Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Total Campaign Finance Reform In New York

"Chavez, look at how they captured Saddam. He should have died fighting. If they invade Cuba, I'm going first, and you will see what you do. You're also on the list. But in any case we cannot be captured in a hole."

Fidel Castro
Eliot Spitzer is substance, he is guts. Noone in his or her right mind thinks Spitzer is not going national at some point. He has the option to turn New York state into the progressive engine for the entire country. The fights he will pick and win in New York he will carry on to the national stage.

Two are obvious: campaign finance, and gay marriage. I think he should work on campaign finance first. Gay marriage perhaps should be for his second term. And on both there will have to be gradual progress. With campaign finance, the goal is to have publicly financed elections, and total transparency on expenses by candidates. And it will likely be achieved in two to three steps. This is the issue that Spitzer can use to wrest the Senate from the Republicans. But campaign finance reform is about more than money. It is to do with broader electoral reform.

Democracy is one person, one vote. Campaign finance reform and electoral reform are about moving as close as possible to that ideal.

Before I read up on the topic, let me go ahead and start from scratch and build a model.

On the judiciary: I like Spitzer's idea of no longer electing judges. Instead having a meritocratic bureaucracy that populates the judiciary. The taxpayers pay your salary, and you deliver. Justice should be like garbage pickup: it should be just there.

A directly elected Governor. If no one candidate gets at least 50% of the votes, there is a second round. Publicly financed election. An independent candidate may spend his or her own money, but the amount may not exceed that of the the publicly financed candidate who spends the most money.

Legislature. 150 constituencies of roughly equal population for the lower house. Proportional elections for the 50 members of the upper house. You vote for a party. A party that gets 2% of the votes gets one seat. Elections for both houses on the same day, two separate ballots. Parties are state funded. How many votes you earn determines how much money you get from the state. Parties are not allowed any other source of funding.

This will provide for a healthy breakup of the two party system, and will allow for "startup" parties with new ideas to shape up. The 50% rule will also ensure the Governor has a clear mandate of the people.

If you are going to have publicly financed elections and parties, suddenly the idea of democracy and transparency inside party structures takes center stage. There is a huge need for reform there, or Bloomberg might have been the Democratic candidate for Mayor when he first ran. Again the solution is one person, one vote.

The Democratic Party is taking the lead on campaign finance reform in the state, but if it is serious about going all the way, it is going to have to work hard to also reform itself on the inside. You are looking at a scenario where the only money the party gets is from the state based on how many votes it earns. It will help to have all decision making made transparent, but that will not be enough. There are structural challenges.

This is a tough issue. But it is popular. And if played well, this is the issue that will cost the Republicans the Senate. This issue will also put Spitzer in a position to work for reform inside the Democratic Party in New York City, and he stands to score major points on that one against his inevitable opponent in 2010: Bloomberg. Let Bloomberg be the symbol for big money in elections, at the state and national levels. He cuts it both ways. You can't compete against Bloomberg unless you can raise a lot of money. On the other hand, Bloomberg's behavior of using his own money shows he himself is opposed to the idea of raising money to contest elections. So you can hit him from two sides at once.

It is good news that Bloomberg will be who Spitzer will be up against in 2010. In 2006 Spitzer did not have much in the name of an opponent. Bloomberg will not be easy to beat. And so in a sense Bloomberg will be Spitzer's first primary opponent onto the national stage. The whole country will be watching as Spitzer battles Bloomberg, and that will be good news. Spitzer will acquire a national stature that he does not quite have it right now: Arnold does, Spitzer does not yet.

Campaign finance reform will have to percolate also to the local levels. Giving the same amount of money to all candidates does not quite make sense. The process in the city and state is complex, but as long as basic principles can be agreed on, beyond that it extrapolation. One person one vote democracy, transparency, state funded parties and elections.

It goes beyond candidates, and parties. You also have to regulate interest groups. While you want to encourage people to get organized and involved, if those outside groups end up having outsize influence, the purpose of campaign finance will be compromised. Perhaps all such interest groups should also be subject to finance reform measures. Make their book keeping transparent, put limits on how much they can raise from whom, on when and how they can spend.

Then Spitzer will be in some shape to tackle gay marriage perhaps during his second term. But he does not have to wait to further civil rights issues for gays. There are a lot of incremental steps that can be taken. Those small step will warm up the electorate for the big one.

Child Adoptions: My Number One Reason To Be For Gay Marriage

Right now it is looking like Hillary-Obama-Spitzer for the national scene. We take over the White House for a generation. They got the Supreme Court.

Campaign finance reform and electoral reform in New York has major national implications. Imagine directly electing the president. Imagine adding DC to Virgina or Maryland. Imagine electing the 100 members of the US Senate through proportional elections. Ralph Nader should have been Senator. He was never cut to be president.

Gay marriage and immigration are the civil rights issues for today. 50 years from now people will look back and wonder the way we look back and wonder about segregationists today. How could they!

Fitting In Hillary, Obama, Spitzer
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Eliot Spitzer

On The Web

Campaign finance reform - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Other opponents of public financing claim that public financing has already corrupted the political process, with big government advocates buying voters' votes with promises of increases in entitlement programs, welfare, and pork barrel spending.
Campaign Finance Reform: The Issue The total price of the 2004 presidential and congressional elections was $4 billion (and perhaps a lot more) .... The more money that is involved in running for office, critics say, the more influence that donors – wealthy individuals, companies, labor unions, interest groups – have over elected officials and public policy.
Public Campaign -- Real Campaign Finance Reform
GS Campaign Finance Reform, a Project at the Brookings Institution Campaign finance remains one of the most important and controversial aspects of U.S. democracy
Campaign Finance Homepage
Public Citizen | Campaign Finance Reform - Campaign Finance Reform ...
Public Agenda Issue Guide: Campaign Reform
Campaign Finance Reform
LWV | Campaign Finance Reform

In The News

Senate criticized for not acting on campaign reform legislation Elmira Star-Gazette, NY The issue has been a point of contention for months, with Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Democrat-dominated Assembly calling for sweeping reforms while the GOP-led Senate has not moved on any legislation, saying it's not a priority. ....... The reforms that Spitzer and government watchdog groups are seeking often have little or no effect on incumbency or the diversity of candidates ...... Spitzer's proposal, which would greatly reduce contribution limits, ban donations from corporations and limited-liability companies, and require more disclosure from candidates ........ campaign finance is at the top of the governor's agenda ...... The ultimate goal, they said, is to have full public financing of elections. ...... In January, Spitzer announced he would impose limits of $10,000 on individual contributions to his own campaign, far below the legal limit of $50,000. ...... the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 ..... campaign finance laws only violate free speech if they place spending caps on candidates without providing public financing.
Senate GOP ignores Spitzer timetable on campaign reform Auburn Citizen, NY
Senate GOP ignores Spitzer timetable on campaign reform WCAX, VT
Senate GOP ignores Spitzer timetable on campaign reform Staten Island Advance, NY
GOP, groups spar over campaign finance Auburn Citizen, NY the League of Women Voters, which has pushed campaign finance reform as the key to reforming Albany ..... Bruno has questioned the need for reform and noted that Spitzer can rely on his personal wealth and power as elected incumbent governor to raise campaign funds. ..... The Senate Republicans' meeting announcement put Spitzer on notice that the conference is either planning to - or threatening to - block Spitzer's campaign finance reform. ...... Spitzer and lawmakers have held public leaders meetings in an attempt to avoid Albany's notorious late-budget negotiations in which disparate issues are settled in one big deal, then rushed to a vote in the closing hours of the session with little debate or public review.
Campaign finance reform on the agenda in Albany News 10 Now, NY
State Senate GOP, Groups Spar Over Campaign Finance 13WHAM-TV, NY
Civic groups blast Senate GOP on reform WSTM-TV, NY
Senate GOP, good-government groups spar over campaign finance WSTM-TV, NY
Senate GOP, good-government groups spar over campaign finance Staten Island Advance, NY
The Empire Zone As Legislative Session Wanes, So Does Leaders ... New York Times, United States
Republicans block needed legislation Auburn Citizen, NY
Open government, Albany style Ithaca Journal, NY power producers say that the current process is so complicated that it all but prevents construction of new plants, even as the margin between available power and demand continues to shrink. ...... Both Gov. George Pataki, first elected in 1994, and Spitzer, who took office this year, vowed to change the closed-door system. ..... Spitzer .... hammered out deals on the state's $120.9 billion budget almost exclusively in private sessions with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

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LA Outrage Grows Over Paris Hilton
ABC News Norma Lune, who arrived about 6 a.m. to make sure she could visit her son in jail, rolled her eyes at the gathering throng. "No one here is paying attention to my son," she said. ...... "This might be my big break," the 23-year-old bail bond company employee said, showing off a photo he had taken of Paris' sister, Nicky, when she visited Sunday. ..... "I'm going to start carrying this camera around everywhere. You never know when she might come out." ...... Sonenshein said he expected to see a slew of new lawsuits from inmates claiming they weren't treated as well as Hilton. ..... The Hiltons were allowed to see their daughter when the jail's visitor center was closed for lunch — a fact that rankled some less-than-famous visitors. Similar complaints were lodged Sunday, when Paris' sister, Nicky, waited a scant 15 minutes to see Paris, bypassing most of the long visitors line. ...... A few chased the Mercedes down the block. ..... "Y'all make me not want to be rich anymore," Deseree Diehl, who was watching from the sidewalk, said to no one in particular. A radio reporter turned to a cameraman and asked, "So, are you ashamed of yourself yet?" ...... As for Johnny Garcia, the amateur paparazzo, he jumped into a tree to get a clear shot of the Hiltons. He came away with a photo of the back of their heads, surrounded by cameras. "That looks like it could be them, right?" he asked, smiling.
Steven Speilberg Drops Obama for Hillary "Jaws,""E.T. The Extraterrestrial,""Jurassic Park,""Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan."
Spielberg Backs Clinton Los Angeles Times after an initial interest in Barack Obama, is officially in the Hillary Clinton camp. ..... Endorsements are one of those rituals in the campaign process with a debatable impact. They don't hurt, and in some cases a celebrity's embrace may win a candidate a second look from some members of the public. But lots of politicians boasting impressive supporter lists have gone down to defeat.
Sweet column: Clinton said it means "nothing" if Obama outraises ... Chicago Sun-Times
she — or former President Clinton — has booked at least 26 fund-raising events between May 31 and June 30, the end of the second fund-raising quarter. ..... the prospect chief rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will beat Clinton in second quarter fund-raising .... Obama’s fund-raising team booked at least 23 events between May 22 and June 29. ..... Obama’s camp has been down-playing fund-raising expectations, giving out a lowball $20 million estimate. The haul likely will be at least $25 million between April 1 and June 30. .... Clinton is on track to raise about $20 million. ...... Longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe hosts a barbecue with both Clintons July 1 — the start of the third quarter — at his home in McLean, Va.

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Rudy Giuliani unveils his “12 Commitments to the American People” Blogger News Network
Bush presses GOP on immigration bill Boston Globe Bush was warmly received at a luncheon meeting -- his first with Senate Republicans in five years .... For most of his presidency, with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress, Bush barely had to ask to get his way on domestic and foreign policy bills, relying on a disciplined GOP leadership to grant his wish list of tax cuts, Iraq war funding, and an education overhaul. ...... "He needs to back off," said Senator Jeff Sessions , Republican of Alabama and a fierce opponent of the bill .... Leaders in both parties contend they have a majority willing to pass the measure, but Senate rules require 60 votes to close debate and hold a final vote on the bill.
Clinton leads in NH Portsmouth Herald News
Poll update: Clinton maintains lead in Democratic race Blogger News Network
Clinton owes poll wins to women Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Poll Shows Fred Thompson Gaining on Giuliani, Obama Catching Clinton Thompson compiled a 100% pro-life voting record in Congress and has said twice in recent months that he favors overturning Roe v. Wade. ..... Giuliani with 32 percent, Thompson higher at 28 percent, McCain with 17 percent and Romney with 14 percent. ..... Romney is shown with leads or ranked in second in numerous polls in Iowa and New Hampshire .... Clinton holds a 33-22 percent lead over ... Obama ..... Though he is behind Clinton among Democrats, the poll finds he’s the strongest general election candidate as the only one in his party to beat Giuliani, McCain and Romney. Clinton runs behind each of the three marquee Republicans.
Poll: Obama, Thompson gain ground on Clinton, Giuliani The News Journal

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