Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Utah 3rd District Debate Digest Part 1

I setup a fan page on Facebook this week as a means to publicize a historic first in many ways; 1. a civilized debate 2. online between the candidates for the 3rd Congressional District in Utah. The debate to date has been primarily between Libertarian Jake Shannon and independent Joe Puente. I have not been able to contact Douglas Sligting yet. Jason Chaffetz and Karen Hyer have not been invited to participate yet.

I'm hoping this experiment will succeed in generating a very civil dialogue and bring some ideas to the light of day that otherwise would be obscured by the smoke and mirrors of traditional partisanship.

Two topics from 5 topic submissions from each candidate were selected to kick this week off:
1. Publicly Funded Elections by Joe Puente
2. The Ward on Drugs by Jake Shannon

Here is a digest of the debate so far.

Publicly Funded Elections

Joseph Puente

There is legislation in Congress right now to bring about publicly funded elections. It's called the Fair Elections Now Act. Under this law, candidates for the House and Senate who raise a threshold number of small-dollar donations would qualify for public funding—several hundred thousand dollars for House, millions for many Senate races. If they accept this funding, they CAN'T raise big-dollar donations. But they can raise contributions up to $100, which would be matched 4-to-1 by a central fund. The bill also calls for reduced fees for TV airtime, providing an incentive for politicians to opt into this system and run people-powered campaigns.

I am challenging all Candidates for the U.S. Congress in District 3 to put elements of this legislation into practice for THIS election. Most notably, incumbent Jason Chaffetz. I'm calling on him specifically to give up the nearly quarter of a million dollars in special interest money he has been paid and promise to accept nothing more from corporate and special interests and to limit personal contributions to $100 per person. Let's test this legislation and see if it can genuinely level the playing field for all those who wish to participate in our participatory government.

If Chaffetz chooses to ignore this challenge, then will make it clear to the people of District 3 that he embraces the status quo. That he values corporate interests over the public interest and that he would rather live with a corrupt and hijacked political system that favors a few wealthy people over the average individual.

For more information on publicly funded elections and the Fair Elections Now Act, I invite you all to visit the following web sites:



Jake Shannon

Again, this is another example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Publicly funded elections have been found to be unconstitutional and ineffective, a bad combination in my estimation.

A 2003 study by United States Government Accounting Office (GAO) found that publicly funded elections in Maine and Arizona failed to produce measurable benefits (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03453.pdf). In 2008, "Judge Roslyn Silver ruled that the Matching Funds provision of the [Clean Elections] Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it opens up new avenues for possible corruption in the electoral process" (http://goldwaterinstitute.org/article/2534).

Campaign finance is an important issue but must be carefully vetted so as not to infringe upon First Amendment rights. In particular I find my opinion matches that of Robert A. Levy:

"[A]re there any campaign contributions or expenditures that should be illegal?

Yes: First, misuse of a government office by favoring donors who seek government contracts and services. That would breach an official's fiduciary responsibility to his constituents. Second, payoffs to a candidate — secretly contributed, then spent on personal pleasures like a new car. Numerous laws are already on the books to prosecute such abuses. But when a candidate fully discloses a donation and puts the money in a segregated fund that can be used only for constitutionally favored political expression, that is not corruption. And the First Amendment does not allow treating advocacy as if it were a bribe. Our system may not be perfect; but it is, after all, the system that the Constitution has established" (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11176).

Joseph Puente

Then how do we make sure that candidates are beholden to the people and not the corporate interests that fund their campaigns? This has nothing to do with the first amendment. No one's right to free expression is being infringed through publicly funded elections it simply assures the public the that their interests are placed above those of special/corporate interests.

Jake Shannon

Well, as I quoted earlier, there are already many laws on the books already to prosecute abuses. But first I am concerned that the method you've proposed has been demonstrated to be A) ineffective B) and unconstitutional (having Judge Silver ruling against "clean" elections as a violation of Amendment 1).

My solution has three parts. First, I'd propose enforcing the laws already on the books.

Second, I suggest the most effective way to make sure that candidates are beholden to the people is to require all those that seek office must enter into a "surety bond" type of contract where if the politician does not live up to promises made during their campaign, they would face some sort of penalty or incur a serious cost.

Third, I would propose an Amendment to revise the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States to revoke corporation rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons. Corporations are not people, and as such should not be able to be protected by the First Amendment with regards to campaign contributions. This would make the only persons able to contribute to political campaigns be actual, natural persons, not corporations.

I know of no other candidate for office suggesting my second and third parts (but that doesn't mean that haven't been suggested like this before) as a solution.

Joe, do you have any substantial rebuttal to the evidence I've provided that demonstrates publicly-funded elections are inefficient and unconstitutional?

Gentleman, thanks for your thoughts--looking forward to much more.

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