I am on the AFA mailing list, not because I agree with them, I actually disagree with almost everything they say, but I find their boycots of Ford and Disney World (and others) rather humorous.
Believe it or not I read each email they send to me and recently it dawned on me that they had a valid point. Should congress limit ones ability to convince someone else to vote for a candidate? Congress, usually with McCain and Feingold (whose web site looks like a professors) leading the charge. While I agree wholehardedly that the government needs campaign finance reform, certain aspects of it bother me. For example, should I be allowed to email my friends with my opinion of candidates for office? Should the AFA be allowed to? What about an opt-in mailing list?
Another sticking point is whether limits on donations restrict one’s first amendment right to free speech? It appears more and more that it does not, but as always the answer is more complicated as you break the donations up between soft money, hard money, etc. Mitch McConnell was one of the ones leading the charge against reform, or at least McCain/Feingold’s version of reform.
So I offer a simple solution. It places on the burden on those taking donations. Take all the donations you want but you cannot vote on any issues relating to those you took donations from. In other words all conflicts of interest must be avoided. This would also work in reverse. If you are sueing Microsoft as an Attorney General and Microsoft donates money to your campaign or your party, you must return the funds, unlike Charlie Condon did[abstract]. The neuonce of that last sentence is the word party. If you are a member of a political party and that party gives you money or any direct campaign help, like ads, etc, the party becomes transparent and the donations to the party are treated as if they were made to directly to the candidate.
Let’s run through some examaple to make sure the idea is clear.
Senator Larry Smith takes a donation from the RIAA and then a bill that would make music piracy a federal crime comes to the floor. Senator Smith cannot vote on the bill. If he does, he could be charged with a mistermeanor for conflict of interest, or perhaps even bribery, even if his vote was not beneficial to the RIAA.
Senator Lucy Samuels receives a donation from Ford and she is about to vote on raising the fuel effeiecncy standards. She must either not vote or return the funds to Ford.
Senator Bill Lewis receives money from a PAC (or his party) and the PAC (or his party) received money from Exxon. He cannot vote on any legislation that may effect Exxon. This includes all riders. So if the federal budget includes money for oil subsides, Mr. Lewis can’t even vote on the budget. At first there will be only a handful of senators eligible to vote since bills often have so many riders.
What will happen in that later example is the PAC will simply not donate to the candidate. They will run attack ads against his opponents, etc. Fine. The goal shouldn’t be to get all money out of politics. It should be to removed the conflicts of interest that are rampant in our system. Candidates take money from corporations and then routinely vote on legislation that directly affects the corporations.
Judges must recuse themselves when they have a realationship to a case before them. Why should congress be any different? Currently, saying there is no relationship is somehow acceptable. It shouldn’t be and they should be held accountable.
To make this work, the Attorney General needs to no longer be a politcal appointee and the president should not be allowed to fire them. They should be appointed by the Supreme Court or via some apolitical method. If the AG is political he could pursue only those not in his party.
This solution to campaign finance reform would also reduce pork barrel projects.
Here is an interesting question. If the president took money from Boeing and a bill came to his desk for purchasing military airplanes from another company, could he veto it? If he were not permitted to veto it, legislators could include riders that would prevent the president from vetoing any bill. Perhaps the Executive branch would need to be exempt from the law.