Election Reform Amendment
A proposed amendment to the US Constitution that protects voters in federal elections from outside interference. It could be the final solution to a difficult and long-standing problem.
The Election Finance Problem
The Tsunami of Money
This non-partisan amendment proposal deals with the perplexing problem of the tsunami of money that washes over the country during every federal election and has increased significantly over time. It is widely acknowledged that money can corrupt the institutions of the republic, but attempts over the years to control it during election campaigns have failed both as a practical matter and as a matter of law.
Act 2 solves this problem by identifying the right of voters to the quiet enjoyment of their election without outside interference. It would require that a donor to a federal election campaign must be a resident of the candidate’s district. For congressmen the district is the Congressional District; for Senators and the Electoral College, it is the state. This solution is simple in concept yet profound in impact, which is a mark of good law. It promises to be the final solution to this problem.
The Libertarian Argument
Some libertarians and other political activists oppose any restrictions on election contributions, and the Supreme Court has inserted some of their views in its constitutional jurisprudence by voiding some (but not all) laws restricting campaign finance. The Act 2 election reform amendment would correct this jurisprudence, replacing it with what promises to be a permanent resolution of the issue.
In his book The Libertarian Mind – a Manifesto for Freedom, David Boaz, Executive Vice President of The Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank) wrote on page 77:
“In the libertarian view, we have an infinite number of rights contained in one natural right. That fundamental human right is the right to live your life as you choose so long as you do not infringe on the equal rights of others.” (emphasis added)
We believe election campaign contributions from outside a district do in fact “infringe on the equal rights” of those who live there. Under the current system, wealthy outsiders—individuals and groups—can flood a state or local area with political advertising in an attempt to influence the election in ways that will enhance their power without concern for the natural preferences or interests of the voters of that district. The sheer volume of noise from outside the district can drown out the voices of those who live there, making it difficult for the voters to properly assess the candidates.
The Personal-Service Contract
One of the most important political acts performed by a citizen in a republic is voting in an election to select the individual that will represent them in the work of the federal government. The primary purpose of an election campaign is to give voters the opportunity to take the full measure of each candidate to determine which one has the worldview, integrity, and interpersonal skills to best represent them in this work. No interference should be allowed in this process.
The election creates a personal-service contract between the voters and the winning candidate, and no individual or group that is not a party to this contract should be given “legal standing” to participate in or improperly influence the election.
A Linchpin of the Republic
The fragility of a republic and the importance of the relationship between the elected official and their constituents make elections critically important. For this reason, the very survival of democracy may hinge on maintaining free and lawful elections where the voters have the quiet enjoyment of the election campaign without outside interference.
An honest representation of local constituents is a linchpin of the republic. Nothing should be allowed to corrupt it.
In addition to the legal foundation set forth above, there are other practical reasons that support this amendment proposal. A few of them are suggested below.
An Adverse Selection Process
The power of money in our elections has grave consequences. Two of the most pernicious are:
For candidates, it places a high premium on the ability to raise money from large donors across the country rather than on the skills that would produce good governance after the election.
The prospect of spending so much time raising money discourages many capable people from seeking public office.
The result is an adverse selection process that works against our objective of good government.
Other Undesirable Consequences
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. It is widely recognized that candidates and elected officials must spend more than 50% of their working time on fundraising on a continuous basis. This time requirement clearly impairs the effectiveness of the elected official in discharging his or her constitutional responsibilities while in office.
In addition, 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.
The “Systemic Corruption of Washington”
The “systemic corruption of Washington” is a phrase often used to characterize the use of money in federal 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 election campaigns and lobbying programs. This amendment will eliminate the source of much of that corruption.
Summary of the Amendment
When the voters in a federal election district are selecting a person to hold federal office, they must assess whether a candidate can capably represent their interests in Washington. However, outside parties often intrude by promoting a candidate to advance their interests, which may not coincide with the interests of the voters of the district.
Voters in federal elections should be entitled to quiet enjoyment of their election campaigns without interference from outside parties, whether those parties are businesses, trade unions, political parties, other organizations, or individuals not resident in the district.
Accordingly, we propose an amendment prohibiting the following actions by individuals not resident in the candidate’s district or by organizations regardless of their location:
Financial contributions to the candidate.
Expenditure of funds for the benefit of the candidate.
Other actions promoting a candidacy, including attacks against an adversary of the candidate.
The amendment will require that federal election campaign contributions be made directly from a citizen’s personal assets to a candidate’s campaign fund, and that all funds spent for the benefit of a candidate must come from that candidate’s campaign fund.
However, this restriction will not preclude supplementary public financing on a fair basis from the federal treasury, should Congress determine that private funding is inadequate for a productive election campaign.
Author: Frank Keeney
Socialism or Freedom
The last 200 years have given us a ring-side seat at the workings of a number of different government forms. When we evaluate them, we do not need to rely on theory; we can observe the actual positive and negative results.