Campaigns/Elections

Two Party Rule, Forever: It's Only Fair

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A little old, but telling a timeless truth: From the May issue of the lefty mag In These Times, in an article praising some new bills floating around Congress to further the cause of public election financing, the cold reality of duopoly power over "campaign finance reform" gets mentioned. Alas, especially from a supposedly "progressive" mag outside the political mainstream, it's mentioned in a peculiar and disturbing deadpan.

Reporter Michael Burgner is talking about a Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)-Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) bill (nonsense that benefits the two major parties versus their potential opponents really does bring out that beloved "bipartisan cooperation") called the "Fair Elections Now Act." Fair. Let that word roll around your tongue a bit.

Then read Burgner's description of one of the tedious details of the bill, presented without comment or censure:

Durbin's proposed legislation would allow candidates to raise "seed money"—up to $100 from individuals, but not political action committees, living in any state—to finance the startup costs of a campaign. The cap for seed money follows a set formula for every state: $75,000 + [$7,500 x (number of congressional districts minus 1)]. If a candidate exceeds this ceiling, they must refund the excess before they can qualify as a "Fair Elections" candidate.

Rather than focusing on large checks from special interest groups, Fair Elections candidates will have to procure thousands of $5 qualifying contributions (QCs) from their constituents. Determined on a state-to-state basis, the minimum number of QCs follows this equation: 2,000 + [500 x (number of congressional districts minus 1)]. Independent party candidates, however, must amass 150 percent of the QCs required of major party candidates.

Get enough "QC"s, get federal money. It's only "fair" that people from different parties than Durbin or Specter should have to jump a higher hurdle to get that money. It must be, it says so right in the bill's name.

From back in our March 1996 issue, one of my favorite stories of the outrages committed in the name of campaign finance reform, in which citizens have their lives destroyed for daring to participate in the political process and screwing up the extensive paperwork now required to do so. And a plethora of reason links on the topic.