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Public Directed Financing

This seems a little bit round-a-bout to me, but i like the fact that this plan avoids the criticism that "I don't like my tax money going to a candidate whose views i oppose. (to which my response has been "tough. i don't like my tax money going to fund wars." but this is probably more palatable):

Under the new plan, anyone who registered to vote would receive $10 to donate to House candidates, $15 to Senate candidates and $25 to presidential candidates. They could make their pledges essentially any way they chose. They could fund long shots or front-runners, spend their wads in the primary or the general election, in their home state or across the nation. They could split their allotments among dozens of contenders or just choose one Senate candidate, one House candidate and one presidential candidate. They could not cheat and spend the money on dinner. The $50 would be issued as a kind of electronic voucher that would expire on Election Day, and Ackerman and Ayres suggest that people could register their donations using the Web, ATM machines or even their electronic food stamp cards. At fifty dollars per 2004 voter, that would be $6 billion in public financing available for candidates. In comparison, all federal candidates -- House, the Senate and POTUS -- spent a combined $4 billion in 2004.

Step two, and this is the beauty of the plan, is that they want to decouple the act of giving to politicians from the identity of the giver, and make political contributions anonymous:

You could still make additional private contributions. Indeed, the professors call for raising significantly the current contribution limit of $2,300 per donor per candidate. ...

Imagine that you are a politically connected Hollywood producer, and Hillary Clinton calls you up and asks you for $50,000. What do you do? In truth, you'd rather give to Barack Obama, whom you consider more electable, but you don't want Clinton to know that. After all, what if she wins? Then you'll never see the inside of the Lincoln Bedroom. So you tell Clinton that you're definitely on her side. Fortunately, under the Ackerman-Ayres plan, you'll make your check out to the Federal Election Commission, not Clinton. The FEC will wait five days before adding your money to Clinton's account. In those five days, you could contact the FEC and redirect the money to Obama if you chose. And regardless of which candidate ultimately gets the money, its origin will be masked. The FEC will distribute the cash to the candidate's account anonymously, in pieces, over several days, using a secret algorithm to vary the pattern by which it deposits the money. So even though you promised the New York senator your support, she'll have no way of knowing whether you really went through with it. You could send your money to Obama and Clinton would have no way of knowing whose side you were actually on.

In other words, if this works, politicians will never know who wrote the big checks.

You'll want to read the whole article to see how independent expenditures become a factor, among other complexities, but I think it's an intriguing read. One question I've had with this plan is what this does to fundraising events -- if wealthy contributors can no longer buy access to wine and cheese functions with large checks (since you can't verify that they were given), then what can campaigns offer as inducement to write the large checks, other than "this candidate believes the right things"? If this means fewer fundraising events, will candidates spend more time with ordinary voters? I'm sure you'll have your own questions.

By fnord12 | February 7, 2007, 12:50 PM | Liberal Outrage