The Peristaltic Testator (peristaltor) wrote in talk_politics,
The Peristaltic Testator

A True Utopia: Money-Free Campaigns

I thought I'd combine the month's topic with Friday Lulz.

Here in the States, thanks to Citizens United, money is now speech. Fine and dandy. The problem, to me, is a bit like what happened to my sister and her husband. They and everyone who owned a home in a series of out-of-town developments were invited to a planning meeting. The area "might" be incorporated into the near-by city's limits. And you should have seen those new "proposed" boundaries! The one new addition was a snaking umbilical on the map that literally followed a road out to the fairly new additions in the fairly new and somewhat affluent 'burb developments, then surrounded them and quite a bit of land nearby. The new city boundaries incorporated the road leading to the new money, but ignored all the poorer residents along the road.

Just about everyone in these developments thought this was a ridiculous idea and were ready to squash it in a vote. They were informed, though, that the votes were weighted not by names listed as owners on the deeds of trust and mortgage notes, but by how much their land was worth. The new incorporation lines were actually proposed by the owner of a large area not yet developed, stands of timber adjacent to the suburban tracts already built. The largest timber company owned the stands and planned to develop them in the future. They decided to allow the city to incorporate their land to raise the value of the development (or something).

Everyone in the meeting was informed that even if everyone banded together to strike down the incorporation, The Timber Giant had enough "votes" to pass it against them. The meeting was just a formality required under state law.

This is exactly the world (IMNSHO) that Citizen United has brought. We might as well call this new country the Citizens United States.

Which brings me to the hypothetical legal modification and Utopia.

Pondering over beers, I had a thought: Right now, it is illegal to give a bribe to a politician, yet it is perfectly legal to donate to his or her campaign. What if any and all campaign contributions were considered bribery? There's some anecdotal support for this interpretation in all but law. In a recent podcast I heard (sorry, forgot which), a former lobbyist brought a citizens group wanting something to the office of a Representative, who asked the lobbyist into his office alone. He said he had just called down to his campaign director, and noted that no new contributions from the people in his waiting area had given him a reason to take any action on their request. The way he phrased it probably passed legal muster, but to the lobbyist is smacked of a shake-down. He quit lobbying shortly after.

So. Let's hypothetically say that any and all cash contributions to campaigns were considered bribes and thereby outlawed. Let's go further, for the Friday lulz: what if any commercial advertising on behalf of a candidate were considered election fraud? Television and radio stations make serious bank in election season, yet the owners balk at even simple requirements to update their required disclosures to electronic format, calling it "burdensome." This smacks me as someone obfuscating the billions nationwide contributions buy, and might just reveal a telling conflict of interest: What if a review of contributions and a review of a station or network's political coverage revealed bias toward the biggest advertising candidates? Calling commercial ads election fraud would put a stop to this right away, wouldn't it? Extend this to billboards and radio, of course. Cable stations and pop-up ads, too.

My question for the LULZ: What would such a society look like? What staples of campaigns would disappear, and what would/should/could replace these staples? How would a society function, if at all? How would elections take place, and how differently? Has anyone with their ears on overseas witnessed similar situations in other countries?

Oh, and mods, why haven't we got a Friday Lulz tag? Just curious.
Tags: campaigning, ethics, infrastructure, propaganda, social norms, utopia
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