Sunday, October 17, 2010

Campaign Finances, Free Speech, and Buying Your Vote.

I've had two conversations today on the same subject. The subject was the recent US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to contribute to political campaigns. Each of the two people I was talking to began with the premise that this decision was a bad thing and only aggravated the tendency of money to matter more than principles in elections for public office. While I agree that money should not be the factor that determines the winner of an election (otherwise I'd lose), I do not agree that corporations should be prohibited from spending whatever they want to try to influence an election. The primary reason why is Freedom of Speech. Corporations represent their shareholders in the same way that trade unions represent their workers. Trade unions have always had free reign to fund political campaigns, so I think it is only fair that their bosses be given the same accommodation. Free Speech is the better, more principled argument, but the practical effects of a balance of terror also make sense to me.

That being said, I do not think that money should have such an outsized influence on politics. This is not the fault of the politicians or of their wealthy financiers. It is the fault of the voters. Watch me as I make a huge "political mistake" right after another. First, I'm going to hold voters to task for allowing themselves to be bought, then I'm going to mention the names of my opponents...twice.

Campaign finance reports are public. The FEC requires Federal candidates to report all of their donations and expenses at regular intervals once they reach a certain threshold. Brent Wangen, the Libertarian candidate for the US House of Representatives, has been filing his reports this entire election cycle in the interests of transparency and OVER-disclosure, though he has only recently met the threshold requiring him to do so. Delaware state candidates must file these reports annually, as well as 30 and 8 days before a primary election if they're participating, and then at the same intervals before a general election. These reports are required if the office pays more than $1000 or if more than $2000 is raised during the election cycle. Obviously, I have filed my first report already as we are less than 30 days out.

My opponents have also filed theirs:
Brad Bennett
Beth B Miller

Have you read them? Do you know who has bought and paid for the candidates seeking to represent you in the Delaware House of Representatives? If a candidate is bankrolled by party organizations, incumbent politicians, trade associations, and PACs, who do you think they'll call first when they are deciding how to vote? If a candidate's website doesn't allow comments, doesn't include regular updates of their own thoughts, and doesn't provide direct contact information, how much do you think they care what you think?

Brad Bennett's website
Beth B Miller's website

On the other hand, if a candidate not only accepts comments on their website and Facebook page, but publishes updates regularly without running it through an extensive staff of party hacks, and lists his direct email address and phone number, how likely are you to be able to bend their ear? If a candidate gets funding from his parents, his grandma, a college buddy, and then an assortment of small dollar contributions dropped in a can at open forum campaign events, along with a hefty sum of his own money, who do you think he'll answer to?

If a candidate is relying on a statewide turnout machine from an incumbent party like the Democrats or Republicans, who will they ingratiate themselves to at every opportunity? If the candidate is instead relying on walking his district and talking to constituents, begging them to consider an alternative choice, answering questions until you're ready to kick him off your doorstep, and asking you personally to come out to vote, does that candidate have the same divided allegiances?

I'm done yelling at you now, my dear voters. Please promptly forget the names of the candidates opposing me I dared to name above.
will mcvay
Do not forget the party machines who have been corrupting and controlling your legislators for the last 150 years. Do not forget who will always take your calls and do everything possible to answer your questions. Do not forget who is one of you trying to get by compared to who lives in a disconnected fantasy world where a tribal party label trumps a neighborly relationship. Do not forget to vote on November 2nd.
will mcvay
Thank you. Don't mind the subliminal messages. will mcvay

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