Cash Conundrum

If the Jack Abramoff affair has accomplished anything to date, it has emphasized one of the most serious problems in government today; the infusion of private moneys in the political sphere. The way in which our government is supposed to work is that the Senate and The House of Representatives are intended to act as the voice of the common public in the federal government.

In a nation with as immense a population as ours, to have a democracy not styled after a republic structure could prove highly cumbersome as the sheer volume of voices would greatly impede the legislative process. Therefore in an attempt to create a functioning government that allows the governing body to work outside of a speed that could only be described as comatose, the founding fathers designed a legislative branch that was split into two bodies. The Senate of course was created to equalize power amongst the states despite differences in population whilst the House was designed to provide a legislative body to reflect upon the needs of the actual population.

So it was written, so it should have been. Ideas regarding the state of the state were intended to move from the citizenship to the elected officials, and if there was a consensus, into law. But as the old saw goes, the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go awry.

Since the inception of the United States, it has been clear that there has always been some sort of wall between the people who live, and the people who govern. Whether it be race, education, or property, there has always been something to diminish the ability of the people to be represented properly by those elected to represent them.

As Jackie-Boy continues to sing in an attempt to minimize his own punishment regarding his bribery of elected officials, one is reminded that in this day and age, one of the primary walls between the representatives and the represented is money. Money, it would seem, is power after all.

And in discussing this wall, one should conclude that the bricks of which is made can be summed up in short as lobbyists.

For more in depth analysis and information regarding lobbyists, I sincerely encourage you to follow PSOTD on a regular basis. The author of the site has over the past year or so (and maybe even further back, I can only go on personal experience) taken a personal vested interest in the topic of lobbying. But for the short of it, understand that lobbyists have in effect grown to be another legislative body. And all because of money.

See, the problem lies not in the fact that lobbyists exist. It is a natural thing that a nation that contains hundreds of millions of people, a scant five hundred people would find it difficult in representing the needs of them all. And so the basic idea is not unreasonable. Pool together people with a common interest to effect political action within the political sphere. Unfortunately, the lobbyist movement is not altogether altruistic, and the clients whom they represent not only already weild a considerable amount of political power, but their interests collide with that of the common good.

And yet lobbyists hold title to a considerable amount of political wealth because they represent in their own right significant monetary wealth. Even in a legal capacity, the abundance of funds lends a considerable amount of leverage.

And it’s money.

Even the most honest of politicians must concede that money is a necessity in seeking and maintaining public office. As population has increased, as technology has evolved, and as methods of communication have changed over the decades and centuries, the role of money in political horse races has become ever increasing. In watching how the run up to the presidential election in ’08 evolves, it is obvious that the single most important aspect amongst all the potential candidates is not their message, but their war chest.

As I say, this is understandable. One hoping to make a national run has an inordinate number of things to attend to, and they all cost money: ad buys, campaign managers, pollsters, political consultents, etc. What this means, however, is that those with the money receive the most attention.

Last week, ABC’s the Note made mention of a fundraiser at which George W. Bush was the main event. Attendance was supposed to be 80 people, and the expected haul 1.5 million dollars. I saved you the effort of doing the math; that comes to a little over $18,000 a head.

Do you have 18 grand to donate to your political movement of choice? I don’t.

So between myself, and one of those who can, whom do you think will be better represented in government? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

Finally, of the two parties involved, which do you think actually requires the better representation?

And so the problem of money in politics presents itself. Money is the engine of politics, and somewhere along the line, that money is private. Therefore, private interests leverage the political playing field in their favor through the manipulation of money, thereby undermining the power of the election process as a means of ensuring that those who govern do so at the behest of the governed. Instead money enables those who govern to do so at the behest of their benefactors.

In light of all this, I wanted to take a different track than I usually do. Instead of providing some measure of definitive analysis, it was my hope to engage you all in a bit of a political riddle. How does one remove the adverse effects of money on politics?

In my own musings of this subject, I came to one assumption. There are two types of money. Private, and government. In that respect, to remove the influence, it would seem a simple action to merely outlaw all forms of private money from campaigns. Period. End of story.

All persons seeking elected office must do so on the taxpayer’s dime. Simple huh? And hey, since we’re all paying for it, it may even encourage the voting populace to take more interest in politics. But we soon see that there are other problems with this.

First, you have to design the system. The one I would propose is that anyone who wanted to run for office would be given the same amount of money, stratified based on the particular office sought.

Someone running for state representative would, therefore, receive considerably less money then someone seeking a Presidential bid.

But in so doing, we find ourselves presented with another problem. If the government is going to allot money to every candidate, the bill is going to get pretty steep pretty fast. Therefore it is necessary to narrow the field.

Anyone who is a fan of probably is familiar with Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Sharkey. Jonathan, or “Jon The Impaler”, is a self proclaimed vampyre (yes, with a “y”), satanist, and warlock. The idea of someone like him running on the government’s bill is a bit ludicrous. For instance his anti-crime platform involves impaling criminals. Like, with an actual stake.

And so we see a need from both a monetary standpoint, and a mental health standpoint to not necessarily let any Tom, Dick, and Harry run for office on the government bill. So how to weed out the unnecessary or ludicrous candidates?

The first part of the question is exceedingly easy. You simply limit the number of allowed candidates. After that it gets a bit murky.

One could put into place a set of standards. But I have a problem with this as well. As ridiculous as the Impaler’s campaign may be, I will always uphold his right to run. While some standards may seem okay, like say, no felonies, at some point the standards would grow to be unfair.

The only other solution I can come up with is a practice already in place in many parts of elected government, and that is the petition, but can you pick up on the problem with this? If you figured out that this would reinject private money into the political arena, you would be exactly right.

In order to get the signatures, it is gonna be a PR game, which means that we have to again resort to money. Potential candidates with more money are going to be more adept at gaining notoriety, giving them an advantage in the petition race.

And so my silly bit of circular logic comes to a dead end. And now is where I turn the discussion over to you. What would be your solution to ending the negative aspects of money in politics? Leave your answers in the comments below.

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