(Published in Florida Today, Oct. 13, 2017)
Campaign finance doesn’t need reform, it needs to be outlawed.
When a cop accepts money or favors in exchange for a special consideration, it’s called bribery. When a special interest group, or private party, contributes a huge sum to a senator or president in exchange for special considerations, it’s called politics. No big deal.
By the time presidential campaigns are over, the candidates and their political parties will have expended over two billion dollars to get elected. Think of all that could be done with that money. Millionaires, corporations and investors of all ideologies donate mega bucks to their select candidate for one main reason: to enhance their cause or their business in hopes to see legislation that will sway thinking and make them prosper.
That’s called “corruption” where I come from.
Besides direct donations, politicians have designed ingenious methods by which to suck up billions under the umbrella of legitimacy, i.e. super PACs and nonprofit foundations. Hillary Clinton raised $1.4 billion for her campaign, not counting the proceeds into the Clinton Foundation.
Without doubt, foundations seem to be legitimate methods by which to enhance a campaign through the back door. According to an article in the Washington Post in August of 2016, more than 53 percent of donors who at that time gave $1 million or more to the Clinton Foundation were corporations, foreign citizens or governments. The groups include the government of Saudi Arabia, where women are treated as second class citizens.
The Wall Street Journal also pointed out that the foundation accepted huge sums from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman following her tenure as secretary of state. One can only imagine how that would affect a president’s decision-making if Middle East conflicts exploded and the U.S. was in a position to take sides.
To exacerbate the problem, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 struck down limits on federal campaign donations, declaring them to be a free speech right. That’s simply lawyerese, not morality.
The tobacco industry didn’t pour zillions into Washington D.C. over the last century because of idealism. It was to lower their taxes, secure subsidies and gain profits. Nicotine was enhanced into cigarettes to keep people addicted while Washington turned a blind eye.
The economic crisis of the last decade can be traced to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG who lined political coffers to gain committee votes they needed to pursue their own greedy objectives.
We hear a lot about “earmarks” as though it’s just another part of Americana. It costs taxpayers billions. Bills are always passed with tag-ons to satisfy the whims of individual lawmakers. It’s the politicians’ way of paying back favors to their financial supporters.
By necessity, congressional lawmakers spend half their two-year terms not serving, but generating money for the next election. They are more adept at fundraising than they are at doing the job they are elected for. The demand for fundraising is so imperative, our last president chose to travel to an event in Las Vegas while flames still smoldered in Benghazi’s consulate and four fresh American bodies lay dead.
There is a remedy. Lawmakers in Washington should propose a constitutional amendment prohibiting any form of campaign contributions on the federal level. No money, no favors, no pleasure trips by lobbyists, no fancy dinners, no free tickets.
The responsibility for funding campaigns should lie where it belongs, with taxpayers. According to the IRS, approximately 152 million tax returns were filed in 2016. If every taxpayer paid twenty-five dollars into an “Honesty in Government” fund, it would yield nearly $8 billion bi-annually to dole out into federal campaign coffers.
Politicians would owe their allegiance to taxpayers and not special interests, and we would learn how they budget their allotments. They’d also spend less time at fundraisers and Americans would see a restoration of honesty in government.
All it would take is for politicians to pass a law. I’m not holding my breath.