Monday, October 26, 2009

Public Sponsored Election Campaigns

State Sponsored Election Campaigns: This analysis and explanation of the proposal to create in the United States, by way of the States initiating reforms, and by the Federal Government gradually instituting changes, whereby Candidates for any Public Office or, Pro and Con Coalitions on Ballot Measures, may address the voters within an equal and open format, with the Government picking up the tab, not the individuals. This would be the beginning of a shift away from private money dominated politics as we have known it. This would be a way of sharing the very high costs and actually lowering them. The constant escalation of special interests competing for the vote of our Representatives has sent the costs of entering public office into the stratosphere. It seems that the day of the Citizen-Statesman is lost forever, unless we make some drastic changes. One has to be considered as a Professional Politician to run, which is unfair to ordinary lower-income persons and their concerns, who want to see changes in their situations, but have not the knowledge to come by the amount of money needed to politically advertise and get their voice heard or their image seen. The one with the most money and can compete on that level gets the advertising space that’s for sale. The long time journalist Walter Cronkite once said in an interview on the NewsHour program, “We simply have to take American democracy off the auction block,"[1] Today, the voters have very few resources to find out about the candidates’ positions, unless they dig around for it, and only a small minority of citizens do that. I would say, possibly an elemental amount of information is often available at the average citizens level to discern the two major parties Presidential and U.S. Senate candidates’ positions, however it takes effort to come by information for all other offices down through very local, for the primary elections, and for other party and independent candidates. Many times, unless it is a highly debated referendum, voters may be doing a first-time speedy read-through of ballot measures at the polling place. The reason for low-voter turnout begins to become clear, and the lack of fresh ideas that the voters are aware of, plays to the incumbent’s advantage. Many candidates will not divulge their true positions; rather they put some ‘half-baked’, ‘Slick’, TV commercial out that may barely take a stand one way or the other. The People are not getting enough accurate information before voting. So we find that our democratic republic requires not those with the best ideas for a successful society be placed in authority, but those that first have the best skills at ‘buying and selling’ access within the halls of decision-making. This exemplifies the long common struggle between the many and the few! The many have to regain as much power ever so often by whatever means to thwart the consolidation of an aristocracy. This proposal would provide an ‘alternative’ to the ‘selling’ of political advertising. It is a voluntary resource to those wishing to participate, and does not ban private political advertising. It would be available to all equally, of those who are on the ballot, by ordinance and operation of the government. Since there would be no competitiveness involved, as the government would be the ‘supplier’ of the advertising they are all sharing in, each would be able to make their points and stances unpressured. The prices and cost of bringing forward a candidacy or measure would drop. More voices would be able to be heard effectively. When more people begin getting their information through the Sponsored Medias, than by the current flash-advertising, the monopoly of moneyed politics will begin to crack. The decisions would be left in the hands of the People, not the Corporations or PACs as to the direction and outcome of elections. The need for simple, accurate information for the voters has always been there. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is bring them the real facts.” Quoting Thomas Jefferson, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”[2] And again from the words of James Madison, "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both."[3] Those that are benefitting from this current system, want to placate the citizens that are being closed out of the ‘Marketplace ‘ of elective office, so they’ve come up with a solution which will still leave the most money-connected still entrenched in power. It is commonly known as the ‘Clean Money’ system. That is, the giving of money to the deprived candidates by the government, so that they too may compete to a more limited degree in the ever widening spiral of frivolous political campaign seeking of funds and spending. This system will not solve the problem of ‘junk’ political advertising. We’ll never get down to the vital issues and who is presenting the solutions. It will not stop the bleeding of runaway costs in campaigning. Under the ‘Clean Elections’ concept,[4] the government gives the candidate a sum of money to use as he sees fit for his campaign. The candidate agrees not to seek or use any other monies. Under that system however, some wealthy candidates outspend the public-moneyed candidate and the state ends up giving more dollars to the public-funded candidate to make up the difference. Also there is nothing to stop the different Medias from raising the advertising rates at any time. As well, the ‘Clean Elections’ process puts a criteria and burden on the candidate to raise ‘some’ contributions in lieu of concentrating on ideas to solve problems. This is all much more expensive than having the government run the whole process, giving each candidate adequate coverage through the main media sources. The way to discourage overspending and level the playing field at the same time is to provide all the media that is needed to reach the voters for each candidate or referenda position, so that over time the big spenders on paid advertising will eventually stop, for realizing the voters are using the new system and that money is being wasted buying advertising. Free Speech infringement will never be an issue, as candidates or issues coalitions may still privately advertise. The Government Sponsorship of Campaigns will be a guarantee that ‘every voice will be heard’. The only ones that will not like this plan are the people making a living selling the advertising and the big money interests that have fairly much bought the elections in the past by monopolizing all the media and information going to voters. There may be an attempt to initially drown-out the Sponsorship Ads, through even heavier private advertising. The Natural Law Party of 1992-2004 was one group that advocated the Public-Sponsorship proposal. I, myself have always made these proposals during runs I’ve made for legislative positions. Many other Americans using the internet have expressed the same ideas in their writings.[5] Public Management of Election[6] is a name the South Koreans use for it. Other nations are further advance in it, than the U.S.. One may ask, if the entry to politics becomes equal to all regardless of wealth, wouldn’t the field be overcrowded with novice office seekers. The answer to that may be seen in the fact that maybe only ten percent of the population is somewhat interested in ‘politics’, and many races currently often only have one or two filing to run. Many general election contests in November are unopposed. If however the field applying to run would become too numerous for one ballot, the democratic and only fair settlement is to draw randomly fewer names to be put on the ballot for election. The lots would be drawn publicly and inside the district for which the candidates are seeking. That method is known as sortition, and was used to a greater extend by the ancient Greek democracies. A cross-section of citizens is assured, and those not randomly selected may be in the future, if they seek again to be elected. An attempt at reducing costs and equalizing campaigns involved an effort in the late nineties to induce the American broadcast Medias to voluntarily give free airtime to the candidates, however that approach met with predictable indifference, even though the time allotments requested were very meager and insufficient to adequately inform voters. Note, this concept also leaves a disparage in the quality of ads or message that candidates would be able to present. Newton Minow, a Former 1960’s Chairman of the FCC, who once said television “is a vast wasteland”, also said in a 2000 interview on PBS with Terence Smith, as a response to the free air time question, “I support that, but that's such a feeble effort. What we should do is go far beyond that. We should go to the British system where broadcast time for political candidates is not bought or sold, where it's provided as a public service. We've got a real irony here, Terry. We have politicians selling access to something all of us own -- our government. And then we have broadcasters selling access to something all of us own -- our airways. It's a terrible system.”[1] In a 2002 poll by Pew Research, only 11% of Americans were aware that radio & TV stations received and maintain their licenses free of charge from the government.[7] It would seem natural for nations like Britain to use the Government owned TV & Radio to provide free equal access to all candidates on the ballot. However, there are instances of Government owned Medias being mixed with power-grabbing corruption. For example the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi is being scrutinized presently in regards to the State Television. Weather the United States moves in a direction of opening State-owned broadcasting or only ‘common-sense requirements of all media outlets’, there must be constitutional independent State Agencies or Departments to operate it. Similarity of Format must be maintained to give the sponsored messages equality. The Candidates and Groups would all have to be required to be filmed at the same government office locations, with the same personnel and circumstances with the same allotted time by office, and the candidates would say only what they choose. The tapes would be kept safe, and secret until all are aired together. No substitute commercials would be allowed at all! The channels would be within the main lineup for cable, satellite, over the air, and radio, and would run continuously in a loop for several weeks before the election. Also Complete Internet Sites with all the candidates positions listed would be publicized. In Conclusion, there are other problems with our Republic’s election system that need reform as well, such as equal ballot access which would be good to be worked out in conjunction with public sponsorship of campaigns or new directions to move into such as the great opportunities with internet democracy, however run-away spending on politics and equal venue is the most blaring fix needed now. Endnotes: [1] Smith, Terence. "Free Air Time." Online NewsHour 30 Mar. 2000. Sep. 2009 . . [2] Testimony The Presidential Task Force Hearings Campaign Finance Institute . Ed. Kingsley Brooks. 31 Jan. 2003. Natural Law Party. Sep.2009. . [3] McChesney, Robert. "Making Media Democratic." Boston Review Aug. 1998. Sep. 2009 . [4] Clean Elections. Ed. . 12 Oct. 2009. Wikipedia. Sep.2009. . [5] R, Richard. "Best Answer." Online posting. 2007. Yahoo! Answers. Sep. 2009. . [6] "Realizing Clean & Fair Elections." Elections Overview. 2008. Korean National Election Commission. Sep. 2009 . [7] "Five Free Air Time Facts And One Proposal." . 11 Jun. 2002. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Sep. 2009 .