Sunday, April 26, 2009

It money that matters, but not just money...

With recent talk about changes to Illinois campaign finance laws (or the lack of them) have brought up all sort of suggestions and ideas. Thanks to Rod these ideas have gotten more traction than any other time in years...

To this discussion I am going to add my thoughts as well as set some ground rules I think need to be put out in order for this conversation to be successful.


First: The fear of the self-funder is vastly overstated, the last two successful self funders in Illinois were Jack Ryan (and we know how that turned out) and Bill Foster (who ran in a general election against another self funder and almost lost in a primary to a guy who had raised a lot less money). The one thing these two have in common (besides facing off against self funders in either the primary or general elections) is that they ran in federally regulated elections not state elections. The fear of the self funder may be real in the hearts of those who can not or will not self fund, but in real terms it is a false threat.

Secondly: As Rich Miller has pointed out much better than I can no set of laws and rules can really stop someone who decides they are going to break them. You are not going to eliminate wrongdoing, the best you can do is reduce it and make it easier to detect.

Third: Unless you limit intra-campaign donations you are not going to really limit big giving. All I would have to do to circumvent limits would be to give to other candidates who would then fund transfer to the candidate I had already maxed out to. All contributions need to be limited, otherwise none really are.


So OneMan's proposal.

The overarching themes:
Campaign donations to entities that spend money in campaigns (PACs, Committiees and Candidates) will come from humans, not companies or organizations. If a dollar is spent if came from a carbon based life form.

Canidates are responsible for raising their own funds and their campaigns loans. The days of fundraising primarily by reaching out to other entities that have campaign funds has come to an end. They can give, but there are limits.

First:

Eliminate direct corporate donations to campaigns, by regulated and unregulated businesses within and outside of the state. Casino companies, construction companies, health care providers, etc. Companies should be giving to candidates and campaigns for one simple reason, because that candidate will do something (promote a position, etc) that will improve the fortunes of that company. Because that is what companies do, take actions to improve their business, it's their very nature nothing wrong with that.

However, it doesn't add value to the process in a host of ways and if they want to influence the process they can hire a lobbyist and take other actions.

The feds keep companies directly out of campaign finance and I think we should do the same.


Secondly:

The era of BS loans has to end. If a campaign takes a loan from an individual (like Burris did when he ran for governor) or any other sort of entity the loan has to be real. That is a defined contract specifying repayment with interest rates and the like needs to be filed at the same time the money is made available. Also the loan contract has to be made to the candidate (not the campaign) and if the candidate can not down the road make payments or satisfy the loan, the state will have the option to take ownership of the note and put it up for action on the open market where anyone can become the owner of that debt and take legal means to collect it.

A loan is a loan, not a different way of making a campaign contribution.

Also some sort of maximum limit on loans that are not from lending institutions needs to be set. 100K sounds good to me.


Third:

Some sort of hard limit needs to be set, all sorts of numbers have been tossed around. But lets set a hard upper limit. How about 10K


Fourth:

A lifetime limit of giving by an individual to a candidate (reguardless of office they are running for) of 100K.

Fifth:

Instant reporting, you get more than $200 in one pop from someone it gets reported within 5 days. If you have hit more than $500 in total (across all campaigns) from someone it gets reported. Within 30 days of an election a candidate is involved in the limits are 24 hours.

Sixth:

A $10,000 direct limit on transfers between campaigns (lifetime) and all intra-campaign transfers get reported within 48 hours.


I know some of these are a stretch, but lets get started on something.

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