Bold Steps Beyond Integrity To Improve U.S. Elections

We complete our post-election series with some steps to improve elections beyond election administration and integrity, to complement our previous posts on steps for Connecticut, and steps for the U.S.

Campaign Finance Reform. Campaign finance has long been a detriment to the fairness of U.S. Elections, along with its close relative, high finance, high access lobbying. We have just seen the tip of the iceberg brought on by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Worse is yet to come, with candidate and corporate learning from each election cycle, with ever deeper penetration into state and local elections.


The current environment has a least three bad effects: Well financed candidates have a huge edge, almost a monopoly on getting on the ballot; they campaign and vote in alignment with their wealthy and corporate backers, rather then the majority of their constituents; officials spend an inappropriate amount of time on financing their campaigns, to the detriment of their duties.

The complete solution would seem to require a Constitutional Amendment not only addressing citizenship of Corporations, but also explicitly authorizing the regulation and limitation of campaign finance. Yet, there is more that needs to be done, and can be done now: The FEC should enforce the law prohibiting coordinating with campaigns; Congress should enact stronger disclosure provisions; the IRS should tax religious organizations that cross the line in endorsing candidates; Congress can enact public financing with laws such as the Fair Elections Now Act.

Media Reform. We find this the most important basic and bold requirement for many reforms. Perhaps if we had effective media reform, the people would have the information to elect better candidates despite financing. Perhaps elected officials would act more in the public interest when the public and officials had access to more robust and complete information on domestic issues and international affairs. Media reform would likely lead to election reform in all dimensions.

Media reform is a tough nut to crack, when the media establishment is itself part of the corporate establishment benefiting form the current system as do all corporate interests, plus benefiting directly from campaign advertising and corporate advertising. But media need not be limited to the media establishment, it does not have to be limited and choked by the corporate media model. For what is possible, what our Founders intended, and how to restore the media necessary for democracy, we suggest John Nichols’ book, The Death and Life of American Journalism.

Restore the Rule of Law. When laws are not enforced, selectively, or unequally enforced we lose the basis of democracy. We have mentioned campaign finance laws for the separation of “independent” groups from campaigns, and taxing the mixing of religion and endorsement, yet election laws need to be enforced. If laws are too complex to follow then we risk selective prosecution. With financial interests bankrolling campaigns is it any wonder that Wall Street has not been prosecuted? It should be. Laws should be enforced, especially those that are blatantly ignored, with disastrous results.  We reference Glen Greenwald’s With Liberty and Justice for Some.

PS: Just yesterday, Greenwald provided another example of selective prosecution, which also impacts media freedom.


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