A Modest Proposal

An idea for campaign finance reform:

The only thing that costs a lot in campaigns is broadcast time.  So if all tv and radio stations had to give all candidates a significant (and equal) amount of political advertising as a condition of their broadcast license, raising money would instantly become a much smaller part of political campaigning.

People could still give additional money; but with the major expense taken care of, the only people who would offer the money would be making it obvious they were purchasing influence–and the only people who would accept it would be making it obvious that they could be bribed.  Right now, with bribe money buried in legitimate campaign expenses, it’s harder to tell in advance who’s going to be a crook.

This also solves the problem that every campaign finance reform changes only how, and not whether, money seeps into campaigns.  As long as campaigns need money, money will get to them; so let’s eliminate the need rather than trying to regulate the flow.  I borrow this analysis from the people who came up with the seat belt: they finally stopped trying to figure out how to make cars crash-proof and concentrated on making crashes survivable.  Let’s stop trying to figure out how to make politics money-proof and start figuring out how to make it survivable–which is to say, cheaper. 

The impact on nonprofits?  Money in politics is by definition money not in charity.  If people devoted to social justice didn’t have to divert funds to candidates in a vain and futile attempt to counter corporate political donations, they’d be free to spend that money directly on social justice.  And if corporations weren’t spending so much money in politics, they, too, could be more generous to the communities in which they operate. 

Maybe they could even afford to buy their employees health insurance.


3 Responses to “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Albert Ruesga Says:

    Thanks for posting on campaign finance reform, Kelly. I’ve long believed that progress on most social issues depends crucially on meaningful campaign finance and lobbying reform.

  2. Michael Kaye Says:

    The writers of the Constitution likewise did not try to remove venality from elected officials but worked to make a government that could survive their self-interest.

    A major broadcast network (Clear Channel) claims that their stations are “like a town hall.” (!) The only way that can be even partially true is if a goodly portion of broadcast time is free for candidates.

    Public airwaves should be.

  3. resistnwo Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness!

    This is such an important topic.

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