Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 30 Sep 04 13:13
Interestingly, I think the gun-control situation is an example of the money system working on behalf of the little guys, the way the authors propose as a model for campaigns funded by large numbers of very small donations. In stark contrast to the examples of the pharma industry (a small number of very well-funded interests, which are typically the U.S. divisions of large multinational firms), the RKBA faction is made up of a very large number of individuals making small contributions toward opposing gun-control legislation. It only costs $35/year to join the NRA, which brings a number of memberships benefits, including the NRA's lobbying activities on behalf of gun owners. Gun owners and non-owner RKBA proponents are not a "business" interest nor members of what the authors deem the "donor class". They just happen to be a very, very large number of people, and their efforts are organized by a very slick and well-organized program at the NRA and other RKBA-proponent groups. There are some business interests involved in RKBA lobbying, like firewarm and ammunition manufacturers and retailers, but they are completely dwarfed in magnitude by the large sums of money coming from the masses, in little tiny amounts (not much different from the $5/person proposal!). So the gun-control example shows that that authors are not really interested in promoting a system of financing by large numbers of small donors, but merely in promoting a particular political agenda of the Left.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 30 Sep 04 18:26
Kwame M. Kilpatrick is the youngest mayor in the history of the City of Detroit, as well as the youngest mayor of any major U.S. city. Before his election as mayor in 2001, Kilpatrick was the first African American in the history of Michigan to lead any party in the Legislature. More at http://www.ci.detroit.mi.us/mayor/default.htm Kwame Kilpatrick grew up in politics. His parents are both politicians. He stuffed envelopes and walked neighborhoods. His career is "short" only when seen from the point of view of the offices he has held, but he has invested a lifetime in politics, basically. Money alone would not be enough to unhorse him now.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 30 Sep 04 21:05
Thanks to Sharon Fisher in #22, I followed the link to www.fundrace.org and discovered some amusing cousins. Dr. Charles J Marotta Physician Advanced Cardiology George W. Bush$2,000 47 Fairview Ave Madison, NJ 07940 MRS. CHRISTINE MAROTTA INFORMATION REQUESTED PER BEST E INFORMATION REQUESTED PER BEST E George W. Bush$2,000 47 FAIRVIEW Ave MADISON, NJ 07940 MR. NICHOLAS MAROTTA STUDENT N/A George W. Bush$2,000 47 FAIRVIEW Ave MADISON, NJ 07940 Mrs. Sharon E Marotta Homemaker n/a George W. Bush $2,000 47 Fairview Ave Madison, NJ 07940 Now, to me, this looks like Dr. Chuck gave Dubya $8000. I also searched my old Zip Code 44109, the near west side of Cleveland, Ohio. The contributions are smaller and the occupations are closer to Earth, you might say. A lot of money went for the hometown favorite, Dennis Kucinich. We also looked near our present Zipcode and found actually not a cent from this neck of the woods per se, but in the area generally a lot of large gifts to Republican and Democrat candidates. Also, we looked for my wife's maiden name and nationally, not one of them contributed a red cent to either of the two Larger Parties. I wonder if that means that she is congenitally condemned to poverty. I wish I had known that 27 years ago. This thing could have possibilities... Always count the teeth before you buy a horse.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Fri 1 Oct 04 01:21
These $35 per year NRA members are sympathizers and followers of a free-gun society, period. They are needed only for letter-writing campaigns. The real money behind the gun lobby comes from the manufacturers of guns and ammunition, including the cop killer armor piercing bullets and assault weapons that most gun lovers have no need for, plus the masses of retailers across the country. To claim that these little guys need the same constitutional protection as our democracy is a bit wild. I can think of a number of pretty repulsive minority practices that would fall into that same category. The real issue is whether you believe that our congress members or state legislators should be able to be bought and sold by special interests, even the ones you agree with. If you do, then lets cut to the chase: selling votes should be made legal! Bribery and payola should be made legal. After all, thats just another form of free speech.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Fri 1 Oct 04 03:07
Without getting too deeply into a gun-politics thrash, I'd like the authors to address the argument that mcb raises (and that Jack rebuts) concerning NRA as a membership-funded organization. There's no doubt in my mind that NRA has a huge grassroots base, which is something that Big Pharma can't claim. At the same time, I do wonder how much of their money comes from corporate backers. Is NRA truly the membership-driven organization it presents itself as being, or is the membership component just window dressing for an industrial interest. (What little I know suggests the former, but I'm happy to be educated on this.)
Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Fri 1 Oct 04 10:28
I'd like to tackle Michael's accusation first: "So the gun-control example shows that that authors are not really interested in promoting a system of financing by large numbers of small donors, but merely in promoting a particular political agenda of the Left." Hmmm. Is that why Rep. Chris Rector, a Republican serving in the Maine legislature, says of Clean Money/Clean Elections: "Clean Elections has been great for democracy in Maine. It allows any individual with community support to run for office, it has increased voter choice, and increased competition, while at the same time leveling the playing field for all candidates"? In 2002, more than half, 54% of Republicans, ran "clean" in Maine and 34% of Republicans ran "clean" in Arizona. Thirty-three Republicans running clean were elected to the Maine legislature, and 15 Republicans running clean were elected to the AZ legislature. So...chew on that. On the issue of the NRA being a membership-based organization, it is a group that certainly does have a large number of members many of whom are small donors. That said, there are certainly links to industry interests as well. I wrote in 1998 in "The Buying of the Congress," (by Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity, Avon Books) about how gun manufacturers, dealers, etc. are amply represented in the list of donors to the NRA's Foundation. While the NRA was not required to list exact information on the dollar amounts of this funding, it was at the time in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Among the donors were William Ruger, of the Connecticut-based gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Company; Petersen Publishing Company, which publishes Guns & Ammo magazine; Philip Morris; and the Smokeless Tobacco Council. In addition, several NRA board members had business interests in the industry, such as gun powder and ammunition manufacturing.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Fri 1 Oct 04 12:23
I would add that it isnt just Democrats and Republicans who like the clean money approach, even Libertarians have joined in praising it. Ask the legislators who have experienced it and youll see consistent support. See www.azclean.org and dont miss the one-page reports in the center of the page. I met with legislators in Arizona who vehemently opposed it in the beginning but who now wouldnt have it any other way. The can actually spend time with their families rather than cozy up to contributors. The basic issue hasnt changed, though. Do you want politicians who are for sale to the highest bidder? Thats what we have today. There are only two kinds of money in this world: public and private. As an ex-CEO I can assure you that these corporate leaders do not give cash unless they get something in return, and they usually succeed. What they get back usually comes from the taxpayers at about a 400-to-1 ratio (lest there not be any mistake here: The CEOs give the 1 and the taxpayers give the 400). This is an investment that is hard for the businessman to turn down, but all too easy for the politician to accept. The authors have written how, on virtually every issue in virtually every industry, the congressional vote has but one common denominator: the dollar bill. If youve got enough of them you can get virtually anything passed (or blocked). I dont want my congressman bought by anybody; not even the special interests I support. If a bill is good for the public it shouldnt need cash to grease it through the system. Only bad bills do, and that should have everybody worried.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 1 Oct 04 13:19
It seems to me that cynical jokes about "one dollar one vote" used to get more of a reaction. Do you think we're seeing complacency? And what of the idea that a non-quantified universal right like "free speech" can be grafted to an unevenly distributed counting mechanism like money?
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Fri 1 Oct 04 14:29
A question related to Gail's is: what kind of political reform can we structure around Buckley v. Valeo, which said campaign contribution limits are constitutional, but limits on expenditures are not? Is the Clean Money/Clean Elections reform the only reform that can get us traction on the problem of money in elections, or are there other possible fixes as well? Also, doesn't the Clean Money/Clean Elections scheme give a serious step up to (serious) third-party candidates (Libertarian, Green, etc.)?
William H. Dailey (whdailey) Fri 1 Oct 04 22:23
Is there no punishment for ignoring your oath of office?
John Adams (jonl) Fri 1 Oct 04 22:25
Email from John Adams: Gail asks in #58: It seems to me that cynical jokes about "one dollar one vote" used to get more of a reaction. Do you think we're seeing complacency? And I reply: No, I think we're seeing a fair number of people abandoning the idea that "one person one vote" is a bedrock principle, and some similar rejection of democracy in general.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Fri 1 Oct 04 23:01
Clean Money/Clean Elections indeed would allow third party candidates an opportunity to run competitive races. On their own, Libertarians have done poorly in the races. But under CM/CE in Arizona they have won seats. But thats also why some of the objections to the system by some Rs and Ds there are more independents and third party members than either of the two major parties alone, and members of the duopoly tend to like things just as they are. Also, people tend not to invest heavily in non mainstream candidates because they fear they are throwing their money away. But under CM/CE the outsiders have a chance and the public benefits from the diversity of ideas brought to the table. Diversity also makes passing biased legislation harder when one or the other party has the reigns.
Uncle Jax (jax) Sat 2 Oct 04 11:41
>Is there no punishment for ignoring your oath of office? Yes there is. You get re-elected.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Sat 2 Oct 04 18:37
"But that?s also why some of the objections to the system by some R?s and D?s ? there are more independents and third party members than either of the two major parties alone, and members of the duopoly tend to like things just as they are." That's really incorrect. The third-parties problem is a real one -- namely, that when a third-party candidate shows up he tends to split the vote on his side of the issues, giving the advantage to the candidate whose views are furthest away from the third-party candidate's.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Sat 2 Oct 04 19:24
The numbers I gave are fairly correct, but I did not address the problem of third party candidates that drain votes from the majors, and that is a very real problem that I agree with you on. Our winner-take-all electoral system resulted in the Florida fiasco in 2000 and promises to plague us many times over. Forgive me for a moment as I stray from the subject of Clean Money elections. The solution for the problem you describe is called Instant Runoff Voting, or preferential voting. With Instant Runoff Voting, each ballot contains checkboxes for your first, second, third and subsequent choices. It is simple, fair and easy to administer with optical card reading systems which have proven to be the most reliable and easily accommodate hand counting verification. Suppose the following: Three candidates, Satan, Suse, and Angel: Angel is running with the Gold party, Suse with the Silver party and Satan is running with the "Red Devil" party. Most people (60%) prefer Angel or Suse over Satan but their votes are split 35% for Angel and 25% for Suse. Nonetheless, Satan wins with 40%, well short of a majority, and proceeds to advance the cause of evil over the period of his term. Thats the current system! Instant runoff voting solves this "spoiler" dilemma by eliminating the person with the least votes (Suse), and holding an immediate 2nd round in the election (by computer), dividing Suse's votes amongst their 2nd choices so that voters elect a candidate the majority (> 51%) prefers over the loser. In this case, Angel would win with 60% to Satan's 40% assuming all of Suse's supporters would prefer Angel over Satan. This is easily done with a simple matrix ballot and immediate computerized totaling. If the voter confuses the ballot it is automatically rejected and he can immediately recast his vote (they simply cannot put two or more marks in the same column or row). Only one election is held. Vote for Suse but if Suse fails to get 51%, your vote is automatically applied to Angel, and Angel wins on the 2nd count. Candidate Choices 1st 2nd 3rd 1st Count 2nd Count Angel ____ _X_ ___ 35% 60% Suse _X_ ___ ___ 25% 0 Satin ____ ___ _X_ 40% 40% This system would give third-party candidates a chance to demonstrate their real support and wed really know where the Democrat and Republican support is lacking. But thats why the current duopoly opposes it. Theyd rather keep third-party support to its absolute minimum, and the current system forces the Greens, Reform and Libertarians to vote for the lesser of the two evils (so they dont throw their vote away). So the Rs and Ds appear to be the most popular even though there are more independents than either of the two major parties alone. Since the Rs and the Ds are calling the shots, only extreme public pressure stands any chance of changing things. Other electoral approaches that should be considered are the parliamentary system and proportional representation, but when you have congressmen who currently enjoy a 90% reelection rate fostered by our moneyed political system, their priorities are naturally aimed more at self interest than public interest. Perhaps nothing will change until we have a complete turnover in our elected officials. (Now, theres a thought!)
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Sat 2 Oct 04 19:59
Let me add one additional thing: The Clean Money Clean Elections system that the authors propose will allow other electoral reforms like that in #65 to occur. When politicians become beholden to the taxpayers and voters rather than the fat cats that funded them, they'll quickly start looking and listening to the people instead of their pocketbooks. CM/CE will indeed restore democracy.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Sun 3 Oct 04 06:59
I do agree that the instant-runoff voting scheme (which I think is the same thing as "the Australian ballot") is preferable to the current system. It seems to me that advocates of Clean Money Clean Elections should always pitch instant-runoff voting as well.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Sun 3 Oct 04 07:57
You are right, and also Cambridge MA and now San Francisco. It is catching on slowly in the US by www.fairvote.org, but all reformers should get behind the effort. This year, even as a lifelong Republican, I'd like to vote for Ralph Nader... not because he'd make it but because I'd like to send a message to the duopoly that I'm not happy with the status quo. My second vote will likely go to Bush. Nader has some really good ideas and some really bad ideas, but congress has a way of taming way-out proposals. He even supports CM/CE and would not veto it if it got to his desk. My hope is that if enough states with the initiative process gets CM/CE voted in by the people, then perhaps my state will follow suit. (Wisconsin has a non binding referendum, and though campaign reform was approved by over 70% of the voters in 2000, the people cannot force it on the legislature. We sit waiting.) For those interested, I've written a white paper on the high costs our current moneyed system costs the public, with emphasis on the health care issue, and it sources the authors. See www.wi-cfr.org/High_health_care_costs_plus.pdf
Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Mon 4 Oct 04 11:09
I apologize for not checking in more frequently the last 3 days. A good friend had a serious accident and I've been in and out of the hospital visiting her. On the third-party conundrum, let me offer this (I wrote a book called Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America <http://www.spoilingforafight.com>, so this is familiar territory). Third parties and independent candidates play a vital role in American politics because they often manage to bring neglected issues and constituencies to the fore. Under winner-take-all representation, it is very hard for them to win office, but they "win" as well when their ideas and proposals are adopted (aome would say co-opted) by the major parties. That's how abolition of slavery, ending child labor, women's suffrage, the 40-hour-work week, unemployment compensation, direct election of Senators and a number of other valuable reforms first entered the political process. Different states are taking differing approaches to giving public funding to third-party candidates. In Maine and Arizona, it's a level playing field--once a candidate qualifies by collecting enough $5 contributions, they get the same grant as a major party candidate. In California, where CM activists are hard at work, the legislation they've developed envisions a two-tiered level of funding, depending on how large the party is (based on prior election showings). Getting more diversity of voices into the process is a good thing. Interestingly, the availability of clean money appears to have convinced at least some third-party supporters to shift toward the major party route. I know of former Greens in Maine who ran "clean" as Democrats in 2002, reasoning that they were more likely to win that way and yet could run liberated of the usual constraints that come from being dependent on private interests. In Arizona, Krysten Sinema ran clean as an independent in 2002 for the state legislature and is this time running as a Democrat. So, to assume that providing public funding is automatically going to fracture the race is too simple a view. That said, I am in full agreement with those who are calling for instant-runoff voting (like Jack Lohman, who I should thank for all his perceptive posts), and Public Campaign has been supportive of the Center for Voting and Democracy's work, in that regard.
from JOHN ADAMS (tnf) Mon 4 Oct 04 22:44
John Adams writes: ...don't you think it attempts to take the politics out of politics? I mean, if we had the voting strength to put in IRV, we'd have the voting strength to not need IRV. All the best, John A
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Tue 5 Oct 04 10:06
I think we are always going to need third-party candidates, John, and I indeed favor taking the politics out of politics. I want politicians making decisions that are in the best interest of the public, not the political scene. Both CM/CE and IRV allow that when viable third party candidates challenge the duopoly. Right now neither party is discussing the real problem our corrupt political system because they are both the reason for it. Introduce a Nader or Ventura and it would become part of the discussion and ultimately a hope for the solution. Make no mistake about it; we do not have the voting strength to get in IRV or CM/CE, or wed have both today. We dont have anywhere near the amount of cash that would be needed to buy these logical pieces of legislation, as do the special interests that buy favors and are opposing a level playing field. They get a real cash return on their investment that makes it easy to justify their expenditure. Getting the hundreds of millions of dollars (from citizens) to buy the congressional votes needed here would be nearly impossible (and dubious at best). As I mentioned in an earlier post, if a bill is good for the public it shouldnt need cash to grease it through the system only bad bills do and the forces on the other side are greater because the rewards for them are tangible.
brighter clouds ahead (noebie) Tue 5 Oct 04 13:00
just popping in to compliment the authors on their book-tv appearance over the weekend...it was very enjoyable
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Oct 04 13:55
Do we really need parties at all? Political parties emerged to meet a need to aggregate blocs of voters, but with the communications infrastructure we have now, we could form coalitions around issues and initiatives rather than platforms, and voters could be more independent.
from JOHN ADAMS (tnf) Tue 5 Oct 04 15:27
John Adams writes: I dunno, Jon, I think independence is an over-rated virtue in politics, and particularly in voting. If you don't have cooperation, you don't have politics, and increasing the independence of voters doesn't do anything to encourage cooperation. (I realize I'm talking geek heresy--I'll toss in the suggestion that Libertarianism is twenty-first century Luddism, just to really alienate people.) Consider: The vast majority of Americans, voting and non-voting, want some form of national health insurance. Will they get it? Not a chance, so long as those who don't want it have "No" around which to organize themselves--it's easy to agree on "No"--and, more importantly, until that vast majority agrees on _what_ sort of health plan they want. Parties and partisanship offer an organizing principle, and some amount of discipline to get things done which require cooperation rather than independence. Voting isn't about my virtues, or yours--it's a civic duty, aggregate if not collective. I'm looking forward to having a Democratic Party determined to out-organize and out-fight the Republicans. That's one thing which made Jimmy Carter's letter to Zell Miller so refreshing--Carter's open embrace of the virtues of party and partisanship. That's an old- fashioned idea, I suppose, but I think it's either one whose time has come again or one (more likely) whose time had never really left. That's part of what I'm thinking when I read what you say, too, Jack--that the problem isn't the lack of a third party so much as the lack of a second party. The situation of forty years ago has reversed--the Republicans are well-organized and largely in agreement on most things, while the Democrats have no real agreement amongst themselves on core issues. This, I think, is changing, so far as the Democrats are concerned, and given how like the overconfident American left of the late seventies and early eighties the right wing sounds just now, I wouldn't be shocked if the Republicans had a little implosion of their own over the next ten years. All the best, John A
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 5 Oct 04 15:55
> Consider: The vast majority of Americans, voting and non-voting, > want some form of national health insurance. Will they get it? I don't look on that necessarily as a failure of the political system. It *should* be relatively hard for A and B to get together and decide that C ought to pay for something. National health insurance is popular with a majority if you just ask, "Are you in favor of....?" but that's like asking people if they're in favor of having free ice cream. When you start to get into the details of actually paying for it, with the increased taxes involved, and the limitations and inflexibility of the coverage, and so forth, the "vast majority" shrinks dramatically. And even a "vast majority" should have a limit on income- and wealth-redistribution. So regardless of whther one is pro or con, I don't think it's an example of systemic failure, but of dynamic politics.
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