Funding Presidential Campaigns

Post submitted by DavidGratz (On January 15, 2004 at 8:56 am):

In the course of the presidential campaign, three candidates–George Bush, Howard Dean, and John Kerry–decided to forego public financing for the primary election campaign. Candidates who accept public financing in the primary election campaign do so on the condition that they will not spend more than $45 million in the primary election. Both George Bush and Howard Dean have announced that they plan to raise and spend about $200 million in that period.

There have been widespread reactions to these candidates’ decisions. Some argue that rejecting public financing will eviscerate Congress’ plan to reduce the influence of big money in politics, while others argue that after George Bush rejected public financing, any candidate hoping to compete with him had no choice but to do the same. After suggesting that he wanted to reject public financing, Howard Dean even left the choice up to his supporters–who agreed that he should do so.

Because an important part of 2020 Democrats is developing and discussing our visions for the future, I suggest looking beyond the decisions of the 2004 candidates, and thinking about what changes, if any, should be made to the laws governing the financing of presidential campaigns. A few possible solutions include eliminating the public financing system, and allowing candidates to raise and spend as much money as they can; maintaining the existing system, and hoping that progressive candidates will be able to raise as much money through small contributions as their competition will raise through large ones; raising the current $45 million spending limit for primary election public financing, so that candidates can raise more money from private donors and still get public funds; or instituting “clean elections,” wherein candidates who get enough signatures from constituents and reject all private campaign contributions qualify for full public financing of their campaigns.

Please join the discussion and share your thoughts on how we should go about electing the President of the United States!

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Question #2 Congressional Redistricting

Post submitted by JordanHaas (On October 22, 2003 at 3:02 pm):

A few things have come up that must be addressed. We need to remember that the point of this discussion is to strive for a consensus for the future of the country through Democratic ideals, not to attack others ideas. Let’s look for what we agree on, not concentrate on what we disagree on. Also, let’s try to keep the discussion to the topic laid out, since it is very easy to lack any semblance of a productive conversation. Please feel free to bring other ideas into the mix, to move the discussion along, but let’s stay on one topic at a time.

Here is a new question: (Congressional redistricting)

Every 10 years congressional redistricting occurs using the new census data as a guide. This process was created to ensure that Americans receive a fair representative vote within the federal government. State legislatures across the country are charged with creating the actual district lines.

This cycle, a number of problems have come up. Districts were created that overly favor one party, ethnic group, etc. over another (basic gerrymandering). A number of split legislatures (different parties control each chamber) were unable to achieve a new map—forcing the court system to create maps. A change in state elections changed party control and thus allowed for a one-sided consensus. Now a number of state legislatures have redone their maps for the second time in two years. Major fights are underway in TX and CO, and there has been talk that a number of other states (such as NM, OH, CA, OK) will also redistrict again this cycle. With the control of Congress decided by just a handful of seats due to the polarized congressional districts, the changing of a few district maps has the power to shift Chamber control in Washington.

This all leads to the question, is the current process of choosing districts to too flawed and in need of reform? A number of ideas have been suggested including creating a non-partisan commission to decide congressional districting, allowing the judiciary branch initial control (since it is already having to do it and makes the final decision on if state-drawn maps are legal), or some other idea. Now let’s strive to find a policy consensus.

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Starting the Democratic Process Discussion

Post submitted by DavidGratz (On September 25, 2003 at 12:14 am):

America was created as a great experiment in democracy. Our founding fathers sought not only independence from England, but also an affirmative vision of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, actively engaged in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

Throughout our great Nation’s history, principled and dedicated activists have worked to improve on the democratic structure of the American Constitution, as originally written. The vital contributions of these democratic activists include the Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, which gave African-Americans the right to vote; the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1920, which gave women the right to vote; and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, passed in 1971, which gave eighteen year old citizens the right to vote.

As you can see, necessary democratic amendments to our Constitution have come fifty years apart since 1870, leaving the next such amendment to come in 2020. But these amendments required far more than the passage of time to become law; they required the dedicated and thoughtful drafting and strategizing of the most passionate advocates of the democratic process.

Today, a myriad of new problems and solutions confront America. For example, those who support increased ballott access have proposed instant-runoff voting (IRV)and multi-member districts. Those who witnessed the 2000 debacle in Florida have proposed more readable and reliable ballotts. Those who support irregular interventions in the term of an officeholder have supported the recall. And those who oppose the corrupting influence of special interest contributions in political campaigns have supported campaign finance reform and clean elections. This list is by no means exhaustive–many other problems, and solutions, have been raised.

As you read the posts in this blog, and contribute your own, we urge you to consider the greatest problems facing the American democratic process today; the incentives, positive and negative, that would result from your proposed solutions; the areas of common ground that your proposal may share with progressives, centrists, and conservatives; the status of your proposal in the federal and state legislatures; and the experience that different states and nations have had after adopting your policy.

Thank you for joining the discussion! We welcome your thoughts as we strive for a consensus on how we can best improve the American democratic process!

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