant as well. Let them get their money, but make the source of the money completely open. I go a bit further than you’d say, I suspect, in saying that I’d require any group funding sources (whatever name they go by) to detail THEIR funding sources as well.

    I think it’d do two tasks. First, as you said it would ease the difficulty of parsing whether this or that type of help from this or that source was or was not disallowed. Second, not only would it help uncover money laundering, it’d help counter the confused donors – the ones who donate to XYZ thinking it’s to support XYZ and not knowing it’s also helping B and F.

    Transparency is usually good, in my opinion.

    Kirk

  3. What about letting the state of Georgia set up an account where contributors can contribute and campaigns/organizations can withdraw their contributions. That would guarantee quick disclosure and accurate expense reports.

    The other good idea that I think Carville had was that the government/public would fund incumbents re-election campaigns, but they’d only be allowed to spend as much money as their opponent raises. Kind of interesting if you think about it. No need for someone like Eric Johnson or Glenn Richardson to raise money.

  4. GAWire says:

    Chris, the theory behind that idea is a good one – a mutual incoming/outgoing dispertion base – but I don’t think we want the gov’t to have that kind of responsibility and control with this.

  5. I think the SOS could run it pretty efficiently. It would also redefine the concept of reporting periods. Since all transactions would be logged immediately you could run a report so see how much money a candidate raised or spent in whatever time period you like. Legislators may be against the instant disclosure (they have good reasons for this) so you could just mandate a bimonthly or monthly report. It would be much more efficient than the current quarterly system and SOS employees wouldn’t have to scan and file and check candidate filled out reports because the system would just generate them automatically.

    We can generally only dream about common sense ideas like these though.

  6. Bill Simon says:

    Yeah…umm, Chris? Would you be really hot on that idea of the SOS’s office being able to “manage” it if Bill Stephens was placed in charge of it?

  7. I think Every Month is Like a Year under Republican control. If Bill Stephens was in charge I’m sure the SoS office will redefine it’s mission as a lending agent primarilly targeting legislators with low interest loans. When it comes to campaign finance reform, the “extreme” cases are usually the enemy of the good. For instance legislators defending the status quo usually make an argument against public financing something like “well you wouldn’t want a neo-nazi to get public funding just because he happened to win some obscure office” or something like that.

    as much as i dread a potential Stephens administration and his Savings & Loan like approach to record keeping and credit, i won’t let that be the enemy of good public policy.

  8. 4ofspades says:

    Chris, not a bad concept, but why should tax dollars fund political campaigns. Also given your approach, you wouldn’t know how much to budget for each campaign.

  9. Ben King says:

    Isn’t there a federal thing where each candidate can get public financing, and each party’s nominee regularly waives that for the mega millions from private donors?

    4ofspades – tax dollars funding campaigns would be a way to prevent candidates from being beholden to special instrests. Why is public financing a bad thing? It would mean campaigns might be more about ideas than who can blast the most media. Plus, if you consider the amount of money that we spend on campaigns, theoretically wouldn’t all that money instead get spent on investments or going to the movies, or whatever? I think America spent several billion dollars or something in ’04? I think each presidential campaign raised half a billion each, right?

  10. 4ofspades says:

    Ben,
    Carville suggested that incumbents get funded to the level that the challenger could raise. How does that fix the “influence” problem. According to opensecrets.org almost $900,000,000 was raised in the presedental camapign. Kerry raised about $326,000,000. Under Carville’s “plan” your tax dollars would fund that. I would hate to do the math on all the federal races to see what it would cost me. I would rather have the option to support who I wanted to support and determine how much I was willing to support them.

  11. Ben King says:

    I actually wasn’t advocating Carville’s plan; rather I was just thinking about the $75 million each presidential candidate has the option of receiving.

    I think you make a good point about being able to choose who you support. And it may be a very valid flaw in this sort of reform. However, I still think that something needs to be done so that politicians don’t appear to beholden to special interests (or for that matter become beholden). Public financing would mean that an official was responsible to no one but the people who actually elected them.

    I like the kind of uber-transparency that Erick is talking about, but I don’t think that it fixes the problem. Public financing would. I’m down for other ideas, however. I think you (4ofspades) made an excellent point about the no caps creating a problem, as well as honest mistakes can end up as ethics violations. Again, wouldn’t public financing reduce these problems? You’d only have to worry about half of the monitoring, the expenditures side.

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