Campaign Finance: A Constitutional Amendment

NPR had two guests on tonight, first former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Bell Cobb, and then Billie Corriher of the Center for American Progress. Suddenly it became clear that there is a common cause at the root of some of our systematic injustices, such as property seizures, Prescription Drug Abuse, and perhaps the system of Judicial fees as well. In my blog on the Pharmaceutical industry, I did not even get around to addressing the problem with the insurance system (because the recipient of services is not the one paying), and lawsuits, which in combination with the insurance companies, impel doctors to order tests to cover themselves in case of lawsuits. But these two together contribute to making a system of national health care un-affordable. I had only addressed the direct kickbacks and other incentives from the Pharmaceutical companies to the doctors and the hospitals. This is contrary to the Hippocratic oath, and need to stop.

Back to the courts. Chief Justice Cobb addressed the problem of elected judges, which ios that they must raise campaign funds into the millions, and then try cases before those they know have contributed, and secret P. A. C. money is untraceable publicly. The suggestion would seem to be appointed judges, though this may introduce other problems, and might only remove the problem to a different location. Mr. Corriher suggested stronger rules for judges regarding conflict of interest, and a more definite line of limits regarding campaign contributions, though the problem of secret contributions would remain.

Here is an obvious suggestion: forbid all campaigning, at least by judges. Let there be an official publication, a forum, like the League of Women’s Voter’s newspaper that allows each candidate to officially state their case. Then let the press come get their news, and eliminate the T. V. adds and laminated cow stuff that comes in the mail, with their opponent’s worst face right before the election. Unconstitutional? perhaps we are ready for a precisely worded amendment.

When new laws are made, or new constitutional arrangements made, there is always a new set of problems, usually unforeseen, that the legislators should try to foresee. Welfare and food stamps lead to category-diving and fraud. Every attempt to improve a circumstance with legislative measures leads, as if by its very artificiality, to a whole new set of problem. If the press and the official position forum were the locust of campaigns, all those corrupt would simply transfer their lobbying efforts to the press- which may be the least corrupt of the four branches of our government at present. This could be foreseen, though, and the press protected. America could replace the embarrassment of our campaigns and the slavishness of political office, which prevents the noble, (such as William Bennett seems to me), from wanting to take part in such a life, depriving America of her best source of talent and dedication.

Such an idea, of a public forum, trading post stove-type discussions around the table at the general store, is admittedly a bit like the flat tax-abolish the IRS idea. While it may not work literally, in just that simple a way, it is the right idea, which must then be adjusted in detail, admittedly toward the system we have now. But is it not time on some of these issues to wipe the slate clean and start over, before it is too late?

So here it is, the rough draft for Amendment XXVIII to the U. S. Constitution:

Freedom of Speech shall not be construed to allow campaign contributions indistinguishable from bribery. Henceforth, Congress may limit campaigning by the candidates for all elective offices of the United States to public forums provided for by non-partisan contributions, with entry to those forums subject to reasonable primary procedures. Such forums, as public speeches and debates, may be attended freely by the people and the press, but no money may be exchanged for the access of either the candidates, the people or the press.

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