The Instigator
Aagon
Pro (for)
Winning
12 Points
The Contender
clsmooth
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

Sufficient voluntary public financing should be available for all elections. Fair Election Now Act

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/23/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,129 times Debate No: 2115
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (6)

 

Aagon

Pro

Most of these ideas are based on Senators Dodd and Specter's Fair Election Now Act. Under a system of voluntary public financing, candidates have to meet certain prerequisites designed to make sure that they are relatively mainstream. In return for promising not to use any private financing or their own money, they receive money from the government to run for office. If their opponent uses private funding, then they can receive matching funds to keep them competitive.

Currently, money has way too much influence in politics. In this election cycle the presidential candidates alone are expected to spend over a billion dollars. The people who donate the most do not represent America. Overwhelmingly big donors are affiliated with industry and corporations, particularly the pharmaceutical, health insurance, student loan, and oil companies. This has many negative side effects, but I will focus on three.

First, it opens the potential for straight out bribery on votes. While academic research on this is murky, there is strong evidence for certain types. Anecdotal evidence from the California legislature suggests that big donors will ask for one or two important votes a year or session, while not holding them accountable the rest of the time. Additionally, evidence suggests that donations from an industry will often discourage opponents from continuing to be as vocal as before.

There is much stronger evidence demonstrating bribery in exchange for access. Generally, it is much more difficult for ordinary voters to be able to meet with Congressman than people that donated to their campaigns. This access limits the people that they interact with and the information they receive to representing industries, etc, rather than a broader American experience.

Finally, there is the influence on what kind of candidates can get elected. Essentially, unless you are favored by wealthy special interests, you have no chance to get elected. This prevents a broad spectrum of people from having a chance to run for office- teachers, police, firefighters, nurses. This means that bribery may not even be necessary because the people that get elected are already affiliated with and dependent on those special interests.

Global warming, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, clean oceans, affordable higher education- there is a wide swath of issues on which a broad consensus agrees, but nothing happens largely because of the influence of the special interests they would harm.

I have a lot more information I can bring out, but I'll wait for my opponent.
clsmooth

Con

My opponent, like most advocates of campaign-finance reform, is undoubtedly well intentioned. But, like others, he fails to see the folly in socialized election funding.

I Googled the "Fair Election Act" and couldn't find much about it. But I do know that, not long ago, there was a bipartisan public financing bill that would have entirely enshrined the two-party system and forever shut out all third-party opposition in this country. Institutionalized factionalism is about as antithetical to the ideals of the American founding fathers as anything imaginable, and in complete disharmony with the spirit of liberty and democratic republicanism.

Secondly, money only has an "influence" in politics because money can BUY influence. This is because the government does way too much. The federal government has grossly expanded beyond its constitutional bounds, and thus, secretly in Washington, the looters can divide the loot among their favorites without much scrutiny from the people. You are attacking a symptom instead of the problem itself -- the government has too much power; too much discretion to dole out favors. If the government behaved constitutionally, there would be no need for campaign-finance laws at all, because there would be no favoritism to show.

Thirdly, the bribery would continue even under a regime of publicly financed elections. True bribery is about getting personal money, not campaign cash. If politicians didn't have to hustle for campaign cash, they would spend more time expanding the government and destroying liberty, and more time collecting literal bribes for doing so.

Fourthly, I find it hilarious that the "non-special interests" you cite -- teachers, police, firefighters, nurses -- are actually some of the biggest special interests in America! They are all government employees who vote for more and more government and less liberty. They don't need to run for office -- the politicians already serve them. (Nurses are not directly government employees, but the entire medical-industrial complex is largely funded by the government).

You mistake constitutional republicanism -- the form of government we are supposed to have -- for democratic socialism, which is the kind of government we mostly do have and you want more of. You see private financing of elections as the last bulwark against pure "democracy" (i.e. socialism) and perhaps you are right. But that's the best argument for keeping private financing!

You say that candidates who don't represent special interests can't raise money. Ron Paul has proven that false. Now, Ron Paul is not getting the votes -- that's because your beloved democracy is not giving them to him. The people want the government they have, and that's very unfortunate, but true. Ron Paul has raised more money than any other Republican (as of late) by appealing to blue-collar workers who give him $100 contributions. He gets NO MONEY from the investment banks who are the primary financiers of all other major candidates (on the left and the right -- and whom you do not mention, curiously).

Campaign-finance restrictions are really restrictions on free speech. Ask Doug Stanhope. Ask Unity 08. Unity 08 brings up another point, too -- finance restrictions kill competition. Just like every other regulation in the U.S., campaign-finance laws are designed to enshrine the establishment. That's why even the Socialist Party USA is against McCain-Fiengold! But of course, you are less concerned with freedom of speech or political liberty than with allowing the "mainstream" parties able to feed at the welfare troff. Why not just go to a one-party state like Cuba, China, or North Korea? We pretty much have that now with the two major parties' consensus on the most important issues (monetary and foreign policy), and your proposed "solution" would make that irrevocably the case.
Debate Round No. 1
Aagon

Pro

I wish that my opponent had spent more time addressing the issue at hand which is that given the current system, public financing is the best solution available. Here is a link for some more information, and I'm sure you can find more by googling Fair Elections Now Act rather than Fair Elections Act.

http://www.publicampaign.org...

I don't wish to argue about the constitutionality of the current system as that is another debate entirely and seems much more likely to devolve into personal opinions. But, I will point out that it's ridiculous to assume that a smaller government from the "good old years" will be less free of graft- from the beginning, the government provided a source of jobs and influence for people. Tariffs, also, would be in the hands of special interests just as much then as now and those are explicitly allowed in the Constitution.

Factionalism. The one provision in the current bill that concerns this is that third party candidates will have to show more public support in the form of collecting more signatures and five-dollar contributions than members of the two-party system in order to qualify for the system. After that, I believe they are treated the same. I have mixed feelings on this- on the one hand, I agree that all people should be able to compete openly, on the other hand I don't like the idea of hate groups, etc, being able to spew their rhetoric on public funding. Regardless, I think that the overall benefits outweigh the relatively small constraints placed on third party candidates, especially considering they can still run without public financing.

Bribery- personal bribery is ILLEGAL. It is a lot easier for the FBI, police, etc to track and catch than is campaign bribery.

"Non-special interests." I was not denying that they they have their own interests- everyone is self-interested to some extent. But the biggest special interests? certainly not. Just look at spending expenditures in campaigns, etc- industries make up the biggest donors, not unions representing these people. Nevertheless, this argument is irrelevant to my point- I trust these people in government, who have dedicated themselves to public service at generally low paying and hard-working jobs far more than I trust people who have spent their lives in the oil industry, or lawyers working to protect corporations, etc. You can substitute construction workers in here if you want to, but the point remains- public financing would open up the potential to run for office to a far broader spectrum of people.

I don't understand how you see private financing as protecting republicanism against socialism. A system of public financing means that candidates have to spend more time talking to individual voters rather than on phones dialing for dollars. That does not necessarily support socialism, it merely makes politicians more responsive to what the people want rather than the people who give them money- which yes, I do define as more democratic.

Ron Paul- yes, in recent times the internet has begun to make headway against this issue, not only with Ron Paul but with other campaigns throughout the US as well. But Ron Paul is an aberration and hardly represents the vast majority of Congressional seats which do not have candidates able to raise competitive money against big industrial candidates.

You misunderstand the nature of this proposal. I clearly stated this was voluntary- there are NO restrictions included in it unless they choose to take public financing. Candidates who don't can still raise all the money they want. In fact, this ENCOURAGES freedom of speech by giving voice to a broader range of candidates who otherwise never would be heard from, both within and without the party. In fact, I would argue that monetary issues would be much more open to debate with people able to get into politics without depending on the big corporations, etc, who like the monetary system the way it is.

It increases the variety of people represented- including women and minorities, it reduces incumbency victory rates, which are hideously high throughout the country, and increases voter faith in government and participation. (http://democracymatters.org...)
clsmooth

Con

You are right that there was graft in the "good old years," particularly in regards to the tariff. In fact, we had a war over it. But the more power government has, the more graft, bribery, and other chicanery there is. This is self evident! There is very little bribery at a local Village Hall because the Village Council has little power. The more power government has, the more graft there will be.

How can you justify a law written by the two parties to protect the two parties from outside competition? This is the foxes guarding the hen houses. Why not let the government investigate itself for corruption -- oh wait, it already does. And what kind of results does it produce?

You say your system is voluntary. Are the taxes that fund it voluntary? If not, then it is plainly immoral. My neighbor may not care about politics, so why should he be forced to contribute to a candidate he may not even agree with? If you're ready to move to a regime of fully voluntary taxation, I'm with you, but if not, no way.

Secondly, let's say I strongly endorse a candidate. Imagine his name is Paul Ron. Paul Ron, unlike Ron Paul, accepts public money for his campaign. As a result, he cannot accept any private money, right? Well, what if I decide to take up collections and fund, I don't know... a blimp with Paul Ron's name on it. Would that be legal? Would it be legal for me to run a full-page ad in USA Today (like one of Ron Paul's wealthy backers did)? Would it be legal for me to create a Web site all about my candidate, Paul Ron? How about a YouTube channel? How about a TV show? And if the answer is YES, then what is to stop corporations and other special interests from doing the same thing for their candidates, "independently"? Nothing. Only crude, draconian, anti-free expression laws that would ban all political discussion could do what you're aiming to achieve.
Debate Round No. 2
Aagon

Pro

It's true that more graft is available now, I was merely denying your point that there would be no bribery under that system.

I'm not saying that the bill is perfect. However, I am arguing that under this proposed system, third parties would have more of a chance because it would be much easier for them to collect signatures and $5 contributions rather than the normally millions of dollars it takes to run a campaign.

umm...you're basically arguing against the entire taxation system and that is a completely different debate. But I will say this in regards to cost. In the end, this has the potential to save money. Currently we spend or until recently have spent seventy billion dollars on subsidies to oil companies, several billion dollars on subsidies to the student loan industry and Medicare part-D is hugely profitable to pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the federal government. With less people dependent on these industries, these subsidies will most likely disappear over time, saving money.

That's a good point. This proposal does not address independent expenditures. It is not perfect. However, assuming that we leave the rest of the campaign finance system the way it currently is, this reform would still leave us with a far better system. No staff affiliated with someone's campaign would be able to raise these independent expenditures which downplays their effectiveness. The candidate would be freed up to spend more time with voters, which studies have shown is what happens with clean money politicians in Maine and Arizona. And most importantly far more people can be competitive than before. Independent expenditures do not have the decisive role that candidate expenditures do.
clsmooth

Con

Okay, so you're admitting the following:

1. There would still be bribery, abuse, and fraud under your reform.

2. Your reform was written by the two parties and is discriminatory in favor of the two parties.

3. That special interests would still be 100% free to spend as much money as they wanted on "independent expenditures" -- including advertisements, mailings, phone calls, etc.... So what would be the point?

Public financing takes my tax dollars and gives them to George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, both of whom I despise. It takes my pro-life tax dollars and gives them to someone who will spread a pro-abortion message. It takes my anti-war tax dollars and gives them to a candidate who supports imperialism. And it does the opposite for people with opposite views. It is immoral. In addition, it is ineffective (#1), discriminatory (#2), and entirely pointless (#3).
Debate Round No. 3
Aagon

Pro

1. There would still be bribery, abuse, and fraud under your reform.
No, I was saying that under the old system you were talking about there would still be all of these things. Well, I imagine there still would be some form of bribery, abuse, fraud, etc, because there is under any system, but it would be much less rampant.

2. Your reform was written by the two parties and is discriminatory in favor of the two parties.
It is discriminatory, but still better for third parties than the current system. In 2004, 8 of 11 third party candidates (Green Party) in Maine qualified for the same level of public financing as other candidates.

3. That special interests would still be 100% free to spend as much money as they wanted on "independent expenditures" -- including advertisements, mailings, phone calls, etc.... So what would be the point?

The point is to make it easier for people to run, so that not only people who follow a corporate, industrial message can run. You're ignoring over half my arguments in your simplification here. While special interests still could use independent expenditures, these expenditures have proven to not be nearly as important as direct expenditures through campaigns.

Once a campaign has enough money to reach a certain threshold, it is viable regardless of how much money is spent against it. This reform would result in more people getting into office that would not be able to run under the current system. This is PROVEN- in Arizona, the number of Native American and Latino candidates tripled between 2000 and 2002. The biggest hurdle for minority candidates has always been the incumbency advantage, which centers around having tons of money channeled their way. With public financing, these candidates were able to stand up to the incumbents and win, despite their almost certain monetary advantage in independent expenditures.
clsmooth

Con

There are a lot of strawmen constructed in your closing argument.

A) The public financing in Maine is not the same as the bill you're supporting. In Maine, the minor parties are considered equally with the major parties. THIS IS NOT THE CASE with the bill you are touting, so you cannot use Maine as an example of how fair public financing would be. Furthermore, what you are suggesting is unfair to principled, libertarian parties (such as the Libertarian and Constitution parties) which are against big government funding elections to begin with. You are forcing a political view -- "elections should be publicly funded" -- on anyone who wants to run; and that view is abhorrent to libertarians, who are thus, victims of discrimination. It would be no different from having voting on the Sabbath so that practicing Jews couldn't vote.

B) Here is what would happen under your system. So Rudy McRomney is running for governor. He agrees to the public financing scheme and gets a fat check for $30 million or whatever to fund his campaign. His opponent, Paul Ron also gets $30 million. But then a consortium of special interest bankroll a new "Independent Committee" called the "NEVER FORGET 9/11" 527. They pool together $200 million and staff several offices with phone bankers, they run ads on TV and radio, put up billboards, send direct mail, etc. Nothing can stop them from doing this, and you admit it. So Paul Ron still gets to run, but he's drowned out by $200 million in special interest money, just as he would have been if there were no public financing at all.

How is this not obvious to you?
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Off_the_Wall.Paul 9 years ago
Off_the_Wall.Paul
A good debate at a good time.
Posted by Aagon 9 years ago
Aagon
Agreed.

What my point was regarding money is that studies show that there is an upper limit at which more money is ineffective and public financing is designed to reach that limit. Also, I couldn't include this b/c I wasn't sure about the federal bill, but a lot of the proposals include matching funds for independent expenditures.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
Good debate. We kept it on the up-and-up.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by sully 9 years ago
sully
AagonclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by thepinksquirrel 9 years ago
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AagonclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by Off_the_Wall.Paul 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by Aagon 9 years ago
Aagon
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Vote Placed by clsmooth 9 years ago
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