The XXVIIIth Amendment

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The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby ericlindquist » Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:15 pm

Dan has already talked about the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, which increased corporate dominance of politics by holding that corporations have a first amendment right to make unlimited contributions to corporations. But what is the solution? The only way to go over the Supreme Court's head is by a constitutional amendment. It hasn't been done in a generation, but it can be done, and it is the only way Citizens United can be overruled.

What might such an amendment look like? Here's my proposal:

"(1) Only citizens of the United States shall be entitled to donate anything of value to a candidate for any federal elective office, or to a campaign for the enactment or repeal of any law, or to any legal person [...i.e., a corporation, union, PAC, etc.] that holds itself out as promoting any such election or campaign. (2) The Congress shall have the power to enact laws establishing a maximum amount that any citizen of the United States is authorized to donate to any such candidate, campaign, or legal person and to fix criminal and civil penalties for violation of such laws."

Part (1) limits the right to give political donations to human beings who are U.S. citizens (thus also limiting foreigners from buying influence over the U.S. government, which Dan has also talked about): even the Citizens United majority of the Court would not hold that the constitutional definition of U.S. citizen includes corporations. (See Amendment XIV). The idea of part (2) is to prevent a few super-rich individuals from being able to out-spend the mass of small contributors.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Atanamis » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:04 pm

Capping the amount people can spend to promote or oppose the creation of a new law seems dangerous to me. It just makes it that much less possible for a person outside the government to oppose government actions. If I have a million dollars with which I would like to campaign against the patriot act, I really don't know that it is a good idea to not allow me to do so. Or if I form a non-profit to repeal it, I'm not sure if it is good to prevent that non-profit from advertising. I agree with you regarding the problem, but I'm not sure whether some of the proposed solutions might not create worse problems in the long run. The idea that "anything is better than what we have now" is an extremely dangerous one, and one that tends to lead to catastrophic changes. Things can ALWAYS be worse than we have now.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby StCapps » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:41 pm

I posted this in the other thread with a similar name but just in case this is thread that ends up getting the attention....
StCapps wrote:And how does that stop the wealthy from giving to other people who haven't yet contributed to a campaign and have them donate money for them as a proxy? The wealthy can still easily get around a cap on individual donations it just means they have to cover up the real source of the donations.

Also wealthy individuals outside the US merely have to give money to proxies inside the US in order to get around number 1. This XXVIII amendment will fail to prevent a few super-rich individuals from being able to out-spend the mass of small contributors for these reasons.

Canada has a $1000 cap on individual donations to federal political parties and wealthy groups and individuals get around that useless law rather easily. Putting a cap on donations don't solve anything unfortunately.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby hondo69 » Fri Nov 11, 2011 5:00 am

Banning money from the system seems like the best solution until you realize that it could never really be accomplished. Another idea has also been floated to use tax dollars to fund campaigns, thereby eliminating donations. Every candidate receives X amount of dollars to spend thereby creating a level playing field. But that solution has it's own problems too.

Seems to me the only possible method of reigning in political ads is to set a limit to the number of ads that could be run. Each candidate can run 100 TV ads, etc. While that has it's own problems, like freedom of speech, it would at the very least have the appearance of being fair.

Throw in a panel of bi-partisan judges that would fine any candidate for lying in an ad. Therefore, you could run and ad depicting Republicans pushing granny off a cliff in a wheelchair, you'd just have to pay a $40 million fine for doing so. And all the proceeds from the fines would go to me so I could start my own solar panel company. OK, that last part might be a hair over the top. :clownyroll:
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby ericlindquist » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:38 am

Atanamis, I agree, and that's why I wrote it so that you as a human being are free to spend all your money to promote a candidate or law, but you can't give unlimited sums directly to the candidate or to an organization that exists to promote the candidate or law. You can also accept donations from like-minded rich human beings, up to the legislated limit, and if they want to donate more they can give to multiple funds, or else they can just spend their own money themselves. What I am trying to limit is the ability of corporations, unions, PACs, from using their superior economic power to influence officeholders or get laws passed or repealed. If rich individuals want to take on a government-driven cause, they either have to spread reasonable amounts of money around a lot of candidates and organizations (which I hope will reduce their ownership interest in any particular candidate), or spend it themselves and have it show up in campaign disclosures.

StCapps, many U.S. federal laws (notably tax and securities fraud laws) have provisions that criminalize schemes and combinations that are designed to evade the law's provisions. Say the limit was $10,000, and the rich person wanted to donate $1,000,000. He would have to give $10,000 to a hundred different human beings, each of whom would have to agree to give that money to the candidate or PAC. Each such agreement would make the conduit contributor a partipant in a conspiracy to evade the law, subject to prosecution under the "criminal or civil penalties" language. If the members of the alleged conspiracy could convince a jury that the money had no strings attached, and they were free to spend it on anything they wanted, there would not be an agreement to evade the law and they would be acquitted.

Hondo 69, I'm not convinced banning corporate money can't be accomplished, or that limiting individual contributions to PACs can't be accomplished. It's a question of enforcement, which raises freedom-related as well as practical, logistical concerns, but not more so than in many other areas of government. Limiting the number of ads a candidate can run really does put pressure on their free speech rights, because if I am only allowed to speak my "truth" X times, then I am being silenced starting at X+1.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby hondo69 » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:45 pm

In general, I'm opposed to limits of any kind. I say this because at some point you have to hang on to the dimming hope that the American public will eventually see through the charade. Of course, I see evidence to the contrary every day. We all do.

So I foolishly cling to the notion that our nation is better than what we've come to understand as the "new normal". Right or wrong that's what I believe and I'll go down swinging.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Dr. Strangelove » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:54 pm

Dan's solution he gave about a year ago continues to be the most viable I know of. Legislators should adhere to the same standard as judges. If they have a financial interest in a vote, and that includes campaign donations from businesses and interest groups as well as personal financial stakes such as stocks, then they should be recused from the vote. It's that simple. If you took a bribe from an interest group, then you don't get to vote on anything that impacts that interest group. That doesn't mean interest groups cannot go to Washington and make their case with a legislator, as the founders intended. Nor does it impact anybody's free speech, even in this twisted view where bribery becomes equivalent to speech. All it means is that a legislator cannot vote on those issues where he accepted hard or soft donations from interested parties.

I don't think that is unreasonable. It's the very same standard we use in the judicial system. It works just fine. I would like to expand it even in the judicial system as well. For instance, a family court judge who accepts campaign assistance from NOW sure as shit should not be a family court judge. That tells you right away he is not impartial, and I guarantee you will verify it by looking through his rulings. The same should be the case for legislators. Remember when they wanted to pass the health care reform laws? Regardless of what you think about those laws, I don't think it should be a problem to make a short list of democratic representatives who suddenly found "deep reservations" about the laws. Then look them up and discover -- surprise! -- they get financial donations from health insurers. That shit has to stop.

If you actually want to defend it, then imagine yourself in 1800 arguing why bribery is free speech to Jefferson or Adams. They would smack you right in the face for that. It's fucking retarded and every one of you knows it.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Atanamis » Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:47 am

So a legislator accepting donations from the UCLA wouldn't be able to vote on anything that affected civil liberties, and anyone who accepted donations from people owning stocks (anyone with a 401k) wouldn't be allowed to vote on anything involving corporations? Am I the only one who think Dan's idea is a poorly planned out pipe dream? And it DOES violate the premise that donations are a way of promoting free speech. With that assumption, it would be the equivalent of saying that politicians can't vote in any field involving people who have spoken in support of the politician.

If we are going to push things to this insane extreme, we would be far better off simply choosing our representatives at random from among the willing. Let anyone who would be willing apply for public office, and pick 1000 names from the hat at random. Those people are now the legislature. Executive positions are a separate category for which to be "willing", and we pick 10 names from the hat for each position. The randomly selected legislature picks which of the 10 get the position using approval voting. No campaigns mean no campaign contributions. The legislature of randomly selected people will statistically represent the whole of the American people quite well, and should retain the majority of the power. The executives simply implement the will of the people.

Pros: no campaigns, no professional politicians, less influence for money
Cons: we aren't able to pick "the best" to rule, but rather get the average guy. We have no direct control over our government

If we are going to give up on the idea that the average citizen will become informed enough to pick the right candidate though, random selection at least makes corruption more challenging.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Dr. Strangelove » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:39 am

Atanamis wrote:So a legislator accepting donations from the UCLA wouldn't be able to vote on anything that affected civil liberties, and anyone who accepted donations from people owning stocks (anyone with a 401k) wouldn't be allowed to vote on anything involving corporations? Am I the only one who think Dan's idea is a poorly planned out pipe dream? And it DOES violate the premise that donations are a way of promoting free speech. With that assumption, it would be the equivalent of saying that politicians can't vote in any field involving people who have spoken in support of the politician.

If we are going to push things to this insane extreme, we would be far better off simply choosing our representatives at random from among the willing. Let anyone who would be willing apply for public office, and pick 1000 names from the hat at random. Those people are now the legislature. Executive positions are a separate category for which to be "willing", and we pick 10 names from the hat for each position. The randomly selected legislature picks which of the 10 get the position using approval voting. No campaigns mean no campaign contributions. The legislature of randomly selected people will statistically represent the whole of the American people quite well, and should retain the majority of the power. The executives simply implement the will of the people.

Pros: no campaigns, no professional politicians, less influence for money
Cons: we aren't able to pick "the best" to rule, but rather get the average guy. We have no direct control over our government

If we are going to give up on the idea that the average citizen will become informed enough to pick the right candidate though, random selection at least makes corruption more challenging.



Do you mean ACLU? Of course not. That's exactly the type of shit that is fucking our nation. ACLU. NRA. NOW. RIAA. The list goes on. It all has to stop. Nobody is saying that the ACLU cannot physically walk into Congress for an appointment with a representative, and make their case for him or her to vote a particular way. Nor would it be illegal for them to hand over money to the guy. They can even make soft money donations. But he cannot vote on anything in which they have a material interest. Oh well. I guess that means politicians will have to do their fucking jobs without somebody shoving a wad of cash up their fat asses every time its time to vote.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Atanamis » Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:54 am

Well, like I said, if you are going to ban people from supporting the campaigns of politicians who they agree with, I think we are better off not having campaigns at all. What you propose would simply make incumbents that much more powerful since it would ban the gathering of support for opposition candidates. Current incumbents can get media coverage just by calling press conferences, so will always have an advantage. Preventing me from supporting candidates for "special interests" like enforcing the Constitution though seems like a certain path to tyranny. Either we expect the American people to do their homework and cast an informed vote, or we give up on this idea that the general populace should be picking our leaders. Making it harder for people to broadcast their ideas seems like a terrible idea to me though.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Dr. Strangelove » Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:40 am

It's not banning anything. If people want to fund a political campaign, they are free to do so. But that politician is no longer allowed to vote on any matters in which those "funders" are materially interested parties.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby ericlindquist » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:59 pm

I agree that Dan's idea of legislative recusal is impractical, partly for Atanamis's reason that it doesn't make sense to ban politicians from voting on measures their supporters like, but more because groups like the ACLU or NOW support (or oppose) a wide range of legislation and it would be too hard to figure out which was the one that prompted the contribution.

My proposed Amendment 28 allows individuals to make political contributions, but prohibits all non-humans from doing so. It allows non-humans (PACs) to run campaign spots, for example, but prevents PACs from accepting non-human (corporate) money, and it allows Congress to limit the amount of money a given PAC can accept from from individuals. So if Congress uses its new authority to impose reasonable limits on contributions to PACs, a given PAC will have to attract substantial human support if it is going to influence an election or a piece of legislation.
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Re: The XXVIIIth Amendment

Postby Atanamis » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:05 pm

Dr. Strangelove wrote:It's not banning anything. If people want to fund a political campaign, they are free to do so. But that politician is no longer allowed to vote on any matters in which those "funders" are materially interested parties.
It is banning me from being able to support my interests. If I fund an "anti-war" candidate, the fact of my funding means that the candidate cannot vote on war measures. If I fund a "pro freedom of the press" candidate they aren't allowed to vote for anything relating to press. This is essentially the same as banning campaign finance altogether, since the fact of supporting a campaign means that representative is not permitted to represent YOU. In fact, the mere fact of being funded by an American citizen would logically prohibit the representative from voting for anything that benefits the United States of America. This is preposterous ideological gamesmanship, and one of Dan's most pathetically indefensible statements. T

There is a simple answer if you don't trust voters to make an informed decision, and that is to select the legislators at random from a pool of the willing. I would suggest out of a pool of all citizens, but while Douglas Adams posited that the best candidate was a person who doesn't want the job I fear a person unwilling to to the job will deliberately NOT do it to the detriment of all. Instead, let anyone willing to do so stick their name in a hat and be picked at random. No campaign, no campaign finance, no professional politicians. If you want elected officials, you need to trust voters to see through the lies and pick someone who will represent their interests. Trying to make it harder for politicians to communicate their message isn't compatible with this model, and just manipulates who gets to lie the loudest.

I'd agree there is evidence that whoever is loudest wins, so if that is the case we need to admit that selecting leaders by popular vote isn't a good idea and do something else entirely. What you are trying to do IS a restriction of freedom of speech, far more than the mere restriction on bribery that you claim to be desiring to target. Your solution though simply constrains the ability of the people to discuss public policy and educate themselves on possible candidates. It is a change that is worse than doing nothing at all, and would merely enslave us to whatever entity you granted control over the funding of campaigns.
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