Since the establishment of the United States there has always been a measure of discontent with the representation provided by those elected to public office. This is to be expected since each citizen has their own views of the way things are or should be. This discontent crescendo’s from time to time causing changes to the political landscape or changes to the Constitution. The real problem is the corruption that society permits with the elected official and then the failure to properly address the problem. Establishing the 17th Amendment was an improper response to this problem. Term Limits are the current idea to deal with the current problem. Both are like taking a cold medicine. It addresses the symptoms but does not attack the cause. The only way to address this problem is to go back to the founding principles of the republic.
The United States Constitution was founded in the principles written into Declaration of Independence. These two sentences encapsulate the ideals that founded the United States.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This single statement is the heart of the modern era republic. In this statement exists the authority of the individual or more to the point the citizen. It also establishes the expectation that the citizen has the right (is entitled) to influence the behavior and decisions of their elected representatives and through their representatives the behavior and authority of the different levels of government (local, state, and federal).
Influence can be broken down into multiple forms, speech (most obvious), money, services, access, job promises, etc. Any myriad of tangible offerings. It is the influences beyond opinion speech that should be of the greatest concern. The basic ethic of society is that any law that infringes on a citizens speech is prohibited. This idea enshrined in the 1st Amendment is about opinion speech. However, there is more than one kind of speech, voting speech being the other. In the public discourse, freedom of speech is viewed as all speech and thus unlimited. This view is a mistaken perception. Of all the types of speech, voting speech is the ultimate expression of both opinion and liberty. Yet it is limited. Each citizen only gets only one opportunity per election per office to express their wishes. It is around voting speech (the election and campaign process) which the corruption in the political process should be addressed.
From time to time there has been a flirtation with the idea of compulsory voting. The enshrining into law for the requirement of the citizen to vote like performing jury duty. Fortunately this idea has always been rejected because forced speech is not freedom of speech. The right to say nothing is equal to the right to say something or anything. Thus there is liberty. Deciding to not participate in the election process should never be criminalized. Many forget the Preamble to the Constitution and many misquote it.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution only recognizes three sovereign entities (those entitle to representation). These are the United States itself, the States of the Union, and the citizen, each having their roles, responsibilities, and authorities. It does not recognize cities or counties, which are created under the authority of the State. Nor, does it recognize the business, union, political party, or the interest group. They are the products of the citizen. The special interest group, the corporation, the political party cannot vote for representation. These organizations are not citizens. Why should they have the ability to provide more tangible influence on a campaign or elected official than the citizen’s being represented? The Supreme Court has ruled that money is in effect speech. This is partially true. What it has failed to recognize is that financial support for an idea or issues is opinion speech but that financial support of a campaign is voting speech. Money and other forms of influence to a campaign is in effect voting. Take the standard commerce of purchasing a product, the consumer is in effect voting for that product. A corporation or any entity that cannot actually vote for a candidate, should not be able to give money to one. In the case of corporations, many are multi-national thus opening up influence of the election process to foreign influence in violation of the law. Thus goes the old saying, money is fungible. Who knows where it actually comes from. Allowing for any entity beyond the citizen to provide tangible resources to a campaign is essentially granting them a power and influence they are not entitled to.
There are lines of sovereignty drawn throughout the United States. Each one creating constituencies and offices for representation. Each one of these offices have limited and specific authorities. States, counties, cities, judicial districts, congressional districts, etc. These lines of established authority create limitations on influence. This should insure that only the citizen residences of the office being voted for are able to provide support beyond opinion speech to that potential office holder. Consider the election for the President of the United States. It is a national election. Every U.S. citizen is a constituent of that office. If the campaigns and candidates for that office were to take money, have a campaign advisors, receive any tangible support from a foreign entity. It would not only violate current campaign finance laws and it be considered not just unethical, but criminal, disqualifying. Why is not the same set of rules be applicable at the state level, county level, city level, etc? Should a someone residing in Florida, a citizen of Florida, be able to provide anything beyond opinion speech to an election in Texas? Texas is sovereign from Florida as Florida is from Texas. The citizens of one state have no right, no authority, to participate in the election process of another state. The same is true of county or city elections. Each electable office created also creates a constituency that the office is establish to serve. Only those citizens who may vote for that office should be allowed provide any influence or support beyond opinion speech to those seeking the office or even holding the office. It is the only ethical and Constitutional behavior that should be allowed.
Proposed Guidelines/Tenants for Ethical and Constitutional Campaign Contribution Laws.
The Constitution provides shared authority in establishing election laws between the States and the Federal government with the primary authority residing in the States. This would results in 51 or more laws on campaign contributions.
Article I, Section IV, Clause 1
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.
- No campaign for public office may receive or solicit for, nor may, any entity offer any tangible item or service of value that is not a permanent resident citizen of the office being sought. Put simply, a campaign is limited exclusively to the resources of the territory in which the office being sought and will represent. Anyone who is not a constituent of the office being sought may not provide any money or services to that campaign. Services purchased by the campaign are limited to individuals and businesses within the geography of the office being sought. Some may argue that limiting hired resources to the geography of the district, county, city, or state etc is debilitating. However, it puts every campaign on the same playing ground. It is fair.
- All contributions, received and all expenditures made must be reported into the public domain within 24 hours of receiving the largesse or services or using the campaign resources. A complete contribution accounting must be provided: Who donated money or time, how much money or time, the residence of the contributor, service provided, how much spent, to whom it was sent, the purpose of the expenditure, the contacts representing the service provider, the address of the service provider. Each state shall have its own method of achieving and providing for the public record of the campaign. The rules should be evenly applied to all campaigns.
- Limits on financial contributions should be capped based on the demographic average earnings of the citizens of the state in which the elections are taking place. A cap for contributions for federal office should also be established federal office. Limits should exist to insure that no one individual citizen has greater influence to a public office than another. Every citizen gets one vote each. Thus the influence should be as evenly distributed as possible Providing each citizen who wishes to participate/contribute can do so equally.
- Citizens should only be allowed one residence for the determining constituency for voting for national offices. Many citizens own multiple homes in a variety of different locations with the U.S. They should not be able to vote multiple times in an election. One residence only. The same can be said of voting within a state.
- The use of personal largesse to get oneself elected should be limited to contribution caps. The use of any services controlled by the candidate must be paid for by the campaign at costs normal to the operation of that business. Denying the same services to a competing campaign should be illegal and the costs should be commensurate. The United States is not meant to be an oligarchy. An individual in any other area may take full advantage of their affluence. However, this is for public office whose role is to serve their constituency. Buying an elected office is unethical and not within the founding fathers intent.
- Campaigns for public office may not assume debt. No loans. Opens the door to influence that would exceed contribution caps.
- Contributions to a campaign whether financial, participation, or any form of volunteer offering require proof of citizenship and constituency to the office being sought. To participate in a campaign, the individual wishing to support the candidate must show proof that they may vote for the candidate.
- All contributions remaining after the election and after all services have been closed go to the county, city, state, or federal treasury respectively within 30 days of the day after the election. The purpose of a campaign is to provide a candidate for a public office with a vehicle to inform the constituents of that office with information about the candidate, the goals of the candidate, the qualifications of the candidate, and the issues important to the candidate. It is not there to enrich the candidate beyond getting elected.
- Any U.S. Citizen, Organization, PAC, Political Party, Corporation, Special Interest Group, etc. may make a statement of endorsement of any campaign for public office which the campaign may use or reject. with the following restriction. Organizations, PAC, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest groups must be able to show that they received no largesse from a foreign entity. No foreign influence. Freedom of speech is maintained
- Organizations, PAC’s, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest Groups, etc. may advertise opinions on any issue provided they identify their organization when issuing the advertisement. All service and monies used for issue advertising should be available for public record within 24 hours of receipt or acceptance of services. This is not endorsement of a candidate. This is issue advertising. No mention of a candidate is permitted. The organization has already performed that activity by making a statement of endorsement. If they chose to.
- Organizations, PAC’s, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest Groups, etc. are prohibited from limiting or restricting U.S. citizens from any and all lawful contribution to any campaign while outside the workplace. Additionally, are not permitted to make as a condition of employment any limits on political expression outside the workplace as long as the employee in their participation is not acting as a representative of the organization. Some corporations have their own political action committees (PAC’s) while at the same time restricting or limiting their employees from contributing themselves. This behavior is essentially holding the employee who is a citizen hostage to the will of the employer.
- Campaigns violating limitations on contributions should be required to return or pay for the largesse or services received and should be subject to a fine equal to amount of largesse or services illegally received. Penalties should be so damaging as to make violating them unthinkable.
The United States of America is a republic. It is not a democracy. Granted, the election of a public office holder is a result of a democratic process. However, the simple truth is that the individual citizen does not vote directly on any given issue in almost all cases. It is the elected official that holds the governing authority through the consent of the citizen. They either legislate the law or administer the law. The elected official swears an oath to uphold the ideals and principles established in The Constitution. It should also be understood that the elected official does not actually assume the mantle of authority of the office until they make that oath. The oath establishes an affirmative responsibility to uphold the promises, liberties, obligations, responsibilities, and sovereignty established in The Constitution. Because of this the public office holder’s obligation is to the citizen and the oath taken. Not the corporation, union, political party, special interest group or any other entity. The responsibility is only to the citizens who granted their consent to be represented by that individual and to guarantee the social fabric they are sworn to uphold.
The fundamental problem that exists within the republic (any republic) and its election of public office holders is the loss of the foundational ethics around representational government. This loss of ethic is reflected in the current set of campaign finance laws. For the citizen to take back control and influence of the political process and its “representative government”, the citizen must insist on a set of ethics that get legislated into law reaffirming the original intent of its creators, and the rules we have all agreed to adhere to.
The First Amendment to The Constitution insures that every U.S. citizen has the right and unrestricted opportunity to express their ideas and thoughts on any issue or interest. It is a fundamental ethic of the society. Every citizen’s voice freely adding to the dialog that establishes the culture and its laws. However, current campaign finance laws are disenfranchising the individual citizen in favor of influence of political action committees (PACS), unions, political parties, corporations, and any myriad of special interest groups. None of these aforementioned organizations have a direct right to representation. These organizations inherit their influence and rights through the citizens that support them. Again, Supreme Court has ruled that the contribution of money to a candidate running for public office is free speech and is protected under The First Amendment. This ruling on its face fails to recognize the substantial influence of money over speech. The problem is that they convolute the organizational entity such as a PAC, political party, corporation, etc… with the individual citizen. This lack of nuance has lead to laws that have in effect created an oligarchy of political influence favoring the affluent, famous, and special interest group over the citizen. Elected officials seem more interested representing what the political party, or the special interest group thinks and wants than what their constituents think or want. It is not supposed to be this way. Their simply needs to be a public dialog over what is the proper ethical and Constitutional influences to the election process.