When I started this blog a few months ago, I began by deploring the current state of politics. Specifically, how change is always the promise, but seemingly never the outcome – especially when the commitment is about campaign finance. If there is one thing that I hope I have successfully conveyed through my ramblings it is this:
Money has become the seminal evil in politics.
By this I mean that much of the endless bureaucracy, needless handwringing and failures to act on the serious issues of the day stem directly or indirectly from the undue influence money has on the electoral process. Politicians need money. I understand this implicitly. Not just to take tropical (and likely improperly funded) vacations, but to do real political stuff. Like creating lawn signs, remunerating staff, paying for your mistress/future baby mama to fly around with you pretending to video document your campaign but instead secretly carrying on a clandestine affair with her while your wife is dying from her second bout of breast cancer and buying air time.
I take no issue with the money politicians seek to raise through donations up to the individual limit imposed by the Federal Election Commission. Why? Because these sorts of contributions require the two things that the rest of the money in politics lacks: accountability and moderation. Individuals must report donations upwards of $200 in a single campaign cycle and are capped at $2,500 in total contributions to an individual candidate per election. You want democracy? This fosters democracy. (Interesting aside: the United States of America is actually a republic, not a democracy. But that’s really neither here nor there.)
What to do then about this money in politics? That’s the $64,000 question.
We can wait until the ideology of the Supreme Court shifts. But seeing as how it historically takes the court a great while to reverse itself (see: Brown v. Board of Ed., West Coast Hotel Co. v . Parrish et. al.), I likely won’t be waiting with bated breath.
We can amend the constitution to clarify that money is not speech and shouldn’t be regulated as such. Yeah, good luck with that.
We can only elect politicians who disavow the support of soft money contributors, use publicly available funds for the general election and abide by their promises to institute campaign reform change. See above.
Or at least we can start and sustain a serious public dialogue about the role of money in politics. One where we encourage our newly elected officials to make campaign finance reform the first priority after their respective oaths. One which fosters legislation which puts clear conditions on how money can be spent in an election without running afoul of either McConnell v. FEC or Citizens United. One which razes the current political landscape in favor of one which doesn’t inequitably favor the already rich and powerful. One which changes politics in this country forever.
What might this dialogue look like? Look out for one last future installment when I post my campaign finance thesis. It certainly should be interesting.
P.S. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this trifle of a blog. Especially those who have tuned in, painfully, every other week. It mean a lot.