excerpts and quotations form the book

Money and Politics

Financing Our Elections Democratically

by David Donnelly, Janice Fine, Ellen S. Miller

Beacon Press, 1999

David Hume, 1758
"Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of the rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find out that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and the maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as the most free and popular."

To deny inconvenient opinions a hearing is one way the few have of controlling the many.

... the printed word in the form of "news" is propaganda disguised as fact ...

The few will always control the many through manufactured opinion, which bedazzles and confuses the many when it is not just plain dumbing them down into the dust ...

... our system of electing politicians to office is rotten and corrupted to its core, because organized money has long since replaced organized people as the author of our politics. And most of it comes from rich people and corporations, who now own our political process-lock, stock, and pork barrel.

Of the billions now spent each election cycle, most is donated in checks exceeding $I,000. But less than one-tenth of I percent of the general population make individual contributions at this rate. And among group contributors, better than 90 percent comes from corporations.

In the I996 election cycle less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the American people [approximately 600,000] gave contributions of $200 or more to a federal candidate. Only 4 percent made any contribution of any size to any candidate for office-federal, state, or local. On average, only 20 percent of the money came from individuals giving contributions of less than $200 per candidate. That means that an astonishing 80 percent of political money came from the tiny group of donors who gave $200 or more.

Business interests already contribute seven times as much as labor organizations do, and ten times as much as ideological groups. For example, in I996, energy interests gave $2I million in congressional races, whereas environmental groups gave just $2 million.

Barney Frank, Democrat, Massachusetts

We are the only human beings in the world who are expected to take thousands of dollars from perfect strangers on important matters and not be affected by it.

PACs are now responsible for only 25 percent of funding for congressional campaigns. And because PACs are not the exclusive vehicle for wealthy donors, a PAC ban might further slant the playing field: it would disarm labor unions and other interest groups that raise their money from a large number of small contributions from their members. Business interests do not now rely on PACs for their political contributions. If PACs were banned tomorrow, business would simply channel all, rather than most, of its money through large individual contributions. A PAC ban, if constitutional, would take us back to the days when there were no PACs and most of the money used to finance political campaigns came from wealthy business executives.

[In 1976] in Buckley v. Valeo ... the [Supreme] Court ruled that political spending was protected by the First Amendment, in effect equating money with speech ... Because of Buckley, there can be no mandatory spending limits and any system of public financing must optional

Though Americans accept the legitimacy of the economic inequality that enables the rich to buy fancier cars and more homes, they do not generally accept the current role of private money in our political system because they do not think that the rich are entitled to greater political representation. But the current system establishes precisely that entitlement: it effectively allocates political power according to economic status, and treats participation in the political system just as it treats participation in the marketplace.

The real scandal in our political system is what is legal.

We need to name the enemy - the rich people and corporations who have bought government lock, stock, and barrel.

Limit contributions to a size within the reach of average citizens, such as a maximum of $I00, so everyone is on a more level playing field when it comes to participating in politics; limit the amount of money a candidate can accept from outside his or her district to (say) no more than 25 percent of total fund-raising, thereby forcing reliance on support from constituents entitled to vote for a candidate; limit spending (including independent and personal expenditures) to low levels that allow candidates who do not depend on large contributions to nonetheless raise sufficient money to compete; and severely limit big-money PACs while empowering people PACs, which take only very small donations.

We must take steps to increase voter participation. These efforts should include-but not be limited to early voting, same-day voting, vote-by-mail, twenty-four-hour voting, and making election day a national holiday.

Reforming the Electoral Process

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