Parties, primaries, processes, and paying for democracy

This article from April by Ezra Klein in Vox, “This presidential campaign is developing a legitimacy problem,” is worth reading even though it’s now July.

Bernie future

The videos with it were helpful, too. I especially liked the explanation about why we don’t have a single day for primaries – something I’ve always wondered about.

Seems to me that issue rests at the feet of this anachronistic idea called state’s rights. To the point about a lack of national standards made by a friend of mine, when political parties in 52 jurisdictions get to make up their own rules, why would we expect anything but chaos, corruption, and questionable outcomes? I think we need national standards like single-day primaries and the ‘retirement’ of caucuses – another anachronistic idea that serves to exclude more Americans than it includes.

Tax Status of Parties and the Cost of Elections

I found this article, “Tax-Exempt Political Parties Have Money and Resources to Keep Elections Rigged,” from IVN while researching the question of the tax status of political parties. It’s from 2014. Political parties are, according to IVN, non-profit 527s, not for-profit corporations. Perhaps there was a time when they were for-profit? I’m asking because I don’t know.

Another point made in this IVN piece that I hadn’t really considered before is just the straight-up “operational” costs to have polling places.

Candice Nelson, a professor with American University’s government department, balks when asked whether states should do anything to restrict funding, tax-exempt or not.

“[I]t costs money to put on elections — to have a voting booth and have a place to go and vote,” Nelson said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for states to pay for the funding of those elections.”

The quote got me thinking about the costs that go into making it possible for us to cast our vote, and that includes campaigning and primaries.

It does cost money, and I do see elections as a function of the public sector that benefits the public good. I think the process should be funded by taxpayers, even those who choose not to participate. That’s their choice. (I’ll get to open vs closed primaries next.)

What I am totally against is privatizing anything that has to do with our electoral process, and that includes how political parties are funded, how campaigns are funded, and how the electoral process itself is funded. Privatizing any (more!) of that would, it seems to me, only strengthen the grip of power those with all the money have already over us and our politicians.

IVN t-shirtPublic service announcement:
I’d like to encourage everyone to kick a few bucks to IVN as I just did and have done in the past. I have the t-shirt to prove it.  😉

Primaries

As for open vs closed primaries, I admit to being more for closed primaries under the current process because I tend to think that a party’s members should be the people who choose who represents their party. This is where I’m admittedly not aligned 100% with IVN.

I don’t see primaries as the election. I see primaries as the means by which parties choose whom they wish to represent them. While IVN’s arguments do hold up that, for all intents-and-purposes under the present system, primaries serve in a big way as proxies for the actual election, they are not, in my mind, actually that. Here’s why.

Some people I know will tell you that they plan to cast their vote outside the two parties in November because they don’t like either candidate. If that’s the course they choose to follow because their candidate didn’t get enough support within a respective party, then they still have that as their prerogative.

I also think under the current system that closed primaries are the best way to keep people from rigging the outcomes even more perversely than is claimed that they are today. Democrats don’t want Republicans showing up to cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, and vice versa, just as Greens and Libertarians probably don’t want Democrats and Republicans despoiling their selection processes.

For a really interesting review of primaries in the U.S., see this Wikipedia page, Primary elections in the United States. Per this page, there are only 11 states that have closed primaries.

Now, as I see it, if we had single-day open primaries, then I think these problems are mostly solved. Bear in mind that nothing is perfect; however, under this scenario, everyone can vote, they all do so on the same day so crossing-over is reduced, and unaffiliated voters can participate but, as in any election, only a single vote gets cast. I’d also turn this whole electoral process, primary and general, into instant-runoff voting so that a second, third, and even fourth choice actually has a chance to win.

What I am absolutely all for is more parties. Figuring out how to fund parties seems like the thorniest problem to resolve. I don’t claim to have any answers. I sometimes think publicly funded elections are the best way to go, but then the question becomes how to distribute public funds to the parties? Is it relative and based on size of membership, or is it a flat amount? Then it feels like we’re right back to the question of party membership and open vs closed primaries.

Why have parties at all?

I think it’s human nature. We are not individuals. We are social animals who instinctively, emotionally, and for all kinds of practical reasons need each other to survive. As such, we’re going to coalesce into groups, and groups tend to take positions for or against all sorts of things based on what the group’s individuals collectively want, need, and believe. I think this “for or against” human tendency explains a lot about why there are only two major parties with lots of less popular and less populated parties who haven’t gotten traction. Most people don’t want to be in a group with little to no power and influence.

There’s no question that our political system is clearly broken and rigged to favor the present duopoly. I firmly believe that we need a different way of running our campaign, electoral, and political processes. As those who know me know, I’ve been advocating for years for ideas like the American Anti-Corruption Act and for the work that the people like Represent.Us and MayDay.us are doing on this issue. I support them along with the Independent Voter Network, and hope that everyone reading this will, too.

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Candidates’ spending on media and the Election-Industrial Complex

2016 election funds

Where does all the money in politics go, you ask???

Thanks to OnTheMedia by way of BestOfTheLeft, we now know that, like the Military-Industrial Complex, there’s an Election-Industrial Complex.

They don’t give a shit who wins so long as they make millions as zero-value-add middlemen and -women who give candidates terrible advice and then take a cut of the media buys.

So, who is spending what?

Open Secrets is the most reputable source I know for tracking money in politics, including who is financing the candidates and where they are directing expenditures.

What I discovered is that no one has spent more than Bernie on media.


STOP!!!

THIS IS NOT A HIT PIECE ON BERNIE!


(Sadly, I feel like I have to continuously issue this sort of caveat to try to placate – more like, hold at bay – my fellow Sanders supporters who are part of the Bernie-or-Bust crowd.)

Bernie has spent the most on media.

That is a statement of fact based on data reported by Open Secrets. If for some reason that statement upsets you, you just don’t like it for some reason, or if it doesn’t seem to fit your narrative about Bernie, then here’s my advice.

If you think the facts are incorrect….

….then you’re invited to show verifiable facts that dispute Open Secrets from sources that are at least equally reputable.

If you want to accuse a candidate of falsifying data to the Federal Elections Commission…

….then I think you’ve just set a bar you need to overcome that just went through the effing roof.

Now that we have all of that out of the way, here are the facts as presented by Open Secrets as of today.

  • Bernie has spent $41.8M – over one-half of all expenditures – on media. Only (only?) $8.8M have been spent on salaries.
  • Hillary has spent $29.5M – about 70 cents to every dollar spent by Bernie – on media. She has spent $32.6M – almost 4 times as much as Bernie – on salaries.

The GOP candidates’ media buys don’t come anywhere close to either Democrats.

  • Trump, $7.6M
  • Cruz, $6.3M
  • (Kasich’s data is not yet available)

(To see all of this data for yourself, go to https://www.opensecrets.org/pres16/, click on the candidate, then on the ‘Expend’ tab for details.)

So, once again, this is not a hit piece or a judgment of Bernie or any of the candidates. It’s simply an attempt to answer a question I saw in a Facebook group about where all the money goes, and to raise awareness of the Election-Industrial Complex that puts more and more power into the hands of fewer and fewer oligarchs.

What conclusions you draw or what you decide to do with this information is, of course, up to you.

Future generations will ask what the f*ck were you thinking

Sanders in VT

Its analysis of the top 100 donors, Politico explains, includes “contributions to super PACs through the end of 2015 that were disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, combined with analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and an estimate of average small donation size ― $75 ― calculated by the Campaign Finance Institute. The analysis doesn’t include money donated to nonprofit groups that don’t disclose their donors ― including groups set up to support Rubio, Bush and Clinton ― nor does it include donations to super PACs funneled through shell companies or other nonprofits in a way that avoids FEC disclosure.” (1)

Let that last part really sink in.

“….nor does it include donations to super PACs funneled through shell companies or other nonprofits in a way that avoids FEC disclosure.”

Avoids FEC disclosure. How the hell can anyone be ok with that? How?

If you’re not infuriated and outraged by this, I’d like to know why.

How can any of us be supportive of a system in which the wealthiest among us can both openly AND SECRETLY spend millions to buy our democracy the way you and I buy groceries?

How can any of us support any candidate who takes that money and who will, regardless of their claims to the contrary, kowtow to the desires of those writing those checks?

There’s only one candidate – one – who is truly fighting for us and against the status quo of Big and Dark Money.

No, it’s not Trump.

trump bankruptcyHe’s a showman, a carnival barker, a (non)reality TV show host, a four-time loser as a business leader, and the greatest narcissist the world has ever seen. What he is most is an embarrassment to America. I don’t know how they’ll do it, but I don’t envy his supporters trying to answer the question they’ll have to answer for future generations.

“What the fuck were you thinking?”

Thanks solely to the Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices, the political Miracle Grow of Big and Dark Money unleashed by the Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings have corrupted our democracy and put our entire political system from top to bottom up for sale to the richest among us.

Partisan SCOTUS Justices on CU and McCutcheon

If you don’t see the truth in that, it’s because you refuse to look at the facts openly and honestly.

This is not about opinions. This is not about “different perspectives.” This about facts.

Sanders is the only real candidate who is not taking Big and Dark Money and who actually gives a shit about actual people.

It’s now up to each of us to decide where we stand this primary season and in the general.

With Trump? With Cruz? With Rubio? With Hillary?

They’ve all been bought. The best way to fight back is to vote against them.

Vote for yourself. Vote for Bernie. He’s the only one on our side; the side of all 99-percenters.

(I started this post today before the news that Antonin Scalia was found dead. The carnival that is the Republican Congress must be licking their chops over how obstructionist they will be over whomever Obama decides to nominate.)

———

(1) “While Mega-Donors Average $1,950,000… Average Sanders Donation Still Just $27”, Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Only #Sanders has any credibility on controlling Wall Street and reforming campaign financing

There is only one candidate for president with any credibility when it comes to reining in Wall Street and doing something to end the corrupting influence that Big and Dark Money have over our elected officials.

Compare Bernie

As terrible as right-wing and ultra-conservative ideology is for everyone (including the ‘true believers’ who live with the rest of us 99-percenters), the problem of corruption that comes from unlimited and unregulated money that floods our democracy is one that can actually be solved now if we elect the right people.

http://anticorruptionact.org/

Model legislation exists. See the American Anti-Corruption Act.

 

What can we do?

  • First, get registered if you aren’t and vote in the primaries for Sanders.
  • Second, vote for him in the General.
  • Third and perhaps most importantly, vote Republicans out of every other office on the ballot.

Every. Single. One.

No, Democrats aren’t pure and innocent on the issue of money. Hillary is the largest recipient in pretty much every way, but understand this.

This isn’t about her, and money is absolutely corrupting Republicans in ways that result in far worse outcomes for everyone, economically and socially.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Republican presidential candidates get….

  • 62.6% of all Commercial Bank contributions
  • 70.4% of all Hedge Fund & Private Equity contributions
  • 74.7% of Insurance
  • 88.1% of Oil & Gas
  • 58.6% of Pharma
  • 65.2% of Securities & Investment

….and the list goes on.

Who is the most responsible for our economic woes? See above.

The real icing on the cake is how we got to this sorry state. The single biggest reason is given to us courtesy of the Supreme Court.

The only Supreme Court Justices who ruled for Big Money in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases were those appointed by a Republican president.

Sanders is the only one talking about overturning these decisions as a condition for any appointments he’d make.

How much more convincing will it take to reach our fellow 99-percenters who prefer Hillary or who think that they’re Republicans?

95 percent