Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Public Financing of Elections Would Lead Us Out of the Partisan Swamp"

In Oklahoma City, a star-studded political cast has assembled to discuss the need for a new "independent" politics in America to help get beyond the yawning partisan divide. But Nick Nyhart over at The Oklahoman has a piece that I think is on point about what is really needed to free the system to be more democratic and responsive: Nick Nyhart, "Public Financing of Elections Would Lead Us out of the Partisan Swamp"

Here is the heart of the matter:
Big money is driving up the costs of campaigning and preventing candidates who are strong on brains, people skills, independence and vision -- but who don't have access to deep pockets--from running for and winning office. Endless fundraising steals the focus of our leaders, requiring that they spend less time leading the nation to solutions that work for all Americans, regardless of their ability to make a political donation.

And then...
Full public financing of elections would get us out of this swamp. It already has cross-aisle appeal and bipartisan leadership. In March, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced the Senate version of the Fair Elections Now Act, a policy that has been implemented in seven states and two cities, often under the banner "Clean Elections."

These successful state models can show the way forward. In states as different as Arizona and Maine, candidates who collect a set amount of $5 donations can qualify for public money to run their campaigns. Participating candidates must forgo all private donations and agree to a campaign spending limit. If they face a privately financed opponent, "Fair Fight" funds are available to keep the race on a level playing field.

Dealing with the wholly undemocratic influence of private wealth on public elections is truly the reform that will make all other reforms possible. This must be the beginning of any movement for small 'd' democracy in the U.S...

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