Archive for the 'Public financing' Category
Tom Edsall’s piece on Congressional public financing proposals imparts a good sense of both their appeal and their vulnerabilities—the reasons why they have strong supporters and equally committed detractors. Of all the points of disagreement, perhaps the simplest is the use of public money: either you believe that political reform, like any other, requires funding, or you will protest that the use of taxpayer dollars is nothing more than “welfare for politicians.” Should the argument move from there, the competing claims about costs and benefits are notoriously hard to test, and what passes for an acceptable case depends on profound differences in political perspective.
These are the principal claims:
--less corruption: that dependence on private funding can lead to quid pro quo corruption;
--better public policy: that candidates who spent too much time fundraising develop a skewed view of public and policy priorities--and there can be a related objective, highlighted by Edsall, that public financing schemes will result in better progressive policy, such as a higher minimum wage, stronger gun controls and the abolition of the death penalty;
--better electoral process: that ordinary citizens without wealth or high-level connections would have more of a chance to run for office, offering more choice in candidate backgrounds, worldviews and platforms;
--better government: that candidates would spend less time on fundraising and more at their jobs;
--more political equality: that the political system would benefit overall from a more “level playing field.”
In judging the Robert’s Court record on campaign finance, Rick Hasen finds that progressives have little to cheer about, except that it might have been worse. He looks into the reasons why the Court majority has moved more slowly toward deregulation than some might have predicted, and, as one might expect, his analysis is insightful. Election Law’s Path in the Roberts Court’s First Decade: A Sharp Right Turn But with Speed Bumps and Surprising Twists (August 4, 2015). UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-70. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2639902. But he also assigns the Court heavy responsibility for the state of reform. Hasen writes that, as a result of decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Roberts Court majority has “caused the existing campaign finance system to slowly implode,” launching reform into a” death spiral” and erecting “structural impediments” that prevent further reform.
To be sure, the Court’s rulings have contributed to the collapse of the ‘70s reforms, and there is no doubt that its jurisprudence complicates the pursuit of reform programs—that is, certain reform programs that follow the very Watergate-era model that has largely come apart. But an account focused on the Court skips to the middle of the story; it leaves too much out.