Archive for Sunday, February 12, 2012

Public financing is a must

February 12, 2012


“One of the worries we have obviously in the next campaign is that there are so many of these so-called super PACs, these independent expenditures that are gonna be out there, There is gonna be just a lot of money floating around and I guarantee a bunch of it’s gonna be negative.” — President Obama in an interview Super Bowl Sunday.

“President Barack Obama — in an act of hypocrisy or necessity, depending on the beholder — has reversed course and is now blessing the efforts of a sputtering super PAC ...” — from a story on Politico the next day.

We’ve seen this movie before. In 2008, candidate Obama broke a promise to use public campaign financing, thereby gaining a tactical advantage at the expense of betraying his professed principles. Of course, politics is hell on principles, so one can hardly be surprised at his decision now to embrace a super PAC set up on his behalf. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Maybe you’ve seen recent episodes of “The Colbert Report” in which Stephen Colbert has spoofed the super PAC rules by following them. He formed a super PAC, raised a million dollars, then announced his candidacy for “president of the United States of South Carolina” and, in accordance with the law, turned control of the money over to Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who then ran an ad slamming Mitt Romney, Colbert’s “opponent” in the South Carolina primary. This was all legal, so long as the two did not “coordinate” their activities.

That Colbert and Stewart are friends and business partners and shared staff did not count as “coordination.” Which sort of puts it into perspective when a real candidate shrugs and says he has no control over nasty takedown ads run against his opponent by some super PAC controlled by his friend or business partner.

It also offers vivid illustration of how disastrous was the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case that paved the way for corporations to dump unlimited money into the electoral process. The court blessed this chicanery under the theory that money is speech. One does not dismiss a free speech argument lightly, but one should dismiss this one just the same.

If a billionaire wants to express her opinion, let her write a letter to the editor like anyone else. Let her take out an ad in the local paper.

But giving her the ability to flood an election with unlimited, practically unregulated money gives her an unfair and insurmountable advantage, rendering her voice exponentially louder than that of the average citizen. Worse, as we see with Obama, it inaugurates a cash flow arms race from which no candidate, however principled, can afford to opt out.

One is reminded of a perverse old reading of the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” That saying has about as much to do with the actual golden rule as the court’s decision does with free speech, but it neatly sums up the effect that decision has had on American politics.

It is past time we the people demanded corporate cash be banned from politics, and that all candidates be required to accept public financing. Until then, we are doomed to keep seeing this movie.

Politico casts Obama’s decision as an act of either hypocrisy or necessity. But see, that’s just the problem:

It was both.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on His email address is


Flap Doodle 2 years, 2 months ago

Where would the Mope's campaign for 2008 been without the bundlers?


jafs 2 years, 2 months ago

Also, the idea that 1st amendment rights aren't predicated on person-hood seems off to me.

That's the whole point of the Constitution - to grant rights to people, more specifically American citizens.


Satirical 2 years, 2 months ago

Pitts has it exactly right!

People joining their money together in a common cause, or corporation made up of people, shouldn't be able to express their opinion on political matters. Only the left wing media has the right to express its opinion on political matters (show one-sided coverage) and call it free speech.

To prevent a waning influence of the media elite we must join together and decry this outpouring of greater political participation from other sources. To protect democracy we should only be allowed influence from certain (liberal) sources. Don't you see...preventing free speech is the only way to save democracy!


Liberty275 2 years, 2 months ago

Pitts is your typical left-wing hypocrite. The Miami Herald spends millions of dollars printing and distributing pitt's pablum on a regular basis while he say's others can't pay money to publish differing opinions. He's as dumb as the dinosaur media he works for.

Take a hike pitts. Everyone's speech is protected the same and there is nothing you or the miami herald can do about it. Also, since there are American citizens that cannot write in English, I expect you to call for a ban on all written political punditry. Hypocrite.


its_just_math 2 years, 2 months ago

Speaking of 1%'ers, many forget Goldman-Sachs gave a million bucks to Obama in '08. How many Fleabaggers know this fact?


Agnostick 2 years, 2 months ago

1) Reverse Citizens United. Corporations are made up of people--but they are not people themselves. Corporations are profit-making organizations, paper tigers. Paper tigers do not have the right to vote--people have the right to vote.

2) Private financing by individuals. Individual contributions to political campaigns.

3) All campaign finance records open, including names of donors. You get to see who I give money to... I get to see who you give money to.


observant 2 years, 2 months ago

Liberty seems to feel that only the 1%'ers should be able to vote. That's already what their agenda is.


Liberty_One 2 years, 2 months ago

Here's an easy solution: only those not receiving money from the government (food stamps, medicare, social security, subsidies, etc.) are allowed to vote.


jayhawklawrence 2 years, 2 months ago

I think the system has worked to some degree in light of the fact that some of the most incompetent candidates we have seen in our history have been weaned out and my guess is that most of us would like to see some more candidates crash and burn like the Hindenburg.

Former Republican candidates are saying that their party is in need of an overhaul and is searching for it's identity. That sounds like a bunch of teenagers to me.

The Democratic Party, which has more divergent views among their members, has had to struggle for unity in light of the fact that Obama is just too darn conservative for some of their members.

The leading candidate of the Republican Party has turned out to not be able to make a convincing argument to even his own political party.

I am sympathetic to Romney's position of trying to win over people who still believe Obama was born in Kenya or Malaysia, is a secret Muslim operative, wants to secretly destroy the US economy and rebuild it as a marxist socialist paradise.....and you get the same emails I get.

Simply making up stories and calling someone every name you can think of does not make a convincing argument even though you might spend a Billion dollars doing it.

I don't think all the money now residing in China, Switzerland or the Caymen Islands is going to be enough to buy the American people's votes this time around.

But if they want to blow that much money on advertising, I hope it helps the economy.


tange 2 years, 2 months ago

Guess some folks just aren't served by a level playing field. They've operated on the slant for so long that, when the bubble falls within the parallels, they simply fall all over themselves.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

If there had been teevee in Paine's day, its content would have been controlled by the King, not the rabble rousers seeking to establish a democracy that did yet exist. You know, kinda like what we have now, where the content on teevee and other major media is controlled primarily by the oligarchs who own/control it.


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 2 months ago

My money is on the people of New America that do not have any "skin in the game".

Ba'al is perfect for them. He has all the support from his people he needs. He can do anything he wants. Say anything he wants. Like Samual Jackson said, "I voted for him because he is black".

What better reason is there to "bow" than this statement?

*In an interview with Ebony magazine, Jackson explained, "I voted for Barack because he was black. 'Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them ... That's American politics, pure and simple. [Obama's] message didn't mean [bleep] to me." *


its_just_math 2 years, 2 months ago

To be fair cato, that happens with all elections to some degree, but with Obama, "uneducated, poorly informed voters" were coming out in droves. I saw a poll the other day where about 30% either could not remember who was currently the VP, or got the name wrong (3% said it was Cheney).


cato_the_elder 2 years, 2 months ago

"...uneducated, poorly informed voters were probably not what our founders had in mind."

Jafs, we finally agree on something. That's how Obama got elected.


its_just_math 2 years, 2 months ago

Obama will do ANYTHING to get re-elected. Get ready for a long, dirty campaign after the GOP sorts out who'll be the candidate. He's been campaigning for re-election since he stepped into the white house. Once the Republican nomination is over, the cash will be pouring into both R&D coffers like never before. I would expect it to be record-setting. Also the voter turnout may be another record. People---many people---want more than anything else to say buh-bye to Obama and I'm one of them. Will I get my wish?


cato_the_elder 2 years, 2 months ago

In a free society, certain excesses must be tolerated, including supporting political candidates by making financial contributions to them. Political liberals like Pitts are intolerant of political freedom when campaign financing is involved, unless they themselves (e.g., Obama) are running for public office, when their hypocrisy shines forth radiantly.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

One answer to our political problems : CUT OFF special interest financing of elections! YES even at the local level.

Our government is always claiming the USA is about democracy. In that case allow the citizens to practice democracy by allowing citizens to vote on these issues in 2012:

Let's demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

Let's have public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.

Bribery of elected officials and bribed officials = the most stinky of all bribery!

Day in and day out our elected officials spend hours each day campaigning for SPECIAL INTEREST campaign dollars.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

Political campaigns commence way too early, run too damn long and spend too much corrupt special interest money. Which indicates that substantial and strict guidelines must be set in stone to combat the corrupt system.

Truth in advertising should be ON 24/7 and those that do not pass go straight to the trash can.

How to set term limits? Go to the voting booth without fail and vote in new low spending candidates. Democrats and Green Party thinkers please. The GOP no longer supports republicans only radical rightwing thinkers like Brownback.

Thank you very much. This message was brought to you by Merrill of Lawrence.


Liberty_One 2 years, 2 months ago

"It is past time we the people demanded corporate cash be banned from politics, and that all candidates be required to accept public financing"

This assumes that "we the people" all agree on who to finance and who not to finance. How about instead we have a voluntary system where individuals can donate (or not donate) to the candidates of their choice? It's called "freedom"--something I just invented. It's a radical notion, to be sure, but I have a good feeling about it.

Regardless, the biggest problem Pitts's idea has is that we the people would be forced to support the very candidates, via this public funding, that we are flatly opposed to. How awful would it be to know that I would be forced to support the propaganda campaigns of the tyrant I despise?


Liberty_One 2 years, 2 months ago

"an unfair and insurmountable advantage"

Was Thomas Paine a billionaire?


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