For a couple of years, I checked the little box on Form 1040 that authorized the Feds to devote $1 of my tax burden to a national fund for Presidential campaigns. It should surprise no one who knows me that once I saw some actual Presidential campaigns, I quit checking the box.

Federal funding of political campaigns has long been a goal of reformers, but I am persuaded that it's time the government backed away from regulating elections in the first place. Quite apart from the matter of governmental support for people who shouldn't be in government — some of these guys shouldn't be running a roadside fruit stand, fercrissake — the current election laws have proven to be a boon mostly for the people who develop ways to get around them. We are now awash in "soft money", a euphemism for contributions which dance around the letter of the law while crapping upon its spirit.

True reform, I suggest, requires two changes:

  1. No more restrictions on contributions, coupled with full disclosure of the list of contributors.

    To pick an example entirely at random, if some neofascist newspaper publisher from some provincial backwater wants to pour his fortune into getting a kindred spirit into one of the seats of power, he ought to be able to — and the public should be able easily to identify the anointed one as "Mr _________'s lackey".

  2. No more television advertising.

    This will be more difficult to pass, for obvious reasons, but Congress has always assumed that it could regulate or even eliminate advertising it considered harmful — and not even the fastest-rotating spin doctor on a campaign committee can argue with a straight face that political TV ads are anything more than a pestilence upon the land.

    Besides, freed of the necessity of raising huge amounts of money for massive TV buys, the candidates will find less need to suck up to neofascist newspaper publishers in provincial backwaters.

All in all, a win-win situation. The Congress, acting in its so-called "bipartisan" mode, would probably kill it for that reason alone.

The Vent

#26
20 October 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill