Campaign Finance Reform Idea
When the US Supreme Court struck down campaign financing laws under Citizens United it opened up the floodgates for dark money to flow into politics. No one is taking more advantage of this than Republicans with their Koch brothers related think tanks and special interest PACs.
Until recently the Democrats were is the party that had a unified mechanism for going strong fundraising called Actblue, started in June of 2004. During that time Republicans had a rather disparate mechanism for collecting money.
Republicans finally got a unified fundraising mechanism with Winred founded in 2019. But as usual Republicans took it to another dark level too obscure where money is going.
What drove my curiosity to go into the FEC’s website was a report about my local Republican congressman who has over $1,000,000 in the bank with some of it coming in five figures from political action committees. Upon going to his website, I noticed he had a lot of contributions to his Campaign Committee from Winred. Even with small contributions it was impossible to tell who donated the money. If one goes to the Winred site you will see lots of contributions but you won’t know who donated it.
If you look at the screenshot below you’ll see that Joni Baker donated to Winred, but you don’t know where her money went.
By contrast if you go to the Actblue site, you’ll see a name and you can see who their money went to- in this instance to Mark Kelly in Arizona.
Here in Michigan are local state legislature had several bills proposed by democrats to expand campaign financing and transparency. Every single bill was blocked by the Republican-dominated Senate. The state senate has been dominated by Republicans since at least 1990! With regards to individual candidates bank accounts running for office it is not an arguable that having more money makes it easier to get your message out with so many voters relying on name recognition and not always going by policy. A voter may typically lean towards one part of the other but if the other party was able to get their message out that voter might be swayed since many voters are in the middle for the most part anyway. While it’s impossible to legislate at this time what organizations people can donate money to, it is possible to legislate what the candidates are allowed to do. Here is my proposal for federal legislation:
Every congressional district will be allotted a pool money for public financing of elections. This money will be divided up amongst all registered political parties who will then divide it evenly among all candidates from their party who made the ballot via petition signature collections. No candidate will be allowed to take donations nor accept money from any kind of outside organizations and will only be allowed to use this a lot of money. No candidate will be allowed to spend their own money either.
Once the primary is over a new allotment of federal money will go to that congressional district and be divided equally amongst all people running in the general election in November.
We can follow a similar path with the senatorial elections. Money for a senate election would be a larger pool since they’re running out of Statewide level rather than at a district-level.
Finally, at the presidential level we need to determine a way to do the same process with public financing. The 2020 election was obscene with the amount of money that was going towards each candidate. NPR reported that Biden raised 1.69 billion + Trump raised 1.96 billion dollars!
I proposed a similar system as explained above. Only this approach needs to take into account who got on the ballot and how many states. P ublic money would be available to each party that has candidates in enough states to be viable to win the Electoral College. (As much as I’d like to get rid of the Electoral College this is the process we need to use right now because that is how the president is selected). All parties that have viable candidates in the primary would follow the same approach as we do for House and Senate seats with the money being divided up evenly. In the subsequent general election, the same path will be followed with all candidates getting the exact same amount of money from the federal government.
Of course, this does not get rid of outside money spending on advertising in favor of a given candidate or cloaking it by calling it an issues advertisement. That’s going to be a difficult lift to change that process given the Supreme Court ruling without serious legislation or perhaps even a constitutional amendment. At this point, a proposal like mine would at least change the landscape and make it so that the candidates do not look like they’ve been bought.