inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #51 of 111: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #52 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #53 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #54 of 111: 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 let’s cut to the chase: selling votes should be made
legal! 

Bribery and payola should be made legal. After all, that’s just
another form of free speech. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #55 of 111: 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.)
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #56 of 111: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #57 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Fri 1 Oct 04 12:23
    
I would add that it isn’t 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 you’ll see consistent
support. See www.azclean.org and don’t 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 wouldn’t have it any other way.
The can actually spend time with their families rather than cozy up to
contributors.

The basic issue hasn’t changed, though. Do you want politicians who
are for sale to the highest bidder? That’s 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 you’ve got enough of them you can get virtually
anything passed (or blocked). 

I don’t want my congressman bought by anybody; not even the special
interests I support. If a bill is good for the public it shouldn’t need
cash to grease it through the system. Only bad bills do, and that
should have everybody worried. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #58 of 111: 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?  
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #59 of 111: 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.)?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #60 of 111: William H. Dailey (whdailey) Fri 1 Oct 04 22:23
    
Is there no punishment for ignoring your oath of office?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #61 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #62 of 111: 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 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. 

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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #63 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #64 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #65 of 111: 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. That’s 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 we’d really know where the Democrat and
Republican support is lacking. But that’s why the current duopoly
opposes it. They’d 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 don’t
throw their vote away). So the R’s and D’s appear to be the most
popular even though there are more independents than either of the two
major parties alone. 

Since the R’s and the D’s 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, there’s a thought!)
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #66 of 111: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #67 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #68 of 111: 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
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #69 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #70 of 111: 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
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #71 of 111: 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 we’d have both today. We don’t 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
shouldn’t 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #72 of 111: 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
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #73 of 111: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #74 of 111: 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
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #75 of 111: 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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