Monday, October 23, 2006

The Will - And The Money - Of The People: A New Idea That Has NO CHANCE!

Here's a quick and simple campaign finance reform - Require that any contributions to a candidate MUST designate THAT CANDIDATE and THAT ONE CAMPAIGN as the ONLY permissible beneficiary of that money. The donor would indicate on, and at the donation, for whom it was intended and for which one campaign it is to be used.
Candidates could raise as much as they want in this manner, without limit, but any excess funds (after all expenses and debts are extinguished) could NOT be used in any other campaign, even a later one by the same candidate. Maybe, by rule, any excess that did remain would need to be donated within a specific time period, e.g., 3-4 months after the campaign ends, to some well known charitable concern(s), perhaps from an approved list.
This would prevent the most popular (or controversial) candidates amassing huge war chests and then acting as sugar-daddies to other candidates in their party, or perhaps using the funds themselves to finance an early start on their next campaign, e.g., a run at their party's Presidential nomination. In fact, it would eliminate the rationale for raising excessive funds in the first place, certainly something "devoutly to be wished".
Because donors would not see their $$ used at a different time and place - to say nothing of it being used for a different politician - than they'd originally intended, this reform would reflect the "will of the people" much better. And think of the many positive ripple effects. First of all, in some races, probably much less fund raising would be needed because so much less could be used. Second, what would occur would be distributed much more broadly, i.e., far less concentrated in terms of who controls that money. And, it would be much more targeted based on the "will of the people", or at least on the will of the donors. Of course, funds donated to a political party could not be limited as to the candidate who benefits, but at least the campaign season could be limited to the current one, so there'd be no carry-overs allowed into a later years' campaign.
In as much as money is free speech, as the Supreme Court has told us, this form of free speech would suddenly be a far more accurate reflection of the public will. But, alas, many ideas (at least, many of mine) are both good and, realistically speaking, thoroughly hopeless of enactment. This is just one more.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mark Foley, Congressional Pages and Revisiting a Silly NonIssue

Some months ago I wrote about a silly non-issue - the fact that our Senators and Congressmen sometimes miss recording their votes on issues because they're not physically present on Capitol Hill. I raised the point that, in the year 2006, that's about the silliest thing there is.
Give me a break - if you need to vote but are not there at the moment, just fax it in, e-mail it, Blackberry it, for God's sake, "beam it up" to the Hill. Heck, if I can pay my bills every month via the Internet - and not end up in debtor's prison - surely Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or another of our super rich wizz kids, or their progeny, can figure out a simple, modern way that our august legislators can transmit their Yeas and Nays electronically, from anywhere on earth, without fraud or failure, to the hallowed halls of Congress. Missing votes because of absence is truly a phony issue and avoiding a vote by conveniently being out of town is nothing more than a fake maneuver!
But now, because of the Mark Foley scandal, are you telling me we have Capitol Hill Pages who still act as messengers and couriers doing errands and physically running messages throughout the building? No wonder one of our Representatives, Illinois' Ray LaHood, has raised the idea of suspending the Page Program to re-evaluate whether it is anachronistic and way out of date in 2006 and, if it's still needed, whether it should be modified in some way to be more contemporary.
Makes sense to me. For sending information back and forth, what's the matter with the telephone, the fax machine or e-mail, to say nothing of IM - Instant Messaging? They're all faster and e-mail is a precisely documented and confirmable way for our senators/representatives to communicate with each other. Online conversations are captured exactly as written with an exact time/date stamp.
So, maybe LaHood is right, and if we do automate their communications to the 21st century, then we could finally put a welcome end to the nonsense defense they like to throw up at us when they happen to be (ever so strategically) absent from the floor of the House or Senate at crucial moments for key votes.