The Clare Spark Blog

March 17, 2010

Joyce Appleby on campaign finance reform

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 9:18 pm
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Dr. Joyce Appleby

Joyce Appleby, an historian of great distinction and versatility, has contributed a guest blog. Some of my friends believe that it is impossible to reduce the role that money plays in politics. To me, this suggests that we are doomed to terminal corruption of the political process, and that we are indeed in a crisis of representation. Professor Appleby proposes a constitutional amendment reasserting a right that I would think to be implicit in the notion of a democratic republic. After all the political wars, hot and cold, that have been fought to establish voting rights, it is intolerable for the current situation to prevail indefinitely.  

[Joyce Appleby:] “Television changed American politics in ways that no one could have foreseen.  It’s effectiveness as a campaign medium became obvious right away.  Soon getting volunteers to walk precincts, stuff envelopes, and hand out literature became less important and finding the money to pay for tv spots more – much more.   Money had always played a part in American electoral politics, but the cost of television advertising magnified it greatly.  It takes a lot of small donors to make up for the corporation, union, or political action committee that can write big checks.   The influence of big money is apparent right now in the pharmaceutical industry’s reaction to health care reform and the bankers’ response to reforms of the financial system.  Congress has passed laws to limit the money in electoral campaigns but the reforms have either been ineffective or been knocked down by the Supreme Court which says that dollars are like voices, protected by freedom of speech.  The only sure way to diminish the role of  money in electoral politics is to reassert the people’s power to control elections through a constitutional amendment.  Something like this:  Citizens of the United States have the right to determine the duration, financing, and form of all campaigns for elections to offices established in this Constitution.”

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