Sunday, December 9, 2007

Welfare for Politicians

Is your campaign in shambles? Nobody likes you? Can't raise enough money? It's OK! If you are running for office in Wisconsin, we've got just the thing for you:

SB 12, sponsored by Sens. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) and Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) would:

• Set voluntary spending caps at $4 million for governor, $150,000 for state Senate and $75,000 for state Assembly races. Accepting these caps will trigger access to public financing.

• Create a Public Integrity Endowment Fund to which anyone can contribute to publicly finance elections for those who agree to the spending caps.

• Increase the checkoff contribution on state income tax forms to $5, also for public financing of elections, with the taxpayer able to designate which party the money goes to.

Provide General Purpose Revenue funds to be tapped should these other funds be insufficient to cover 35% of expenses for participating candidates for state office.

• If a candidate eschews public financing and tries essentially to buy an election, the candidate who does agree to the limits gets up to three times the limit to mitigate at least some of the impact of the other candidate's spending.

The bill also effectively eliminates the legislative campaign committees that funnel special interest money to candidates and prohibits campaign fund raising by legislators and statewide elected officials during the state budget process.

What is so special about interests? Some of those "special interests" are my money. Now at least I get to choose what party my money goes to, but what if I only like one candidate? I surely wouldn't want to give money to anyone but Ron Paul for the Presidency. Cracking down on special interests puts a limit on my say and my money just as much as it does any organization that donates. And for the record, many of these organizations are donated to by people who agree with their cause. Now all of a sudden their freedom of speech is moot too?

And the best part is, as long as someone chooses to forgo public financing, the other people get THREE TIMES as much from our wallets! Awesome!

As usual the super liberal media is eating this all up.


Craig said...

You ask, "...what if I like only one candidate?"

The answer is that the public financing system is not about supporting any particular candidate; it's about supporting free and fair elections where private money no longer dominates and distorts the process, and elections are about who has the best ideas instead of who has the most money.

You point out that "Cracking down on special interests puts a limit on my say and my money..."

Yes. That's the whole point. No one should get more free speech than anyone else simply because they have more money. Democracy is supposed to be about who has the most votes not who is wealthiest. Another way to say this is that while individuals and groups DO have the right to speak; they DO NOT have the right to drown out everyone else because they can buy more advertising.

You conclude that " long as [one candidate] chooses to forgo public financing, the other [candidates] get THREE TIMES as much from our wallets!"

This is not quite correct. First, it's "up to" three times. Second, the "three times" provision only kicks in if a privately funded candidate tries to outspend the publicly funded candidate. So for example, if a privately funded candidate only spends twice as much as the base allotment for the publicly funded candidate, then the latter gets double the normal funding so they can remain competitive (and the election remains a contest of ideas instead of a war of dollars).

Finally, I submit that public financing is not "welfare for politicians," it's "Insurance for Voters"...that their public officials will be free to serve the public interest and not be beholden to whatever private interest funded their last campaign.

1000needles said...

Politics is not all money. Ron Paul has raised more than anyone else, yet he is still at single digits is he not? And besides, why is my choosing to donate to someone I support not free and fair? What is so fair about the stifling of my freedom of speech? There is no freedom involved if I am not free to choose.

Just because I may have more or less money does not mean I have more or less freedom of speech. A right is not quantifiable in amount of property.

Why would public financing promote the politicians acting in "the public interest?" The state always works for the state's interest. The state should not tell me what is in my own interest, nor tell me how my money is to be spent.

I recognize the spirit of the movement, though I must stand by the side of liberty, for freedom is the best decider in an election, not state managed finance. It is patently unethical and beyond the legitimate use of power by the state.

Once again, I will point to Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Craig said...

Ron Paul has had some amazing one day fund raising totals but his overall fundraising is actually very little. He's way behind most of the other Republican candidates. If we had public financing of campaigns, the candidates who could qualify would all receive equal funding to make their case to voters and elections would be more about who has the best ideas instead of who raised the most money.

Under a public financing system it's fine for you to give to whatever candidate you want as long as that candidate chooses to opt out of the public financing system and run on private funds; participation in the system is voluntary. Without public financing as a way to level the playing field however, the wealthiest among us get the most political speech (because media advertising is very expensive). You're correct that everyone has the same free speech right, but not everyone has the same fuinancial means to exercise that right.

Public financing has proven to facilitate public officials acting in the public interest because they're not beholden to the private interests who would otherwise have funded their campaign. The "state" of course is you and me, "we the people." But the government often does not act in our interest because they're dependent on private money for their political survivial.

"Freedom" probably would be the best decider of elections if by freedom we include the freedom of candidates (like Ron Paul) to make their case to voters on a financially level playing field and voters were then free to choose who they like best, but under the current system that freedom is thwarted because wealthy special interests and individuals have a stranglehold on our electoral process and drown out anyone with good ideas but less money.

(For additional non-partisan info see or or

1000 Needles said...

Sure, not everyone has the same amount of money to donate. If we all had the same amount of money, we'd be communists. The point of the matter is the right to property and the freedom to use that property. Property is not freedom, the right to obtain property is freedom. Therefore, just because one person has less money does not mean they have less freedom to exercise their rights. It's called life. It will never be equal. However, people have other ways of promoting politicians and furthering their support for them.

Also, you say that you have to opt in to this, and that it is not required to obtain public financing. This means that only the crappiest politicians will get our subsidies. This way, we would be paying through taxes for politicians we don't support. Private financing is a great way to gauge support for a candidate as well.

I don't want the playing field to be level. A candidate should EARN his support, not be subsidized by tax money. Every time equality is brought into the equation, liberty and property rights are lost in favor of a system that is generally and historically doomed to failure.

Public officials are not corrupted only by special interests. The greatest corruption is in the holding of power itself. Also, when checks are handed out on the floor of the legislature, what good does public financing do to make politicians honest? The fact of the matter is that most politicians will never be completely honest and for this reason we have a system of democracy and transparency in government. The government cares about power and control. They use "the public interest" as an excuse to keep power and maximize their own agendas.

The public is the best decider of the public interest. The government exists to protect rights, not some utilitarian ideal of maximizing the good from the sacrifice of others. Unfortunately, the United States has been running on this maxim for a while now, particularly since FDR.

Voters are already free to choose who they like best. Donations are one such way that this occurs. In public financing, you are taking away the choice, and the right, for an individual to use their property as they see fit. Should we subsidize hair products, so that we can choose "on a level playing field" which one is best? I would hope your answer is no.

The "special interests" of the wealthy are in no way as powerful as the distortion provided by our media. And yet, they have the right to do so. Government ought not intervene in the right to free speech, nor the right to utilize one's rightly earned property in a way in which that individual sees fit.

One more thing: The state is not, and never will be, "you and me." I exist as a free individual. The state, by its nature and existence, decreases my liberty to act as a free agent. In this way, the state is diametrically opposed to me. The only ethical state is the minimal state, and I think that we can see this does not exist, particularly when the state starts telling us how to elect our politicians.

And yes, I will check out those resources you cited.