Sunday, August 5, 2007

Missing the point.

The Annaul Kos Convention generated some sparks over the debate about taking lobbyist's money, as explained in The Caucus, the NYT political blog. Hillary said she would continue to seek and accept contributions from lobbyists. Edwards and Obama, principally, said that they would not. I think the controversy over this issue (read the comments at the end of the article) misses the point.

Politicians need millions and millions of dollars. As they raise it they necessarily create questionable alliances---every candidate should rightly be considered under a cloud because of all this money. They travel from the enclaves of North Hampton to the enclaves of Los Angeles and every enclave in between seeking cash. The question we should be asking is why must candidates raise all this money?

I believe that the bulk of this money goes to buy air-time on network television. If a candidate does not buy air-time, they are history. I think the campaign cash raked in by the networks is really at the heart of this dilemma. Think of what power the networks hold in our political process. It is outrageous. They hold the keys to the power! And candidates must buy it from them.

Next question. Why should our candidates be forced to sell their souls so that networks can make billions from campaigns---local, state and national? Air-time for elections should be free and it should be equally distributed to qualifying candidates on the, ahem, "public air-waves." I think this could greatly reduce the corruption of campaign financing and help to support candidates who may be unappealing to corporations and PACs, but who may be very appealing---maybe even exciting, imagine---to the American people. Maybe we would hear less of this canned, co-opted, empty, studied babble offered by both parties, ad infinitum. Maybe interesting language and words with meaning might emerge.

We don't think much about it anymore, but isn't it strange that there are regular reports on how much money a candidate raises? THIS ability, or lack of ability, becomes the measure of the candidate's viability. Their viability is NOT being measured by their ideas, integrity, skills. It is being measured by the acquisition of cash.

It does matter from whom a candidate takes cash: lobbyist, drug companies, real estate cartels, lawyers, Wall Street, AIPAC, even unions. They demand their pound of flesh. As Obama said, it is doubtful that lobbyists and corporations are giving this money for the public good. But, the bigger issue is that candidates must raise this boat load of money in the first place. Let's insist that networks serve the public good by providing free air-time for elections. This would help reduce the burden of raising the money and reduce the corruption of campaign financing. There is a better way. One piece of that "better way" is significantly reducing the monies that a candidate must raise to be viable. Candidates having to buy time from network television is a big part of this nasty problem.

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