Monday, March 21, 2005

Campaign finance reform.

I have an idea.
  • Individual Americans (and corporations too!) will contribute to a single fund for all campaigning.
  • Legitimate political parties (with some fair definition of "legitimate") will draw equally from the fund and distribute what they draw equally to their candidate(s).
  • No campaign spending except from this fund.
  • All private campaign ads will be funded as if they were a political party.
Keep holding fund raisers, and keep getting those fat checks from fat cats, but share with your opponents. How do you like them apples?

Problems:
  • The legitimization of the Party party leads to the public funding a campaign which enjoys itself thoroughly without doing any campaigning.
  • The most popular candidates don't want to raise funds.
  • J. Random Billionare has a free speech problem if the private ad fund is short. On the other hand, J. Random could contribute enough money to make up the difference and think of it as a tax on "free" speech.
My original idea was to pay for campaigns through a poll tax. Each candidate would account for all campaign spending, and there'd be a number next to the name on the ballot. That number is how much the voter will pay in taxes to fund the campaign if it wins. Slick Politician can run a huge campaign, but the voters may vote for the cheap guy instead. The collected taxes first pay for the accounting and then go to repay the campaign's donors. The result:
  • Cheaper campaigns are more appealing to voters.
  • Donors prefer to donate to the candidate who wins, but only because they get a refund.
  • Candidates still end up with an obligation to the donors because of the risk they took, but an increase in "campaign tax" could eliminate that too (in which case, "donating" to the winner becomes an investment that produces a return).
  • How does this account for independent advertising? Maybe it doesn't.
What to do if the candidate spends less than what was given for the campaign? Take the remainder of the pool and distribute it evenly among the donors. This encourages many small donors and discourages individual large donors. If one donor gives half the total pool, and that amount is spent, that donor gets back the money donated, divided by the number of donors. People who donated the least could get back more than they originally put in.

There are probably lots of odd situations I haven't thought of, so I've designed toward behavior that's bad, and it's possible that behavior I think is desirable really isn't. Ultimately I'd like a system in which politicians are "paid for" by a majority (e.g., everybody) rather than any minority. I'm tired of our elected officials being beholden to monied interests instead of the people who elected them. I want to disconnect their funding from the funders. Make all donations anonymous? Easy to defeat.

Maybe someone has solved this problem, and I just haven't seen it. Unfortunately, I suspect a real working solution would never be implemented.
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