Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 22 Sep 04 14:50
Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman are here to discuss their new book, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day, just published by John Wiley and Sons, and not a moment too soon. The book is a thorough explanation of campaign finance, warts and all. And did we mention the warts? This is an important book for anyone who wants to grasp how politics and governance really work in the USA. Micah L. Sifry is senior analyst with Public Campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on comprehensive campaign finance reform. Prior to joining Public Campaign in 1997, Sifry was an editor and writer with The Nation magazine for thirteen years. He is the author of Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (Routledge, 2002) and co-edited The Iraq War Reader (Touchstone, 2003) and The Gulf War Reader (Times Books, 1991). He has also published articles and op-eds in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsday, The American Prospect, The Hill, Salon.com, TomPaine.com, IntellectualPolitics.com and many smaller papers and magazines. His latest book, co-authored with Nancy Watzman, on how money in politics affects people in their everyday lives, is titled Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? (John Wiley & Sons, 2004). He is also an adjunct professor at the Political Science Department of the City University of New York/Graduate Center, where he teaches a course called "Writing Politics." He is a co-founder and executive editor of the Personal Democracy Forum. Currently, he maintains a blog at www.iraqwarreader.com. Nancy Watzman has more than 15 years of experience of investigative reporting, research, and writing working for Washington watchdog groups, including the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Citizen. She contributed several chapters to The Buying of the Congress (Avon Books 1998) and has published articles and opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Monthly. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College. The inimitable Mike Godwin is on board to lead the discussion with Micah and Nancy. Now the legal director for Public Knowledge, Mike served for nine years as the first Staff Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where he informed users of electronic networks about their legal rights and responsibilities, instructed criminal lawyers and law-enforcement personnel about computer civil-liberties issues, and conducted seminars about civil liberties in electronic communication for a wide range of groups. Godwin has published articles for print and electronic publications on topics such as electronic searches and seizures, the First Amendment & electronic publications, and the application of international law to computer communications. In 1991-92, Godwin chaired a committee of the Massachusetts Computer Crime Commission, where he supervised the drafting of recommendations to Governor Weld for the development of computer-crime statutes. Godwin has written articles about social and legal issues on the electronic frontier that have appeared in the Whole Earth Review, Quill, Index on Censorship, Internet World, WIRED & HotWired, and Playboy. From 1999 to 2001, Godwin served as a reporter on e-commerce and intellectual-property issues for American Lawyer Media, first as senior editor of E-Commerce Law Weekly, then as chief correspondent of IP Worldwide. Most recently, he has been a senior policy fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and he is a contributing editor at Reason.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 22 Sep 04 15:12
Thank you, Jon. I think right out of the starting gate I'd like to Micah's and Nancy's thoughts on the role 527s have been playing in the current election season. On the one hand, many campaign watchers have found it quite troubling that 527s have made it possible to snipe at a candidate without that candidate's opponents having any control or accountability. On the other, some people feel that 527s may play the role of equalizer in a campaign where one side is seen as having vastly more financial resources than the other(s).
Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Wed 22 Sep 04 15:31
527s are the "sexy" topic this election cycle, and the explosion of these groups that are collecting unlimited contributions and running ads attacking candidates is certainly a concern. That said, if we were to get rid of all 527s tomorrow, the problems we discuss in our book would remain full force, just as they are with us despite the fact that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law got rid of soft money. Note that not a cent of the $259 million President Bush raised for his primary (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/21/politics/campaign/21money.html) is 527 money. It's all good, old-fashioned hard money contributions from individuals. Seventy percent of it came from donors giving more than $200, and more than half from those giving the maximum of $2,000. We know that these donors don't look like the rest of America--unless everybody in America is a white, wealthy male. The point is that our system of privately funded elections is inherently unfair, and that 527s are only a piece of the problem.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 22 Sep 04 19:05
You talk a bit in the conclusion of your book about what kinds of election financing reform you think is necessary, and you cite some state-level initiatives that may be improving things. Can you say more about what's happening at the state level to create "clean" elections? What could be done at the federal level to do this? How can we we get involved in efforts to promote election reform?
Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Thu 23 Sep 04 06:34
The basic idea is this: we need a paradigm shift in how we approach campaign finance reform. Instead of focusing most of our energy on trying to regulate how private money gets raised and spent (a process that can never be perfected, and perhaps shouldn't be), we should think about how to free candidates from their dependence on private money in the first place. Thus the idea of "clean money/clean elections." Candidates who agree to raise no private money can qualify for a full and equal grant of public funds for their campaigns. They do so by collecting a very large number of very small (i.e. $5) contributions from voters in their district, proving that they have a real base of public support. In addition, if they're running against a candidate who chooses to raise private funds and tries to outspend them, or if they are targeted by outside independent spending, they can get some additional matching funds, to keep a level playing field. This system is in full flower in two states, Arizona and Maine, where it has been used for all state legislative and statewide races since 2000. Over half the Maine house and three-quarters of its senate were elected running "clean"--Democrats, Republicans, independents and even a Green. In Arizona, nine of eleven of the statewide elected officials, including the Governor (Janet Napolitano) and attorney general, ran "clean." In both states, we've seen some important shifts in legislative priorities on such issues as health care and prescription drugs, that can at least partially be ascibed to the fact that many legislators are no longer beholden to wealthy interests. Other states have been joining the movement, including Vermont (which offers full public financing for the Governor and Lt. Governor's races, albeit with some variations that we could get into later), North Carolina (which has enacted an "Impartial Justice" system of full public financing for high level judicial races and is moving towards covering legislative races as well), New Mexico, which has set up a clean election system for its Public Regulatory Commission (a powerful statewide elected body that regulates corporations and utilities), and most recently New Jersey, which has adopted a pilot clean elections project for a handful of competitive state legislative seats. Activists in many other states are hard at work aiming to adopt similar systems, with some of the strongest efforts in Connecticut, Hawaii, West Virginia, Maryland, Illinois and California (where Berkeley residents will be voting this Nov. 2 on whether to adopt a clean elections system for municipal races). I should also mention Massachusetts in that list--its voters overwhelmingly adopted clean elections by referendum in 1998, the same year as Arizona and two years after Maine, but the entrenched incumbents in the state legislature refused to provide the funds to allow it to work. So activists there are working to keep the issue before the voters and change the make-up of the legislature. At the federal level, proponents of the clean elections approach have introduced model legislation every session since 1997 (when the original co-sponsors were Paul Wellstone and John Kerry). Right now the main marker bill, HR 3641, is sponsored by Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts. The bill adopts most of the features of the Maine and Arizona systems, and also provides free and discounted broadcast time to participating candidates (an obvious and big part of the problem that can't be addressed at the state level, since Congress regulates broadcast media). This is hard work, in part because this reform really does alter power dynamics, and people and interests who already have power don't tend to like that. How to get involved? The best way is to link up with an existing state group, since change from below is often the path to federal action. A list of contacts is here: http://www.publicampaign.org/states/index.htm. I'd also urge people to join Public Campaign, sign up to get better educated about how the current system hurts us and how clean elections can change things, and to join in our campaigns to educate the public further.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Thu 23 Sep 04 18:57
I suspect other readers will have their own questions about election politics, but one thing it seems to me that not everyone has caught on to yet is how corporate giving to incumbents may lock in the current GOP majority in both houses of Congress. What's more, some lobbies, such as Big Pharma, heavily weight their contributions in favor of Republicans. Absent major election-finance changes, are things just going to get more and more GOP over time?
Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Fri 24 Sep 04 11:24
The axiom is that Money Follows Power, so absent some big upset, the answer is: yes. The current campaign finance system helps reinforce the GOP lock on power. Corporate donors tend to tilt their contributions toward incumbents. In addition, there's an ideological preference for the GOP among most of these donors. When Democrats are in power, then some of the money goes to them. But when the GOP is in power, the proportion of campaign cash from corporate donors going to Republicans is much more extreme. Here is a case in point from Public Campaign's recent report: "Paybacks, How the White House and Congress Are Neglecting Our Health Care Because of Their Corporate Contributors": In the 1992 election cycle, Democrats received 44% of health care-related industries' campaign contributions, and Republicans, 56%. Between 1992 and 2002, campaign contributions increased astronomically for Republicans. For example, pharmaceutical manufacturers increased their contributions to Republicans nearly 600% over the ten-year period, while contributions to Democrats increased just 79%.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Fri 24 Sep 04 12:43
To switch gears, at least for a moment, let's talk about cable TV. There's a reasonably good chance that most of this topic's readers who watch TV get it through a cable subscription. And most of us who get cable find ourselves looking at rates and noticing that they tend to go up even when services themselves aren't improving. But I think what few viewers realize is the connection between cable companies corporate contributions and the ability of cable monopolies to keep hiking rates. Can you talk a little about that? (A note: Here in Washington it's accepted as a given that you don't mess with voters' access to television -- what's surprising to me is that hikes in cable rates don't generate a bigger fuss than they do.)
the office block persecution affinity (thurzo) Fri 24 Sep 04 17:10
I'd be interested to know whether my assumption is right, that the majority of the money raised goes on TV advertising. To me - a Brit - the fundraising activities in the States seem extraordinary compared to what we see here, and the principal difference seems to be that parties and candidates in the US are allowed to advertise on TV, and in the UK they aren't. (Political advertising on radio and tv has been banned since 1924, with parties getting free "Party Political Broadcasts" on all channels instead: http://tinyurl.com/486rv)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 24 Sep 04 18:06
FYI Micah and Nancy will be offline through Saturday and perhaps Sunday; the conversation will pick up again when they return. Thanks!
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Sun 26 Sep 04 00:25
In the late 1800s as businesses grew in scale, there was talk of "the senator from Standard Oil" and similar quips. Railroads were also power brokers in state houses and at the federal level. (Some socialists even suggesting reforming the national government around industry and labor along those lines.) Researching another work in the Wall Street Journal from 1912, I found that President Theodore Roosevelt had been called in front of a senate commitee on campaign financing. They wanted to know where he got his money from. So, this is a very old situation. The triumvirates of ancient Rome were built on balances of military, political and financial power. Again, it is a very old situation. I am not sure that there is anything inherently wrong with it. By analogy, how far back do we have to go to find a president without a formal college education? Wilson had been president of Princeton; Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. Does this mean that uneducated people are unfairly kept from running the nation? Bush has been excoriated for being dyslexic. We place a high value on verbal skills. Would "Silent Cal" stand a chance today? The pyramid of power is such that closer to the top the participants have more of everything. It is a fact of life. The point that bothers me most is a prejudice against money: money is evil, and the more of it you have, the more evil you are. I do not subscribe to that theory. The image of "collecting a very large number of very small (i.e. $5) contributions" in #4 above might sound like democracy in action, but it disenfranchises me for my ability to give $25. When I ran for Congress as a Libertarian, I spent about $200 and got about 4,000 votes. At a nickel each, I was way ahead of the Democrat and Republican candidates who paid much, much more per vote. You can say that money equals power, but the election equation is more complex than that. We have seen rich candidates like Steve Forbes pour money into lost causes. John Kerry is wealthy and of course so is George Bush. Only one can win. Neither of them is likely to endorse my preferred platform, but this only reflects the fact of life that the world does not march to Mike Mercury's drum. (And I believe that this is for the best, all the way around.) If it is somehow wrong for rich people to have the strongest say in government, is it somehow right that they should have the least? The prejudice against wealth panders to the masses. Pandering requires having something to sell. In this case, I fear that a large body of otherwise unelectable hopefuls want me to pay for their campaigns whether I support them or not. Indeed, BECAUSE I do not support them, they seem to be making a special claim that I must. Government financing of elections means government control of elections. Government control of elections sounds like a bad idea.
the office block persecution affinity (thurzo) Sun 26 Sep 04 02:01
I disagree deeply. There is a term for a system in which elections are controlled by financial interests, and it's plutocracy. Take a look at today's Russia - one of the parties (Our Home is Russia) is so closely tied to the interests of the Russian gas giant that it's commonly called Our Home is Gazprom. Or Italy, where most of the media are in the hands of the Prime Minister, Berlusconi. Neither of those are well-functioning democracies, and it's notable that plutocratic government has come about as a result of the deficiencies in their systems, not as an attempt to remedy them. The point you make about college education is, I think, not a valid comparison. I can readily come by a college education, and - on strictly meritocratic grounds - having qualified in fair and open competition for an intellectual reward shows that I have intellectual ability, which is needed to run a government. I cannot readily come by $20m, or into control of a corporation that has $20bn. I could inherit the money - but is the hereditary principle really the way to run a Government today. I could get the money through business ventures, but then why would I want to run a Government in any other way than the self-interest of myself or the other rich businessmen around me? To me, this talk of pandering to the masses and so on is nothing to do with democracy. It is 16th-century aristocracy reinvented, with the aristoi of birth replaced by the aristoi of money. That's fine, and an intellectual case can be made for it, I'm sure - but it's not what the citizens of the US think they've got.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 26 Sep 04 06:50
I was surprised this year to see that there's websites that tell you the address and contribution level of contributors. How long will it be before somebody starts taking advantage of that and closes that loophole?
Low and popular (rik) Sun 26 Sep 04 08:52
It's really pretty simple. With enough money behind him, a failed (several times) businessman with no knowledge of the world or history, and with no sense of obligation to the country as a whole, can become President. The result has exercerbated the demise of the middle class that had made this country the envy of the rest of the world. The social contract is broken, and we are on our way to becoming a nation of the wealthy few and the multitudes of powerless poor. Look to Brazil and Argentina for a picture of the future. Capital despises democracy.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Sun 26 Sep 04 17:19
re: 11 -- "There is a term for a system in which elections are controlled by financial interests, and it's plutocracy." You say that like it is a bad thing. As I noted, the assumption seems to be that money is evil and the more you have the more evil you are. That is a false assumption. "Neither of those are well-functioning democracies..." Athens was a democracy; Rome was a republic. We do not have a democracy in America simply because we do not all show up at the Assembly and serve on juries of a thousand, and actually run the government ourselves. We elect others to do that for us. There is nothing magical or universally-required in partitioning the Senate by States. For representatives to be elected from industrial combines is no more or less workable than any other method. If it is wrong for them to represent the rich, is it right for them to represent ONLY the poor, thus disenfranchising anyone who makes "too much" money? "I can readily come by a college education.. in fair and open competition ..." Most people with college educations feel that way. So do most people with money. Inherit all you dream of, but if someone does not manage it well, it will soon be gone. Look at lottery winners. Why do we not have government by MultiState MegaBuck Lotto Winners? The reason is that money alone is useless. "... the aristoi of birth replaced by the aristoi of money." You speak of merit awards, but money is the ultimate merit award. Yet you -- and many others -- continue this hateful diatribe against wealth. Education, good looks, charm, speaking ability, writing ability, and much more go into the equation of political success.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Sun 26 Sep 04 17:26
re: 13 -- "With enough money behind him, a failed (several times) businessman with no knowledge of the world or history, and with no sense of obligation to the country as a whole, can become President." Are you referring to Lincoln, Truman, or Jackson? They failed in business, Truman three times, if I am right. Who speaks for "the country as a whole?" This Topic has already targeted the wealthy (and their close Democrat and Republican friends) for disenfranchisement. Who speaks for Mercury? "Capital despises democracy." On the one hand capital demands and responds to the most complete and impartial "democracy" possible: the market. Millions of small individual, self-interested decisions aggregate. The nice thing about the market is you can go to MacD's or BK or Organic Planet or grow it all yourself, and in so doing, you do not prevent other people from making their own choices. Try to come up with a POLITICAL system like that. If money per se has any affect on government, it is a cleansing and leveling force. I have interviewed and written about lobbyists who specialize in the causes of "the poor." They form committees, raise money (money!), write letters, etc. Money is a great equalizer. Right now, Bush's millions and billions are about equal to Kerry's millions and billions. That's life.
Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 26 Sep 04 18:01
He can't be talking about Truman, since Truman was as well-informed about history as any president since Jefferson and more so than any president since his own time.
the office block persecution affinity (thurzo) Mon 27 Sep 04 05:25
(re: 14) Plutocracy is not a swearword for me. It's just not democracy. The fundamental condition of democracy is not personal attendance (otherwise Athens would be one of the few democracies in history), but a presumption that all are equal in the eyes of the law. To take the three parts of democracy the Athenians identified: isonomia (equal law), isegoria (equal voice) and eleutheria (freedom). Rule by the rich or the proxies of the rich violates the principle of equal voice, and would doubltess lead to violation of the principle of equal law. I don't have a problem with people being rich, God knows I'd like to join them some day. But you are confusing my political beliefs - as a democrat - with personal beliefs I don't hold. On the point about how easy it is to acquire money, incidentally, I'd be interested to know what you think about the value of self-made money over inherited money. For my own part, I have vastly more respect for those who have made their own wealth than for those who have inherited it.
Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Mon 27 Sep 04 12:38
I see we have a backlog of interesting questions and comments to dive into (nothing like taking the weekend off for Yom Kippur!), and we're going to try to work our way through the pay in chronological order. Re: #7, on the magic of ever-rising cable rates, which we devote a chapter of the book to. People may not realize that while many commodity prices have been dropping, including cars (down 4.5% between 1997 and 2003), audio equipment (down 20%) and TVs (down 41%), average monthly bills have risen 40%--from $26.06 to $36.47--an extra $125 a year. That translates into a cool $8-$9 billion a year more that the industry as a whole rake is since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which was supposed to usher in a new era of deregulation, more choices and lower prices. In fact, very few of us live in a market where there is a choice of two or more cable providers. This is a very persistent monopoly industry. The lifting of price controls on cable services has mostly financed a giant wave of mergers and acquisitions. Three years after the Telecommunications Act became law, the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union reported that instead of attacking each others markets, local cable and telephone monopolies had focused on merging into larger and larger regional firms that now form tight national oligopolies. The groups issued that report hoping to convince Congress to revisit a provision of the Telecommunications Act that formally ended price controls on cable services by March 31, 1999. But their study fell on deaf ears. No wonder. The communications and electronics industry invested heavily in the passage of the Telecommunications Act, donating $60.6 million to federal candidates and parties in 1995-96, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 48 % to Republicans and 50% to Democrats. The cable industry, a smaller but by no means insignificant subset of that group, has fought hard to keep Congress and the regulatory agencies from reviewing the law, giving almost $20 million since then, 53% to Democrats. The lead sponsor of the Telecommunications Act, Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD), was the top overall recipient of cable industry cash, with $117,299. In the summer of 1998 the Senate killed a proposal that would have simply asked the FCC to study rising cable rates. On average, senators voting against the proposal got 21 percent more in contributions over the previous six years from cable PACs and individuals who work in the industry than did senators who voted in favor. A February 1998 bill sponsored by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a longtime consumer advocate in Congress, that would have kept price controls on cable services in place after March 1999, was buried by the House Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications, trade and consumer protection. Subcommittee members received, on average, twice as much as the average House member, in contributions from the cable guys during the 1997-98 election cycle. And so it goes. Why isn't there a bigger fuss? Consumer groups say the public has given up on complaining about rising cable rates because they have no hope of winning changes in Republican-controlled Washington. As Rep. Markey recently told the New York Times, They cant go to the House, they cant go to the Senate, and they cant go to the president, because nobody cares. On the other hand, I think there remains a lot of political potential in the issue of media concentration, which the cable industry is a subset of. So I wouldn't call this a dead matter by any stretch of the imagination.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 27 Sep 04 17:35
re: 18 Re: #7, "on the magic of ever-rising cable rates..." With gasoline prices going up, people are becoming more aware of the driving they do. Do we see people shocked over their cable-tv bills and cutting the services? No, we do not. People like to watch television and they are willing to pay for it. Ourselves, living in the country, our cable-TV provider doubled our rates, so we dropped the TV and kept the broadband. ("What?" asked the customer service representative, not sure she heard that right.) We have not watched a television show in five months. Why does everyone not do that? The reason is that for most people, cable-tv is a perceived value.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 27 Sep 04 17:37
Now that Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman are back, perhaps they can explain why, if money is so important (and dangerous), we do not have government by Multistate Megalotto Winners.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 27 Sep 04 17:39
re 12 -- if Sharon is still reading, perhaps she could provide URLs to the reporting sites she has been most impressed with. (Power to the people.)
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 27 Sep 04 20:10
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Tue 28 Sep 04 08:05
Now that Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman are back, perhaps they can explain how they picked the "$5 limit" -- the proposal that a candidate should earn money from the government by showing many $5 contributions. My fear is that is disenfranchises me for being able to contribute $25, to say nothing of those who can invest 100 times more. Also, how many of these small contributions is the right number to demand? As a minority candidate myself, it seems to me that only 1% of the registered voters ought to be enough to show "popular support." On the other hand, I also know from experience that most politically aware people are happy to sign almost any petition for a potential candidate. "All I want is a chance to run for office." So, a nice looking guy like me, with a good aura, a broad smile, and a twinkle in his eye, might be able to get all the $5 nods he needs to get enough government money toward the opportunity to be totally unrepresentative of his district. My point is that Sifry and Watzman have not put forward anything to replace the flows of money that they find so odious.
Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Tue 28 Sep 04 08:43
The questions raised by Michael Marotta (mercury) are not new ones, but they are fair and important ones to raise. Why shouldn't rich people be allowed to spend as much as they want to support candidates and causes that they like? And, if money was truly so dominant in politics, why isn't Congress filled with multi-millionaires? And lastly, how would our system of $5 qualifying contributions be any better? Couple of quick answers: 1. A core principle of modern democracy, "one-person, one-vote" is violated if we allow unlimited contributions to candidates. It's fine if a rich person wants to buy an extra car, an extra house, or a couple of 747s. But being rich should not entitle you to an extra vote. As Justice Brandeis once said, "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." 2. Large contributions to candidates and/or parties can be corrupting, in appearance or reality. That's why the Supreme Court has upheld reasonably limits on how much an individual can directly give. I don't find references to political inequality in ancient Rome or the days of America's robber barons at all comforting, in that respect. We can't legislate away political venality, but we can change the conditions under which our elected representatives run for office so they are far less dependent on concentrations of money. 3. We don't have Lotto winners running for office, but we do have a disproportionate number of millionaires in Congress. These days, the only way to run a viable, competitive campaign for federal office (and many state offices) is to either be rich, famous, or have lots of rich friends. Or to get down on one's knees and tell wealthy special interests what they want to hear. That, more than anything else, explains why Congress spends so much time on issues of concern to the wealthy and big corporations and so little time on matters of concern to ordinary Americans. 4. We are not disenfranchising Michael in any way--that term refers to his ability to vote, and while I'm trying to be polite I think it's pretty offensive to the people who risked and in some cases gave their lives to get the franchise that he would somehow equate his inability to "invest" unlimited sums in a candidate with his not being allowed to vote. Besides, we are not talking about taking away his ability to give $25 or $125 to a candidate of his choice. The Clean Money/Clean Elections systems in place in Arizona and Maine are completely voluntary. If a candidate chooses not to participate, they can raise as much as state law allows from individuals or PACs (and the Supreme Court has upheld all sorts of reasonable contribution limits to candidates) and spend as much as they like. Collecting $5 contributions is not as easy as getting people to sign petitions, which is why reform advocates have not argued for giving public funding to people solely based on their getting on the ballot. The precise level required has varied from state to state, with the goal being to set the bar high enough that qualifying candidates are demonstrating a real base of support, but not so high as to lock out newcomers. In Arizona, for example, a gubernatorial candidate has to collect 4000 $5 qualifiers; a state senate candidate needs 200. In Maine, the parallel numbers are 2500 and 150.
Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Tue 28 Sep 04 09:05
Time-out for a little shameless self-promotion, tied to a previous book of mine, Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (http://www.spoilingforafight.com) Like it or not, third party candidates could well be the deciding factors in this fall's presidential election, even if they only get a fraction of the vote in a few states. And yet those four candidates and the parties they represent--Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party, David Cobb of the Green Party, Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party, and Ralph Nader of the Reform Party and the whoever-else-will-help-me party--have gotten little attention compared to the major party candidates.. This Wednesday night, in the only indepth television coverage of the third-party scene that I know of this fall, PBS will air "Crashing the Parties," a one-hour documentary produced by AWARD Productions and written by Darren Garnick. Yours truly has a role in a couple of places during the show. I haven't seen it yet, so I can't vouch for its analysis, but what I understand from Darren is that he spent several months traveling with each of these candidates and tried to give a fair portrait of what motivates each of them as well as their followers. I'm sure it will be interesting television (and a nice foil for Thursday night's Bush-Kerry joint appearance, not to be confused with a debate.) Check your local listings for airtimes. In NYC, it's 10pm on Channel 13.
Members: Enter the conference to participate