Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why We Need Public Financing of Political Campaigns

The American political scene is inherently corrupt, and it will remain so until we have public financing of campaigns. The latest example of how the system itself is fundamentally flawed, is the story of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton & her supposed fundraising. Rep. Norton was apparently caught on audio tape begging for money from a lobbyist. Now, I am not suggesting that Rep. Norton is corrupt, but the system she has to navigate through certainly is. It is an environment that invites corrupt activity. I am sure this is a routine part of the job for members of Congress - just normal fundraising. And Rep. Norton technically may not have crossed the line into illegality, because she never specifically promises anything in exchange for a donation. (she knew she was leaving a voicemail recording... so there is really not much of a there there in terms of a scandal, unless the House Ethics Committee can find some technical violation).

But (even though I am skeptical of the source for good reason) the story highlights a broken system. The current system presents inherent conflicts of interest. It is hard for a member of Congress to argue that they are working for the average constituent, when they are really beholden to special interests and their powerful lobbyists.

The most troubling part of the recording is when Rep. Norton points out one of her committee posts, suggesting influence. Again... the issue for me is the inherent institutional corruption surrounding our politics.

If all candidates drew from a public pool, had to work with the same amount of resources, and were precluded from asking for money from the outside, it would make them more responsive and accountable to the people who they actually have a responsibility to represent - their constituents (and on larger legislative issues... the American people as a whole). Currently, corporations and trade groups hold sway over just about every major issue facing this Country.

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