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Election Reform Amendment

A proposed non-partisan 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 Quiet Enjoyment of Elections

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 that they selected to advance their interests, which may not coincide with the interests of the voters of the district.

We believe that voters in federal elections should be entitled to quiet enjoyment of their election campaigns without interference from outside parties, whether those parties are (1) individuals not resident in that election district or (2) businesses, trade unions, political parties, or other groups, irrespective of their location (referred to collectively as “outsiders” or “outside interests”). For a congressman, the election district is the Congressional District; for a Senator or the Electoral College, it is the state.

Accordingly, we propose a constitutional amendment prohibiting the following actions by individuals not resident in a candidate’s election district or by organizations regardless of their location:

  • Financial contributions to the candidate.

  • Expenditure of funds for the benefit of the candidate.

  • Other actions (including advertisements) promoting a candidacy, including attacks against an adversary of the candidate.

  • Promotions for or attacks against a political party during an election campaign.

 

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. Funding prohibited by this amendment shall not be deemed to be expressions of free speech under the provisions of this Constitution.

However, these restrictions 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.

Arguments Supporting this Amendment

 

The Republic

Freedom of religion was the strong motivation that drove our early settlers to our shores. The Puritans that sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 had been persecuted by the English Crown and were forced to flee to Holland in the night. But the Crown persisted and compelled the Dutch people to withdraw their offer of sanctuary so the Puritans fled once again, this time to the new world. With this history it is small wonder that the government ultimately chosen by the people for this new land was a democratic republic, and its Constitution is duly populated with provisions for the protection of personal freedoms.

The city-states of ancient Greece demonstrated that direct democracy for a large population does not work, but the republic of Rome that followed showed promise. So that was the format the founders adopted, and in it the citizenry votes in elections choose the proxies that will represent them in the workings of the government: they currently elect 535 proxies (100 in the Senate for six-year terms and 435 in the House of Representatives for two-year terms). They also elect the president for a four-year term through the workings of the Electoral College; the president is limited to not more than two terms.

From this we can see how important our elections are . . . they are in fact the essential linchpins of the republic, and voting in them is perhaps the most critical political action taken by a citizen. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with or corrupt our elections.

A Conflict of Rights Resolved

The purpose of these elections is to give the citizen an opportunity to take the full measure of each candidate for office and assess their world-view, integrity, and interpersonal skills to determine which candidate will best represent them in this important work.

But today there are outsiders with deep pockets that use their money – billions of dollars in every election – to influence the voting of its citizens in targeted election districts. And they do it to advance their political agenda, without concern for the natural preferences or interests of the voters of that district. In a few decisions, the Supreme Court has supported these intrusions by treating the financial contributions of the outsiders as an expression of free speech which is protected by the First Amendment.

But this proposed amendment identifies and codifies the right of the voters in an election district to the quiet enjoyment of their election campaigns without interference from outside parties, and it gives precedence to this right of voters over the special case that treats contributions as free speech. The amendment acknowledges the critical importance of elections that will choose our proxies to run the national government, and so justifies granting it priority over the judicially-created form of free speech.  

Fund Raising Burden

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 has been estimated 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, and it bears significant responsibility for the current dysfunction of Congress.

We tend to be displeased with the performance of Congress without realizing that we have permitted this fund-raising burden to grow enormously over the past 50 years. This has dramatically changed the workings of the Congress, and caused our principal deliberative body to be unable to function properly. This in turn allows other elements of the federal government (such as the president, his or her cabinet, and federal bureaucracies) to assert more influence and control over our national policies in ways never contemplated in the Constitution while a wounded Congress appears impotent to defend its rightful position in the federal galaxy. This amendment will free the Congress to reclaim its proper authority, restoring the balance of power among those competing forces.

Personal Services Contract

In a republic, elected officials make a solemn pledge to faithfully perform the duties of their new office. In doing so, they are entering into a personal services contract with their constituents, and no individual (or group) that is not a party to that contract should have “legal standing” to participate in the election campaign or in the subsequent actions of the official while conducting governmental business.

Dirty Tricks

Outside interests may use their “war chests” to disrupt the process of nominating a political party’s candidate for the final election with an action that we might call the “Ultimate Dirty Trick.” In it, the disrupter donates funds to a weak candidate of the opposing party (assuring their primary election win) and thus setting the stage for an easy win by the favored candidate in the final election. This practice is currently legal, albeit (we would say) immoral.

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 during elections.

Adverse Selection Process for Candidates

Allowing the power of money to invade our elections has grave consequences. Two of the most pernicious are:

  • The prospect of spending so much time raising money discourages many capable people from seeking public office.

  • 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 contribute to good governance after the election.

 

The result is an adverse selection process that works against our objective of attracting qualified applicants to public service.

The Libertarian View

Many libertarians claim that we all have a fundamental human right to live our life as we choose so long as we do not infringe on the equal rights of others (emphasis added). We believe that election campaign contributions from outside parties do in fact infringe on the equal rights of the residents of the affected district.

Author: Frank Keeney

Revised November 1, 2022

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A Convention of States

Every honest voice for reform should be heard and respected, with the best ideas selected for submission to the states for possible ratification. 

Statue of Liberty

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.

Numbers Game

Term Limits

Just as was done with the Executive Branch, we must now apply term limits to the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government. 

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