Campaign Finance Reform: A Green Approach
by Elden T. Boothe & Nancy Broyles, Santa Barbara Green Alliance
[Editor's note. The following is the text of a resolution written by Elden T. Boothe and presented by Nancy Broyles to the 1995 Congress of The Greens/Green Party USA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Congress approved the "the spirit of the resolution," though not its specifics. A part of the motion to approve was to publish the resolution in Synthesis/Regeneration. S/R welcomes responses.]
Whereas, true democracy cannot exist until meaningful campaign reform is initiated.
Whereas, the current method of electing government officials based on money effectively eliminates candidates who are not independently wealthy, have rich relatives and/or friends or willing to sell their soul for an elective office.
Whereas, many who vote are not politically educated to the point that they vote for candidates based on issues but rather on ancillary considerations such as how their related forbearers voted in the past.
Whereas, voters cast their votes based on the innocuous (usually of a negative connotation) 30 second TV and radio spots ads.
Therefore be it proposed that the following are specifics for democratic elections:
(1) Limit the campaign to the six weeks prior to the election. This would be the only period in which money could be spent or a person could indicate that s/he was a candidate for a specific office. The primary and general elections are two separate campaigns. The six week limitation therefore applies to each separately. Candidates would not be allowed to originate campaigning or accept speaking engagements from any organization outside this six week window. Should the news media originate a political question to a candidate he/she would be allowed under First Amendment rights to respond. This would, however, require the originating news media a correspondent requirement to interrogate other candidates for the particular office on the same subject under the equal access provision.
The content of candidate exposure on radio and television should be in the form of debate with all qualified candidates for the particular office participating at no cost to the candidates.
(2) The radio frequencies for all commercial communications are controlled by the Federal Communications Commission and therefore owned by all people in this country. The radio and television stations only have a lease of the frequencies and as such the federal government dictates the use of these frequencies for the betterment of all its citizens. The use of these frequencies by radio and television stations must not make a profit by selling political advertisements, therefore there should be no charges made for political advertisement.
The content of candidate exposure on radio and television should be in the form of debate with all qualified candidates for the particular office participating at no cost to the candidates. An objective non-partisan moderator would ensure that all appropriate issues were addressed by all candidates and not allowed for obfuscation or skirting around answers to the issues. These debates would be conducted on weekends and prime time hours during the six weeks of the campaign. They would be carried on all television stations in the viewing area of the electorate for the particular office. A cross-section (by types of viewers) of AM and FM stations would also be required to carry these debates. A portion of the debates should include viewers call-in questions addressed to all candidates.
(3) A specific amount of government money would be allotted to each candidate campaigning. The amount of money would be based on the physical size of the district in which the election is being held. For example a candidate for House of Representatives in Wyoming would receive a larger amount of money than a US Senate candidate in Rhode Island. No personal money of the candidates could be spent. A supreme Court decision of Buckley v Valeo ruled that the First Amendment prohibited the abrogation of a political candidate from using his/her own personal money for their campaign. We believe that this Supreme Court decision needs to be revisited by those with the legal and financial resources to accomplish this. Without a reversal of this decision our political system would be turned over to the wealthy as so aptly demonstrated by two wealthy individuals—Huffington and Feinstein. This flies in the face of all legitimate campaign reform.
Friends and others would be permitted to campaign for the candidates but would only be allowed to spend their own money for transportation within the election district. The candidates could spend an allotted portion of their provided campaign fund for fliers to be handed out at rallies, speeches, or door-to-door. Not allowed would be mailed literature, billboards and lawn signs. Newspaper ads would be allowed only if provided equally to all candidates at reduced rates and the total allowable would have to fall within the overall allotment of funds each candidates is authorized for the election. These newspaper ads would be limited to the candidates views on specific issues. It would be certainly generous if the newspapers provided a limited amount of free advertisement equally to all candidates but this, of course, could not be be written in the election reform law.