• Frank Keeney

Money Buys Power

In addition to the legal foundation set forth in the previous blog, there are other practical reasons that support the proposed amendment to govern election campaign finances. A few of these are suggested below.

The sheer volume of campaign funds coming from outside sources may drive up the cost of political advertising, making it difficult for a candidate to purchase enough ad exposure to wage a competitive campaign. If this occurs, it will impair the communications between the candidate and the voters in the election district.

Because of the pervasive influence of money on elections, our federal officials must spend an inordinate amount of time raising funds for their next election in order to wage a competitive campaign. In his recent book, By the People, Charles Murray reports that one of the major parties recommends that members of Congress spend four hours a day in telephone fund raising and one hour on constituent service. This clearly impairs the effectiveness of the elected official in discharging his or her constitutional responsibilities.

Yet another demand on their time comes from the enormous growth of the administrative state in recent decades. This can require the official to spend considerable time intervening with the federal bureaucracies on behalf of their constituents.

These demands on their time may explain why Congress has failed in recent years to assert its rightful legislative role: members simply do not have enough time to perform the duties we elected them to do. This leaves a power void that the executive branch has been only too eager to fill, contrary to the responsibilities assigned in the Constitution. This has resulted in a scramble for the exercise of power in Washington, severely impacting the effectiveness of the federal government.

The remedies available to redress the abuse of power (publicity, lawsuits, funding restrictions, and impeachment) are woefully slow, cumbersome, costly, and often ineffective. The reforms of Act 2 were designed to address these problems with “quick fix” tools. They will create an effective and responsive government with accountability enforced.

The “systemic corruption of Washington” is a phrase often used to characterize the use of money in election campaigns and lobbying in Washington. Clearly, money buys access to legislative and regulatory proceedings and offers the opportunity to influence them to serve the special interests of large donors to campaigns and lobbying efforts. The Act 2 reforms will eliminate the source of much of this corruption.

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