Law Op-ed : Campaign Financing

Federal Law: Saving Bernie’s Amendment

I wrote an op-ed about campaign financing law that appeared on  May 8, 2015 in the Caledonian Record, a Vermont newspaper. Below are excerpts. You can read the full column here.  

An activist court decision must be lousy when even Bernie Sanders hates it.  Senator Sanders detests the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case. The Court decided that money was free speech, and that corporations were human. For those reasons, the justices voided legislation that limited corporate campaign contributions.  They ruled the law unconstitutional.  In the wake of Citizens United, billionaires routinely bankroll “super PACs” to buy elections.

Even politicians far to the right of Sanders believe that these billionaire’s shenanigans will lead to bad government. Many pols have joined Bernie in clamoring for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. But Bernie’s proposed amendment won’t work.

The billionaires’ lawyers will find some loophole to any such amendment.  A loophole big enough for a truck full of Sheldon Adelson’s money to pass through. Look at what they’ve done with the tax code.

My Idea.

I have a better idea. Let’s concede that our government is controlled by members of the New York Yacht Club and similar coteries. That’s tolerable, as long as the club members have diverse ideologies. Think of George Soros versus David Koch.

Bad government is not caused by the rich running things. Rather, stupidity predominates when one political party controls both the presidency and the Congress.

History confirms my theory. Take the Great Depression. It began in 1929. Three Republican presidents preceded the crash. All three enjoyed GOP control of Congress.

After we elected Democratic President Obama and a Democratic Congress, the deficit rose. It only began to fall in 2011, when Republicans recaptured the House.

Both parties are crazy. The Republicans want to cut taxes for the rich, so the one percenters can buy more private jets.  Supposedly, such luxury spending will create jobs for the rest of us. But when George W. and his GOP Congress tried this approach, the only long-term jobs they created were for bankruptcy attorneys.

The Democrats have never met a problem they could not solve by tossing money. If the first few billion don’t work, just spend some more. Really? Take education. We pay more for it than any other developed country. Yet our kids still can’t find China on a map.

In short, both parties need to be reined in. The best way to do that is to divide power. The only way to assure divided power is by constitutional amendment.

My Specific Proposal.

My proposed amendment is straightforward. Whenever an election results in the president’s party controlling both houses of Congress, elected senators of the minority party will choose additional at-large senators. They will pick as many as needed to shift control of the Senate.

Until my amendment passes, don’t ever vote the straight party ticket. An insane asylum divided against itself is a beautiful thing.

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