This is the second part of my ideas on Campaign Finance Reform—the part where I offer some theoretical solutions to the problems mentioned in my last post.  These will seem rather radical (I imagine), but I don’t see a tweak or slight adjustment to the current system as a viable option.

First: no media ads 45 days before elections.  This will hopefully focus the electorate on issues rather than last minute attempts to sling mud at opponents.

Second: media time (TV and radio) available for advertising will be restricted.  Each viable candidate will receive a set number of minutes (on radio and television) paid for by a federal media-campaign fund.  Defining what a viable candidate will be is a bit tricky (reflection on this reform keeps leading to the ballooning of the issues and this post!).  We have to weigh the people’s desire for actual representation (resulting in multiple parties), against overwhelming the field with a plethora of candidates that dilute the field and make “choice” effectively meaningless.  Possible remedies: each party can put forth one or two candidates; or any potential candidate needs to gather a certain number of signatures on a campaign petition to make the ballot (the Internet makes this quite feasible in the 21st century).

Money for this fund will be re-appropriated from the defense budget ($2 billion for election years should do it—that’s like 1 stealth bomber).  These minutes will be apportioned as follow: 75% to be used as determined by the candidates themselves, and the remaining 25% will be available to his supporters (individuals, PACs, etc.).  In order to ensure fairness, each person or entity can apply for a “slot” of time (say, for simplicity’s sake, there are 25 total slots).  After all applications are in (by a deadline), the available slots will be filled by a random selection from the entire applicant pool.  Thus, Exxon will have the same chance to run an ad as Joe the Plumber.  The only restriction on these ads is that they must pertain to the election and/or candidates in some reasonable fashion.  This will eliminate the abuse of “soft money” and cut down on the mud-slinging, spin-doctoring, and outright lies that often are proliferated by these ads.  (I envision that the candidates will need to use their media advertising more constructively based on these limits).

Any money left over from this media fund will be moved to an educational slush fund focusing on the importance of civics in our society.

First Amendment concerns: it seems to me that the right to free speech is only fairly applied when equal access is guaranteed (at least as far as elections are concerned).  The need to raise money (and those who can provide it) dominate the process because it’s so expensive to advertise and these costs lock out the average citizen.  Anyone can take to a street corner to yell their political opinion, but I can’t afford 30 seconds on prime time (but wealthy patron-backed fringe groups can).

You’ll notice I’ve left the Internet alone—I have no interest (or, more accurately, no plan) to regulate the integrated network that will result in Skynet anyways.  I imagine that the internet will be used more prolifically if such reforms are enacted, but that’s the direction we’re inevitably heading as it is.  Certainly, those with obscene amounts of money will be able to buy more Internet resources, but users of the Net are much more able to self-filter the sites they see (as opposed to mainstream radio or TV).  Besides, everyone knows you can’t believe what you read on the Internet, right?

Third: individuals and PACs can still contribute to campaign funds; the money will simply (and necessarily) be channeled to other uses (like administrative and campaign expenditures).

Fourth: Damn this is hard.  Maybe it would be easier to emulate another country’s campaign finance system which doesn’t have our problems…

Possible side effects of these changes include: increased representative democracy.  The breaking of the stranglehold that Democrats and Republicans have on the political process.  Candidates paying increased attention to issues other than re-election.  Reduced influence of special interest groups and corporations on said political process.  Greater participation by the electorate (and a consequent increase in their dopamine flows due to investment and pride in their republic).

Now, some of these might sound crazy or unrealistic.  You might disagree with my proposed “solutions.”  That’s fine.  I hope you have other ideas and can come up with something better.  What I think is undeniable is that the current system is broken and poses a great threat to the representation of the average citizen and their interests.