posted on August 16, 2006 14:53
Nothing is quite so repellent – or dangerous – as a politician in the throes of reform-mania. Witness the North Carolina legislature.
To start with, no legislator really wanted to pass lobbying or campaign finance reform. They liked the old system. After all, they had designed it to serve themselves.
So they did what they had to do to satisfy the press, especially The News & Observer.
The 60-page monstrosity they produced may – in the end – do far more damage than good.
For example, I’m told the law as nearly passed could have required all newspaper editorial writers to register as lobbyists – because they are in the business of influencing elections.
How about bloggers? Do they – we – all have to register and file expenses?
And lobbyists. They can still solicit money for legislators. They just can’t touch the checks.
For all the new regulations in the law, there are more loopholes. And smart people will figure out the loopholes by the next election.
The cliché today is that money, like water, always finds a way.
Therein lies the fundamental problem: True reformers don’t want money in politics – period. But in politics today you cannot run for office unless you can afford to communicate with thousands, even millions, of voters.
That costs money. Most candidates, unlike reporters and editors, don’t have instant, free access to hundreds of thousands of readers. They have to pay for it. So they either have to be rich or they have to ask rich people for money.
Making it harder to ask doesn’t make the problem go away.
My solution: total deregulation of campaign contributions. That’s right: no limits on how much you can give, no limits on corporate money, no limits on labor or interest group money.
Instead, require instant reporting – on the Internet – of every dollar given and received.
Let the money flow. And let the voters know who it’s flowing from and who it’s flowing to.
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