Voter versus Special Interest Groups
Who does your representative really work for?
Your responsibility as a citizen is to make the most educated and informed decision about who our elected officials are to be for the “greater good.” The “greater good” means the best choice for the most citizens – not just a selfish interest.
The job of a special interest group is to win political favors. Representing the financial backing of large corporations and organizations – these advocacy groups seek legislative reward for their respective industries and concerns by luring candidates with financial backing to generate a campaign. The favor may be the need for government funding or it may be the creation of new laws requiring the service or the product of a particular industry they represent. These Advocacy groups have no motivation to be interested in what is good for the nation as a whole, or the greater good. But their impact on the economy is real, and the subsequent cost to the taxpayer is significant – resulting in a tremendous profit to their industry.
Here is a simple example of how Special Interests get attention while you get the bill.
In 1997, Congress (being compelled by Special Interests Groups in the reflective tape industry) decided that physical reflectors on the front, sides and rear of tractor trailers were not “good enough.” It became law that all trailers (not just new) must have at least 50% of every side of every trailer covered with a new reflective DOT tape. The cost of the tape was $130.00 per roll and a trailer would require at least 1 ½ rolls. This amounted to $260 for every semi-trailer on the national highways. The volume of sales of the DOT tape were enormous – which trucking companies had to comply with. Coupled with the time and manpower required to remove the already existing physical reflectors and apply the new DOT tape and you can imagine the loss of profits the trucking firms were experiencing. This is “special interest” (advocacy) in action.
Here is an example of how large corporations win over small companies.
In 2009, new laws were enacted that require private medical practices to use a Health Information System to make the healthcare delivery system slightly more efficient. There might be some minute efficiency derived by yet another bureaucratic methodology though doubtful. But what was of most concern was requiring medical practices to comply with these new laws. It was not the large healthcare corporations – who easily absorbed the costs associated with them. But the financial burden placed on the smaller, private practices to adhere to the legislation practically bankrupted many of them and made the creation of new private practices financially impossible. Hence, small, private medical practices are now an endangered species – which helps no one.
And here is how special interest groups become politicized and work against individuals and small businesses.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that exist to advocate for low and moderate-income families. As a non-partisan, advocacy group, ACORN has been funded with tax dollars from both Republicans and Democrats. However, between the years 2008 and 2010, ACORN fell under scrutiny for a variety of reasons, but mostly for:
– utilizing 13,000 canvassers to build voter registration roles, ultimately submitting a significant portion of fraudulent voter registration forms.
Special interest group funded by the government should be allowed to become involved in a political campaign. This includes seeking endorsements, raising funds for campaigns or working in voter registration. They should never be in a position to use your tax dollars to advocate for a cause you may find objection to. And yet, ACORN was a special interest group engaged in all these activities.
Special interests win endorsements from your representatives at an alarming rate. Why?
Your representatives are incentivized to do so. In exchange for endorsements from your congressmen or woman, Special Interest groups reward them with contributions to their reelection campaigns. The more issues your representatives endorse – the more campaign funds they collect – and the more favors they owe to special interests!
So the question remains: Who does your candidate work for?
You’d think this would be obvious that their allegiance is to the voter. But with all the campaign cash flowing in – it becomes truly obvious that it is special interests who have their hearts. Your Congressperson or Senator may be paid by the federal government, but their ability to retain their job is dependent upon the ability to raise enough funds for a reelection campaign. And as we’ve shown, these funds do not come from you. Even if you did contribute, how would your contribution stack up against that of say, the health care industry’s campaign contribution?
So – the next question is…
How can I get my candidate off of special interest’s payroll?
Campaign Finance Reform (CFR)
CFR sounds complicated but it mainly relies on three simple principles:
#1 – Financing Primary campaigns must be the sole responsibility of the individual political parties.
#2 – Financing campaigns of Primary winners must be the sole responsibility of a specific general fund provided by each individual state.
#3 – Financing any national campaign (with the exception of the Presidential election) must be the sole responsibility of each individual state.
How would this be done?
All campaign funds need to come from the tax payer. On both state and federal tax returns, there is a box that allows a donation of $3 to campaign funds. Were this box made mandatory instead of voluntary – CFR would have a good chance, and perhaps there would be an appropriate amount for all three campaigns of $8 or $12. Whatever the amount, this contribution needs to be compulsory so that funding from Special Interest is eliminated completely.
CFR applied to Primary Campaigns
To run for office, a person needs the endorsement of a political party. If the candidate chooses to run as an independent, most procedures require the candidate collect a certain number of signatures – and if they do – they are added to the primary campaign.
Each political party holds its own primaries where the members of that party select a candidate to represent them in the national election process, “even the independents.”
Applying our solution, each state would have a committee – independent and free from the influence of the governor’s office – to insure a nonpartisan role in the election process. This committee would include two members appointed by both state political parties, and their role would be to focus solely on the primary efforts of the “independent candidates.” For instance, if there was more than one independent candidate – then the committee organizes a primary in hopes of reducing the number of independent candidate to one per position.
Then, financing the primaries becomes the responsibility of the individual parties. Funds would come from a general fund used solely for the purpose of promoting the candidates for the primaries.
Any unused funds would be carried forth to future primaries and only future primaries. And, any excess funds from the independent primaries will be held in escrow by the state and used for only future primaries of independent candidates.
Obviously these funds would have been raised by the mandatory $4 contribution as set forth on the individual annual tax return as noted above.
CFR applied to NEXT STEP – Winners of the Primary Campaigns
Funds for candidates who won their primaries need to come from the same specific state general account that received the mandatory $4 contribution.
The state would provide equal funding to all candidates, supervised by a financial manager appointed by the state to insure proper use of the funds.
Again, each state would then form a committee, independent and free from the influence of the governor’s office to insure a nonpartisan role in the election process. This committee would include members appointed by the state political parties. Likewise, the role of this committee would require these committee members to focus efforts solely on the independent candidate.
This approach is a commonsense one as it should be the objective of the state to assist the public in learning about their candidates and their platforms. And it would be incumbent on the state to take a nonpartisan role in all elections and to insure equal funds, equal exposure, and equal press.
CFR applied to National Campaigns
Funds for all national campaigns (with the exception of the presidential campaign) need to come from each state. The same equality of rules apply here; each candidate must receive the same campaign allowance and no more. However, campaign budgets need to be limited so that funds for negative campaigning (mud-slinging) are never available. These same rules would apply to presidential campaigns, however the source of those campaign funds would be the federal government itself.
CFR in a nutshell
The bottom line is all campaign expenses must be funded only by the states’ campaign funds.
There can be no other source of campaign funds. There must be no assistance of any kind from any other source. This means any ad funded by any other group would be a violation of law. Any free media attention must be equal to all candidates regardless of the media’s preference. Furthermore, any media that participates in the violation of a campaign law would have to face powerful consequences if this is to be enforced.
Our election process has become only a contest of financial ability and salesmanship; neither of which are a prerequisite of being a “good candidate” or even an “honest candidate.”
Solutions are ideas that evolve. We are not an expert in any facet of government. Your ideas, comments, questions and experiences us develop these solutions. Please continue to submit your insights.