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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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7 comments on “Reform-mania

  1. jstegall says:

    At the risk of causing you to reconsider, let me say that I agree 100% with your proposal. In fact, it’s something I’ve been advocating for quite a while now. For once you are sounding like a true democrat, and not just a member of the political party that uses that name.

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Pearce.

  2. Anglico says:

    A Libertarian alien appears to have taken up resident inside you … and Stegall is right … you SHOULD reconsider this ill-conceived idea.

    In some utopian world, full disclosure might make a whit of difference, but the power of money cannot be subverted by the bright light of instant disclosure. The influence of corporate money in politics currently swamps the influence of personal money by many magnitudes . . . and both corporate and personal contributions come from just a tiny portion (less than 1%) of the population. Which means 99% of people have barely the foggiest idea where money comes from and who’s buying what election. And people working two jobs and raising three kids are most unlikely to spend the time to find out which candidate got bought by Variety Stores and which got bought by Duke Energy.

    Should those people make the time? Sure they should. They should also meet with their kids teachers every week and follow the activities of lobbyists and investigate the expenditures of non-profits they support and more.

    But they don’t and they won’t. And wishful thinking that they might is the kind of nonsense I’ve come to expect from free market wackos, not from you.

    At least you haven’t pretended that the media will somehow cover all those instantaneous disclosures and publicize them like good little watchdogs.

  3. jstegall says:

    Mr. Protzman’s arguement is classic fascism. “The people do not vote as I wish them to, so I will monkey with the rules until they have no choice but to do as I say.”

    How can anyone raised in America come to such a conclusion? Undeniably, campaign contributions fund political speech. The government has no right to restrict political speech, but when it sets limits on campaign contributions that is exactly what it is doing.

    The impulse to muzzle the opposition (which is all this idea of restricting contributions is really about) is as old as politics itself, and one that the framers thought they had countered by passing the First Amendment. Unfortunately they could not forsee how we would eventually come to misunderstand and misinterpret their precious gift to us. Comments like those of Mr. Protzman make me wonder whether we as a people are still fit to have our democracy. History has shown that those who do not understand and value their rights have no chance of keeping them.

  4. Anglico says:

    It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when I read Mr. Stegall’s exhuberant hyperbole on this thread. Such confidence about such wrong-headedness is truly astounding.

    But if wanting to eliminate the crush of coorporate money from politics is “classic facism” then I plead guilty. I don’t know which founding fathers old Jim is channeling to, but they aren’t the ones I’ve studied over the years. I suspect the unfettered ability of businesses to buy elections would have been as reprehensible to them as it is to me.

  5. jstegall says:

    Study harder. Free speech was considered “unfettered hyperbole” (and worse) back then as well. I don’t mind keeping the tradition alive.

    And by the way, can you name one instance of an election being ‘bought’ with corporate money? Seems like all the ones I’ve ever seen boil down to who gets the most votes.

  6. Anglico says:

    Let’s defer this discussion until we hear from the State Board of Elections on the petition from Richard Morgan re: RLM electioneering.

    On second thought, let’s abandon it altogether. This is waste of my time. Adios.

  7. jstegall says:

    Well Mr. Protzman, the results are in, and you lose. The democrat-dominated board of elections voted 4-1 in favor of Mr. Pope, dismissing Mr. Morgan’s claims.

    Looks like free speech will live to fight another day, despite the best efforts of your friends and allies on the left.

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