Should campaigns be publicly funded? star indicating that this topic is a Unity08 pick

posted by Base on June 8, 2024 - 9:21am

With campaigns costing millions of dollars, it's not surprising that candidates are beholden to the special interests and corporate PACs that finance their campaigns. Do you think campaigns should be publicly funded, and, if so, how would the funds be allocated?

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You will not solve local or national corruption as long as you allow legal bribery to flow. The illegal stuff will always be there, but they'll go to jail for that. And frankly, if U8 does not make it the centerpiece I'm gone. Nothing else will get accomplished without it.

After 35 years in the health care business I've also turned into a strong supporter of universal health care, and this should also be its agenda. Before you jump out of your boots study the issue first.

Health Care and

How doctors are yielding their profession to the CEOs

Read the facts on the second link.

Jack Lohman

Would be nice if the Founders were paying attention...we are muddling our way here into a platform that could get some real traction. Clean campaigns, universal health care - those two alone make up one hell of a foundation to build on. Of course since we're not trying to be a party and don't have any intention of developing a concise actionable platform that candidates can gravitate to, something of a moot point, no?

On the airwaves issue, it is important to retain the distinction between broadcast and cable. Government has no control over the latter as it does not utilize public airwaves. On the former, Congress can place whatever restrictions/requirements it wants. Of course it currently wants none additional as the rules in place currently serve the status quo very well. It will take a ground-up populist revolution to change this dynamic in any meaningful way.

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle


Do you believe there is no "Health Care" (or perscr. drug, etc.) Forum in the Shoutbox?! There is exactly 1 topic: Health Care Reform in the Suggest a Forum Forum. It has two posts (last one 7/11), and here's the topic starter dated 6/22:

In 2024, Pharmaceutical companies employed over 3,000 lobbyists and spent $123 million influencing Congress.

Allow me to also quote a 9/22 Op-Ed piece by Paul Krugman (NYT) entitled Insurance Horror Stories (Subscription Required):

Medicare spends less than 2 cents of every dollar on administrative costs, leaving 98 cents to pay for medical care. By contrast, private insurance companies spend 80 cents of each dollar in premiums on medical care; much of the remaining 20 cents is spent denying insurance to those who need it.

This suggests that private health care may be more expensive than public health care.

There was another NYT article a few days later (can't find it) that suggested the private system was actually cheaper because (brace yourself) people who can't get proper care end up dying faster. Ugh.

I realize this is a complex issue, but it definitely deserves more focus than we've given it.

Here's the Unity'08 link again: Health Care Reform

Thanks for the link, TromboneErik. It is a comprehensive piece but has no comment box at the bottom. Do they want to shut off that issue?

Jack Lohman


At one point, some of the "old topics" were inadvertantly locked - a software glitch. Many were re-opened, but that one wasn't (as I noticed too late).

Why don't you start a new topic in that Forum? Given your experience, I think you would be eminently qualified to summarize the pro's and con's.

I'd be particularly interested in your take on the legislation passed in Massachusetts last Spring. When Teddy Kennedy gets together with a Republican governor... well - Man bites dog!! :-) (I'm not calling Romney a dog, I'm just saying "It's news!!").


I haven't followed Massachusetts much, but here is one take on it:

Also, Erik, I'm not sure a new thread on health care would be productive. I certainly think U8 should support it, but frankly if we just achieved the goal of getting money out of the political system a universal health care system would happen overnight.

Jack Lohman

Universal healthcare is now fairly well accepted by the physician community as the best way to go. Even they now realize that they are little more than wage slaves to the insurance industry. Our primary opponents in this fight are the insurance/HMO and pharmaceutical industries - check out their campaign contributions sometime!

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

I'll try a kick-start...
Bill"for what we are together"

Every senior in a public high school should have to take two courses along with other electives. They would be economics and government. The public needs to be educated on the role of a congressman and senator. These two offices should not go to Washington and work to bring goodies back to their district, instead they should be rerpresenting their districts and states on issues which affect the entire nation not an individual district within or a state itself. That job should be for the state legislatures. If a program is to be based in an individual district or state which would benefit the entire nation that is different and would definitely fall in the realm of a congressman's or senators duty. Pork barrel or the new term they are now calling earmarking which they think we are too dumb to see it as pork is killing the budget and it should be stopped. That is one of the reasosns I am sick of the two traditional parties. The other course economics would address a fundamental lack of knowlege concerning economics by the average citizen. It is badly needed. I am a retired teacher. I continually pressed my administration on the need for these courses being required but the best they would ever do was to keep them as electives. Well if you know kids they are going to take the easy route (most of them) and they opted for the less difficult courses where they could just show up and get a B or better.
I was frustrated throughout my career as a teacher because teachers were rarely consulted when it came to meaningful reforms, instead school boards made up of lawyers, real estate agents, carpenters, electricians etc were the ones making the decisions about what the kids should be learning. Don't get me wrong I am not downing any of these fine occupations, they made a lot more money than I ever did. But ours was the only profession in which the professionals (teachers) had little to say about curriculum. Would a public supported hospital allowl these non medical occupations sit on their boards, I hardly think so.
Time to close have a good day.

I hope unity 08 will adopt this as one of their major articles in its platform. Since everyone would benefit from it a good way to fund it would be a 1% national sales tax. We are practically already there anyway with medicare and medicaid. A national panel made up of congressmen, doctors, governors, hospital administrators, drug company representatives, and citizens drawn from the different social strata in the country would set prices for all medical related expenses. And the panel should stipulate what services would be covered and what ones should not. If that is socialized medicine so be it. This panel would meet once a year to adjust prices in light of inflation. The money going into the fund could not be used by the government for any other purpose.

The winds of change are upon us... yes we will see such things in our days... and as one is implemented and the benefits realized the others will follow... as there are things in society which cannot be driven by capitalism... these things are healthcare, higher education, weapon building and legal representation... for when money drives these things the forces of capitalism will increase the cost of these critical social function beyond the ability of the citizen to pay. In addition it is in violation of the constitution for the society to pay for any of these things with taxes and again paying privately... And as pointed out in the past if it is not against the constitution now it will be before I'm done... - Earn Snyder
Author "$aving the bureaucracy - Killing the beast"
Modern Progressive Independent

Lawyers should not be permitted to run for public office as the children should not be made into drug addicts by pill pushing physicians... As a President is the commander and chief and not his generals! For wars are meant to destroy the enemy and not make him stronger! For the entire leadership on both sides of the isle are full of SH%&... They must be removed simply because they are idiots, but I'm afraid what will replace them is not better... - by Earn Snyder
Author "$aving the bureaucracy - Killing the beast"
Modern Progressive Independent

In my opinion, yes they should, but... yep always a but.

1. Should private and personal funds be eliminated?

2. PAC's?

4. Editorials by the media that support one side or the other?

5. How about incumbents or challengers that make the news in any number of ways?

6. Political parties?

7. Access to balloting?

These are just a few ways that candidates get attention, positive or negative. Public financing is only one of the ways to help level the playing field. Can we or should we try to work on these other areas too?

Retired but Active

Can anyone give me a good, rational, reason why the greed, fraud, and dishonesty that now weaves its way through our entire government would NOT quickly be replicated by any of the Universal Health Care proposals here and other places.

If we can see the top executives of some of the largest health care orginazations in the country commit GROSS and prevasive fraud on their shareholders, their clients, the government, and just about everyone else, what types of safeguards COULD we take to prevent the same thing from happening in any type of Universal Health Care system. Sad as it might be, we have a lot of outright crooks and theives in very influential positions in this country.

Until we can actually VIGOROUSLY police and enforce the law surrounding all health care matters, we can never be confident in any type of Universal Health Care proposals I have seen yet. I would be 100% in favor of some type of health care system that would provide for all of our citizens at a reasonable cost. And, I would be 100% willing to pay my share of the expenses connected with it. But, I am just too skeptical to believe it will ever happen.

smhiott on October 28, 2024 - 8:36am

In my opinion, yes they should, but... yep always a but.

1. Should private and personal funds be eliminated?
A) I believe private contributions should be allowed, but in modest increments - no more than say $250 per individual contributor per candidate. There is a smidgen of truth to the notion that money equals speech, but the level should be kept low enough that the average citizen has an opportunity for an equal say. Such contributions might reasonably be limited to residents of the affected district.

2. PAC's?
A) PACs cannot and should not be eliminated - they are constitutionally protected associations of citizens. If individuals who are members of PACs wish to make their $250 max donation in the name of the PAC rather than individually, I see no harm in this.

4. Editorials by the media that support one side or the other?
A) This is a sticky one, in that newspapers and printed materials are in fact the very insturments of communication the first amendment was designed to protect. I would like to see a "truthfullness standard" applied to all political advertising, particularly in the last 60 days, and am not sure that I can see a reason why newspapers who are specifically promoting the elction or defeat of a candidate or measure (express advocacy) should be exempt from such regulations. Much better in my view iof the fourth estate got out of the endorsement business and did a much better job of reporting on the candidates and campaigns in their news pages. (my degree, by the way, is in journalism and I am not proud of the job my brethren are doing...)

5. How about incumbents or challengers that make the news in any number of ways?
A) This is a difficult one again due to first amendment protections. I am always chagrined when newspapers reinforce incumbents profile and name recognition by reporting ribbon cuttings and social appearances in the latter stages of a campaign. Would like to see standards tightened in the last 60-90 days and references made to candidates only when they are engaged in something truly newsworthy. Am afraid this one is probably not regulateable.

6. Political parties?
A) I don't believe political parties should have any more right to contribute to campaigns than any other citizen organization. The existing descrepancy is one of the reasons that third parties and independents have such a difficult time approaching fiscal parity. I believe such preferential treatment border on the unconstitutional vis-a-vis the 14th amendment.

7. Access to balloting?
A) Am assuming you mean ballot access for independents and minor party candidates? Following the rationale above, I believe that the hurdles imposed by certain states to ballot access are again nearly unconstitutional at least related to the spirit of the 14th amendment - the courts don't agree. As the constitution allows the states to establish their own procedures the courts are technically correct. A constitutional amendment would be required to rectify this situation and could only apply to federal offices. It is one I hope/wish Unity '08 would take up.

The above opinions are worth exactly what you paid for them. All, have a great day!

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

OK Mark, sounds good on the surface but I need to thinks about your answers but I will admit they sound pretty resonable so far. Thanks, anybody else?

Darryel retired but active: I read your comments and you make a good point but Medicare and Medicaid are and have been the victims of fraud but they continue to function and help millions of people. I believe universal health care could work too. I am tired of paying for the uninsured along with paying my bills. Many of these uninsured who say they cannot afford it choose to put other things such as recreation ahead of buying health insurance.

Mark Greene: I have read many of your comments about campaign finance. I hope when unity 08 gets around to calling for recommendations for a platform I hope you will write one for public financing of campaings. I agree with 99% of your proposals. Sorry I am probably one of those who continually butcher the English language.

Electoral reform must be the number one issue of Unity08, because it stands in the way of resolving all other issues. Health care, immigration, port and border security, oil independence, you name it. Follow the money. Nothing important to the economic security of the nation is more important.

Jack Lohman

I will always be honored to share my views with anyone I think can help move them forward. My love for this country is much deeper than my affinity for any party or faction, and I still have high hopes that we can somehow transorm this mess we find ourselves in to an ongoing success that I will be proud to pass on to my children and grandchildren. If I were to die right now it would be with a profound sense of sorrow that we have so managed to muck up something that might have been so promising...

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

Mark: I guess I am, I'll have to watch that in the future.

Trombone Erik and many others here are singing my song (most of us) without public financing of campaigns we are spinning our wheels. Unity 08, it needs to be at the TOP of your agenda, and your agenda does not have to be very long. Things get changed one small step at a time in the right direction.

The concept of campaign finance was created to enable candidates to finance the communication requirements needed to reach the people not to overwhelm, muffle and filter political communication in America. For this fascist control of the Airwaves is unconstitutional. As I'm sure the founders would agree that technology now demands the public funding of campaigns because in the current enviornment fascists are abusing this constitutional right which is no longer needed, to do quite the opposite... - Earn Snyder
Author "$aving the bureaucracy - Killing the beast"
Modern Progressive Independent

Retired but Active

MFV: I, too, believe that some type of universal health care system COULD work. I realize that it is probably impossible to eliminate ALL fraud and etc... from any governmet program but surely we could install enough safeguards to prevent MOST of it from occuring. Until I can see some type of proposal that would do this I would be very hesitate to support Universal Health Care. A better short term solution, in my view, would be to IMMEDIATELY pass a law that would require the withholding of ANY government payments made to ANY health care provider that treats ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

I realize that this would not solve the problem of the uninsured in this country but it would free up a few Billion dollars to help. As long as we continue to just open our economic system(s) to abuse by those that have absolutely NO right to the benefits, we will continue to see the working families (legals) in this country suffer. This is totally unacceptable and I would no vote for ANY tax increase or redistribution of funds until this problem is adequately addressed FIRST.


Darryel: Your point is well taken.


If all money except public were used to finance campaigns,(In my opinion this is the no l issue unity08 should pursue) A candidate for congress would have to have signed petitions of 10% of registered voters in the congressional district they live in. For those seeking a seat in the senate would require 20% of registered voters of the state sign a petition. For the office of President it would require a candidate get 25% of registered voters within a state to sign a petition for their candidacy. I hope to see some more comments on this I am just throwing these numbers out there as a starting point. I am really open on these numbers.

. Forgive me I left out something I should have put in the comment I just posted. These percentages would be necessary before a candidate could receive public funds for their campaigns. I also believe Congress should set a fixed amount which could be spent by all the candidates in both the primary and general election.

I have started a state-by-state list of organizations that advocate public campaign financing - the way Maine and Arizona do today.

Check it out and add your state there!

You can click on your state on their Map!

Try this out:
1. All candidates for Federal office are chosen by their parties on September 30 of an election year. NOT BEFORE!

2. All candidates are allocated two 8 1/2 x 11 pages to state their positions, show photos, or whatever they like. Any layout, any font, etc. Black and white only, however.

3. On October 1, the Government Printing Office (those swell folks that crank out the IRS forms for us every year) combines all pages into a brochure, prints it and distributes it freely--mail, post offices, libraries, Internet, etc. Audio versions are available for the blind. English language only.

4. NO ADVERTISING, ENDORSEMENT, OR DISCUSSION OF CANDIDATES BY ANY PRIVATE ORGANIZATION OR INDIVIDUAL IS PERMITTED, PUNISHABLE BY FINE AND/OR IMPRISONMENT. The goal is make all voting information limited to the contents of the candidates' two pages. No PACs, no corporation donations, no party war chests, etc. Yes, the First Amendment must itself be amended to make this work.

5. All candidates for Federal office are sequestered from October 1 to the day after Election Day. No interviews, leaks to the press, talk-show appearances, etc. This does not require a Constitutional Amendment: sequestration is routinely applied to jury members during major trials.

6. No mention of candidates or political parties by the media. Names of candidates and political parties are bleeped out of television and radio programs. Those who believe politics is a dirty word finally get some validation of their views.

7. All political parties whose candidates have attracted at least one percent of the popular vote in the previous election will have their endorsed candidates included in the election brochure at no charge. Other candidates will also be included, provided they submit their two pages before October 1, together with a check (amount specified by the GPO) to cover the proportional cost of inclusion. This amount shall be not less than $_______ (perhaps something like $500,000, whatever it takes to keep the number of nut individual candidates to a reasonable number, say 20 or 30). Such "paid" inclusions will be permitted only once for any party or individual; inclusion thereafter depends on having attracted at least one percent of the popular vote in the previous election.


8. No incumbent of any elected Federal office is eligible for two consecutive terms in that or any other elected Federal office, nor are they eligible for appointment to vacancies in such offices.

My objective here is very simply to remove politics as a profession. Serving in Federal office should be an honor, not a career, and should be seen as such.

Yes, this means increasing the number and power of career civil servants who are responsible for keeping the government "running". This is nothing new: each Congressman already has dozens of staffers. The Brits' Public Service formalizes this arrangement, and it's worked there for longer time than we've been laboring with our system.

It also means special-interest lobbyists will continue to ply their trade, even to drafting proposed legislation. So it goes. I can't fix _everything_ (at least not all at once)...

This is absolutely insane and unworkable, but I do like your spirit! Actually not as unworkable as it might appear at first glance. Item 4 is the biggest stickler - would probably take up arms against that one. Won't have the government or anyone else telling me or any other private citizen what can or can't be discussed, or with whom. This one doesn't whittle at the edges of the first amendment, but slices and dices it into an unrecognizable morass...

I think you might want to consider modifying item 7 to allow in independent and minor party candidates based on petition signatures rather than money - would more clearly support your allegedly egalitarian populist proposal...

I have long held that neither elected officials nor candidates for office should enjoy the breadth of rights that the courts have allowed. Persons in a courtroom are expected to exercise a level of order and civility unenforceable on the street corner. Athletes behavior is regulated by virtue of their voluntary participation in a contest beyond what would be acceptable to everyday citizens in public. As no citizen is compelled to either run for or serve in office, I've never understood the argument that they could not be stringently regulated in their behaviour in either of these pursuits.

I will ponder your wild and crazy proposal more after tomrrow's zaniness is over. Thanks for jumping in!

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

Replace 4. with the application of enforcable liable laws for speech intended to misinform or obstruck a voter. Allow a civil jury to over turn an election where they deem misinformation determined an outcome. (while we are thinking this far off the planet).

Bill"for what we are together"

MFV a TRP Independent

Speaking of campaign reform, I have a question surely someone can answer, and I would really like to know. Who pays the bill for the President being whisked all around the country on Air Force 1? Please tell me the taxpayers do not? This is not just aimed at Bush but the incumbent President whoever he or she is or will be.

I am not a California resident, but I've got my fingers crossed for this one. If it passes, the ball on clean election campaign funding will really get rolling - especially out here in the West.

Check out this Prop89 Editorial in the Stanford Daily - Stanford University's college newspaper.

The editorial itself is against it, but at least they had the integrity to include opposing views in the blog below it. One of the most interesting blog responses was that the 1976 Supreme Court decision Buckley vs Valeo ruled that it WAS constitutional to limit campaign contributions. It was the campaign SPENDING which could NOT be limited by any law. (This is the decision which is usually inappropriately summarized as "Money Equals Speech").

It's interesting to "follow the money" in the Prop 89 issue. Here's an excerpt from a San Francisco Chronicle article

The California Nurses Association has put about $4.5 million into its effort supporting the measure that would wipe most corporate money out of California political races and some of the state's biggest business names are writing six-figure checks to defeat Prop. 89.

Insurance companies have been the biggest contributors, with Mercury General putting in $300,000. Chevron has added $250,000 to the campaign, a pharmaceutical industry group has kicked in $200,000 and companies including Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, Blue Cross of California and State Farm have given $100,000 or more to the anti-Prop. 89 efforts.

No, no... zee frosted!!! (Old Dunkin' Donuts commercial with "Tatoo" - R.I.P.).

MFV - As far as I can remember, when Air Force 1 is used as a "campaign plane," Uncle Sam is reimbursed at a pre-determined "usual and customary" expense (per mile, per stop, etc.) - based on the cost of a conventional privately chartered aircraft.

I haven't seen any estimates of what percentage of the actual costs end up being covered, but I'd fall off my chair if it even came close to 50%...

Ain't bein' an incumbent great?!

MFV a TRP Independent

Trombone Erik: That excerpt speaks volumes about the need for public financing of campaings, how do you find all these goodies?

MFV a TRP Independent

Trombone Erik: Thanks for the info. Appreciate it.

Erik is right as far as it goes re: Air Force 1. There is an allocation of time calculated on what percentage of a venture is "campaign related," and reimbursement is calculated at a very affordable rate for that. Doesn't come near covering the cost of Secret Service lead teams, armored vehicle transport, pre and post visit security, etc. Until the last weeks of the campaign these trips are almost always blended into official visits to schools, libraries, etc. so that the bulk of the cost accrues directly to the taxpayers.

And yes, this is true regardless of which Party holds the office...

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

Tonight, KXTV in Sacramento projected California's public financing proposition to be facing defeat -
24 percent to 76 percent.

This margin, it turns out, was not unexpected: The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California conducted a poll in September. After likely voters read a summary of the proposition, only 25 percent said they would vote “yes” and 61 percent said they would vote “no.”

The theme that seemed to really "stick" with California voters was: "Don't waste your tax dollars on bumper stickers, fliers, and negative TV ads."

Even with the successes of Public Campaign Financing in Arizona and Maine, it seems like the key to getting these kinds of initiatives to pass in other states is going to be voter education. People need to understand that their tax dollars are already financing campaign ads & paraphernalia at literally 200 - 400 times the amount proposed in a $5 per tax payer proposition. But I didn't see this type of argument in any of the "Pro" Prop 89 literature.

Of course, California has some unique characteristics - including some pretty big corporate campaign spenders and the worst budget shortfall in state history.

The Prop 89 campaign was also overwhelmingly financed by a single special interest group: The Nurse's Association (Union). The proposed financing method for public campaigns raised corporate hackles even more since it was based entirely on increasing corporation and business taxes. (Fiscally fair, perhaps, but not too politically savvy).

Would a more grassroots effort have produced a different proposition? A different outcome?

I'm not trying to Monday Morning quarterback, here - just pointing out some lessons to learn from as we push this issue forward.

Retired but Active

We learned a couple of things about campaign finance during the most recent election. BOTH parties spend around one BILLION dollars on a midterm election (combined). About 75% of this money comes from corporate donations and corporate executives, the Republicans still outspent the Democrats but the Democrats obviously won. I do not expect to see ANY election reforms from the new congress and I do not expect to see ANY from a congress controlled by either party. Our system is so corrupt now that it is unlikely that it will change, at least in our lifetimes. It would probably take a violent revolution to make any meaningful changes to the system an I don't think anybody wants that.

In the meantime, we can be thankful that for now at least we have a better balance of power. We have one branch controlled by Republicans and the Congress controlled by another. I would not care if it were reversed by I do think a split like this is in the best long run interests of our country.

Actually they spent MORE than $1 billion each...becaue there is another final spending report that candidtates still have to file!

Estimates are that it will hit about 2.6 billion total spending.

Check this out: Campaign spending in 2024 before McCain-Feingold "reforms" were passed was 1.59 billion and then AFTER McCain-Feingold it jumped to 1.9 billion in 2024 and estimates for 2024 are that total spending will have hit 2.6 billion which means campign spening has risen 51% AFTER the supposed reforms!

Its sick how bad the problem has become. "Big Money" special interests are getting a 35 to 1 return of public money diverted to them in exchange for thir capaign contributions!

Once again 95.3% of the incumbents won re-election...the majority of the seats that changed parties were from Open seats with no incumbent!

This is the 6th stright election where more than 94% of incumbents have won...and they all receive most of ther money from outside their own states.

As I just said in a different thread about spending, no matter how much we want a unity ticket to succeed we will need to address the big money problem.

(I got these numbers this moning from a free newsletter that you can sign up for at and I highly recommend the info they send out to all Unity 08 members so we can succeed in 08)

Darryel: I use to think we needed to have the executive and legislative branches controlled by one party to get things done. That no longer rings true, I now agree with your position. It will be tough to get campaing finance reform, that is why I feel this unity movement just needs to focus on three or four issues. If the the two parties unity's candidate get 25 to 35% of the popular vote then I think we have a fighting chance for one or both of the major parties to embrace unity's issues and enact them into law. If this does not happen there is no way Congress will endorse public financing of campaigns. It would take a revolution, not necessarily violent, if the national government does not get a handle on spending and the government defaults on its debt we could very well see a revolution of some type. I too, do not wish that to happen, but we are not immune to such a scenario.

I have noticed many saying how nasty the campaings have become. Folks they have been that way going way, way back. It doesn't excuse the nasty behavior but in my opinion civility has never been a strong suit in the American psyche. The thing that strikes me and I believe most of you is the amount of money spent on campaigns. It just keeps rising and rising just like the national debt, no pun intended.

Check out this excpert from the LA Times on the web site:

By Steve Harmon
Contra Costa Times
November 9, 2024

SACRAMENTO - Don't mess with the big-moneyed special interests.

That appears to be the object lesson to be gleaned from Tuesday's election results on ballot measures. Of the six non-infrastructure bond measures on the ballot, three took on corporate interests head on, and none survived -- a result that may discourage reformers from so readily embracing California's initiative process in the future and could create momentum for reform in the initiative process.

"This makes the case for why we need curbs on initiative spending," said Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "Every initiative with money against it went down. It was the money that spoke. Right now, it's a process unusable for anyone except people that have money. That's not democracy, that's a market."

Powerful industries have capitalized on the axiom of ballot measures: It's easier to shoot down an idea than to get it passed. So, while the record of success of corporate-backed initiatives is spotty, successes in killing measures companies do not like has been strong, said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Proposition 89, the campaign finance reform measure had its own corporate opponents -- led by the California Chamber of Commerce. Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, the main sponsor, said "What is most dismaying is that big money overwhelms voters and they abandon participation in our elections."


I think the main lesson of the California "Clean" Campaign experience is that reform is going to be tough in Big Money states - like Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois.

My own mid-sized state of Washington may offer some hope, however - so I'm jumpin' in with both feet!

They have the government they deserve. What better opportunity to eliminate the moneyed interests and reduce taxes and the cost of living? And they blew it.

Jack Lohman

Retired but Active

Frankie: You are right, of course. And, I do not really expect Unity8 to make much, if any, difference. I don't even believe that the founding group of Unity 8 have such an interest in mind. Just look at the list. There is absolutely NO reason we can trust these people any more than we can trust anyone in the Congress. I don't know what we could do that would really make a difference.


While I share your frustration that California's Clean Election referendum (Prop 89) failed, at this point I think it's important to highlight some of the features that may have led to its demise - so other states can avoid them.

* The Kitchen Sink Syndrome.
Prop 89 tried to limit campaign spending on voter initiatives, while Arizona's successful 1998 Clean Elections law addressed only Candidates (I haven't read Maine's law, yet).

The keystone of Clean Campaigns is its voluntary nature - of voters to "check off" the $5 box on their taxes, and of the candidates' deicions to "opt in" or not. The mandatory fund raising limits on voter initiatives created serious doubts about Prop 89's constitutionality. It also added another layer of complexity - which always turns voters off.

* Funding for Clean Money
The California proposition would have raised taxes on Corporations by 0.2%. ("Don't tax you, don't tax me - tax that man behind that tree!") An LA Times editorial asked: If Proposition 89 is good for the whole state, why only pick on the banks and corporations to pay for it? They may have a point.

*Special Interest Funding of the Initiative
Maybe this was necessary in a Big Money state like CA, but it was easy to make the argument that "The Nurse's Union is stacking the deck in their favor!" Even the Teacher's Union was lined up against it. This kind of argument is more difficult to make when a grass roots movement is behind the effort. (But the Grass Roots method also takes longer.)

So, what do I take away from all this?

Keep it Simple.
Provide a broadly based funding mechanism for the Clean Campaigns.
Promote the initiative through a true Grass Roots movement.


Don't give up, Jack! Best wishes for a successful effort in Wisconsin. You and Mark Greene were the primary sources of inspiration for my decision to get involved in Clean Campaigns in my home state of Washington...


Erik, it may indeed be that California tried to add too much to their bill, and I agree with “simple.” Simple is hard to break. They should have theft the old system completely in place, and I wouldn’t even complain if all limits were removed from the private candidates. If anything is going to hang them, that will.

In Arizona the funding was where it should be; a surcharge on traffic and criminal fines. Corporate taxes are, in effect, regressive because CEOs will simply add their costs to the price of their product and consumers will reimburse them at the cash register. Voluntary is a must if you want to pass constitutional muster.

How are you doing in Washington?


Jack Lohman

Erik's Nov.10 post points out the underlying falacy of the IR process - namely that it creates yet another avenue for private money to influence public policy. It is like a highly aggressive form of cancer - it will find its way in.

On another post (can't find it right now) it was mentioned that the key to effective participation in the political process is "voter education." I couldn't agree more. The problem is that for voters to be educated they must first be educatable, meaning capable of absorbing and processing complex streams of information to arrive at an intelligent decision. Such are not the products of U.S. education by and large.

Secondly, they need to have ready access to accurate non-biased information on which to base their decisions - such don't readily exist. The media, which should be at least one of the sources of such information, are themselves lazy and often the shills for corporate interests or one or the other side of ideological debates.

No solutions offered here - just observations. If I were king (pretending that that didn't obviate the need for elections) I would enact full public funding, provide a vehicle for credible unbiased information to voters on both candidates and issues, and mandate voter participation including the requirement to cast a valid vote in every contest on the ballot.

Good thing I'm not king, eh?...

Mark Greene
Texas Democrat in the Middle

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