Steve Duin: Love is blind

T.A. Barnhart

Thank goodness we have Steve Duin to take Dan Meek's side in the battle to deal with the intransigent problem of campaign finance by imposing a simplistic solution (Oregonian, Tuesday, Oct 17). After all, to any complex problem there can be only one possible solution intelligent citizens can agree to. Those of us who disagree with them are, by Duin's definition, supporters of sleaze and corruption.

Dan Meek, of course, is right about one thing: We need campaign finance reform. Oregon's current non-system does lead to corruption, and while the most egregious examples appear on the Republican side, we know that a few Dems have allowed themselves to be dirtied. Over time, the legal ability to do something ethically wrong is a trap even good well-meaning people have trouble avoiding. We need campaign finance desperately, but not so desperately as to swallow Meek's sledgehammer approach.

Lobbyists are not, by nature, evil. They serve a vital purpose in our legislative processes, representing the interests of groups and individuals who otherwise have no means of presenting their concerns to lawmakers. Oregon's teachers, for example, have a personal and professional interest in what the Legislature does regarding spending, testing, merit pay, etc. But how many teachers have the time to personally lobby in Salem during the session? How many can attend committee hearings on a regular basis? By pooling their resources through their union, they can hire professionals to advocate on their behalf. In a representative democracy like ours, this is perfectly appropriate.

In the context of an election, unions and other groups combine these resources to help elect candidates who will be sympathetic to their causes. I fail to see what's wrong with this in principle. I can donate very little to any campaign, and I cannot donate to all the candidates I would like to see elected. But my modest contribution to my union, combined with the rest of the members' donations, helps us work together to promote an election that furthers our cause.

The problem is not that unions (and corporations, god love 'em) have an exaggerated affect on elections. That's the way most people want things in America: those what gots lots of money gets lots of goodies — because most of us want to be the one with the lots and lots. When we are also willing to ban people from buying $2 million houses, his-and-hers Lexus's, and month-long vacations in St Tropez; then we can also demand that legally constituted entities cannot use their lawfully gained resources in the public sector. It's not fair that PGE or SEIU has more cash and clout than the average voter? Tough. Banning money is not the answer, and it's damn sure not very American.

Banning money is the wrong approach to campaign finance reform; money ain't going away. Despite Meek's (and Duin's) obvious hope to the contrary, the banning of money for purposes like funding Swiftboating is probably unconstitutional. I believe everyone has the right to get up and lie their ass off in the political arena; an educated voter will not be fooled (and I'm sorry, you can't legislate against stupidity). If this measure passes, then the next Swiftboat groups simply buys infomercial time or uses YouTube -- there will always be a means to spread lies via media. Hoping that a set of rules ends the lies is not merely foolishly optimistic, it ain't very bright.

We can, however, legally and successfully put voluntary limits on what candidates can spend. Candidates are receptive to the distribution of money because they need so damn much. Look what Minnis and Saxton are spending to spread their lies; Brading and Kulo might wish to take the high road and not spend so much time grovelling for bucks, but they have no choice. They have to spend (and fundraise) like maniacs just to keep the playing field even. If Meeks' plan passes, future candidates — and their shadowy supporters — will figure out how to get money to buy hit pieces. Like a new security patch from Microsoft for Windows, loopholes exist in Meeks' measures; they just haven't been found and exploited yet.

Capping what a campaign can spend makes more sense than banning money. The less you need (are able) to spend, the less you need to raise. If Saxton was limited to spending $1.5 million, for example, he could raise that by with only 15,000 supporters donating $100 each. 30,000 Democrats can match that total with only $50 donations — and remember how much Howard Dean raised with similar amounts. Ratchet down these amounts by office, and you lower the amount of time and effort needed to fundraise. Reduce the need for money and you reduce the circumstances that make a successful candidate feel "grateful" towards any particular contributor. And as a lovely side effect, we might even have less negative advertising because the limited resources would have to be spent letting voters know that a candidate exists.

Publicly financed campaigns can help resolve the campaign finance problem much more successfully than the mere banning of money, if for no other reason than if one candidate goes that route and another doesn't, the big spender is tarred as abusing the system. Spend lots of money and be seen as a cheater. A voluntary system can work when overwhelming public opinion demands that all candidates do the "right" thing — and taking big corporate or union money will be seen as the wrong thing. I don't see that any system other than a voluntary one, like Portland's "voter-owned elections" will withstand either judicial or public scrutiny.

Steve Duin appears totally smitten not only by Meek's proposal but by Meeks himself:

One of the chief backers of Measures 46 and 47, Meek is very bright, very thorough, and -- unlike the system he hopes to reform -- utterly uncorrupted.

Ah, how sweet. I, however, don't know the guy; I have no problem saying I think his plan is bad, that it's the wrong solution, and that I have no reason to trust him. I have much more faith in someone I do know: Ursula LeGuin, whose work over the years convinces me she has both a heart and a brain I can trust. Duin thinks LeGuin's got something wrong with her for opposing Meek's plan; his dedication to Meek and measures 46 and 47 seems to have blinded him to the flaws and, far worse, to better options.

We need campaign finance reform desperately, but Meek's plan is not reform. It's very bad law. Corporations, with their superior access to money, will find ways to influence elections and elected officials. Unions will not have these advantages and will find themselves with even less ability than now to advocate effectively for their members. Steve Duin thinks progressives are doing harm to democracy by opposing 46 and 47. I say Meek and Duin are pushing not only the wrong answer to a very real problem, they are setting the stage for terrible damage to the progressive cause. The ability of the unions to help elect worker- and family-friendly legislators is one of our most effective barriers against the anti-democratic money behind Minnis, Saxton and the neocons. Progressives need the unions as allies in winning elections. For that reason alone, but so much more, Measures 46 and 47 deserve to be dumped.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I can't for the life of me see how spending money on campaigns is equal to free speech. As Dylan observed, "Money doesn't talk, it swears."

    If the corporations can find loopholes in the laws created by 46 and 47, so can the unions.

    I don't understand why unions and progressives (not always the same folks, by the way) want to keep things the way they are. We've been on the losing side for too long with things the way they are. It's like pitting the Kansas City Royals against the Yankees. Actually worse, as baseball is less succeptible to the dominance of money than politics.

    I'm voting with Meek and Duin.

  • (Show?)

    Capping what a campaign can spend makes more sense than banning money. The less you need (are able) to spend, the less you need to raise.

    If "banning money" is a violations of rights to speech and association, so is capping it.

  • (Show?)

    Lobbyists are not, by nature, evil...

    That's like saying sex is not, by nature, evil.

    Where it becomes an issue is when you pay for it...

  • (Show?)

    b!x, should have been a more clear with my words. i meant "voluntary" caps on spending -- like in Portland -- because legislated caps have been found unconstitutional. no matter how much it galls Gil and others, the Supreme Court has said money equals speech. that's what we have to live with.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    The real solution is achingly simple, but also real unlikely. The solution is for voters to contribute, not even a lot, individually, but as a group. These proposed "reforms" are a treatment of symptom - unequal influence - rather than the disease, voter apathy.

    Don't bother to flame me about wanting big money, I didn't even cross the FEC threashold, and my donations were dribs and drabs, and from people to whom it mattered (my candidacy and the money). I'll take their little bits and call that success.

  • just1voice (unverified)

    How about a deeper conversation around the issue of campaign finance reform? Let's start with the dreaded "C" word.

    Class: -

  • (Show?)

    The problem with trying to get money out of the political system is that it is a fools errand. I don't care how smart you are, you can't plug every hole. Meek has tried, with his ultra complex measure, and even he admits there are gaping holes through which the money will flow.

    Read his measure - it's 20 pages long, with six pages of definitions. He tried to think of everything, closing every avenue for funds to flow that he thought he could consitutionally close. Candidate contributions, independent expenditures, corporate contributions, union contributions, etc. But it won't work. The money will find a way around whatever rules are set up. It's like water.

    For instance: the measure explicitly exempts media from the limits. (I had Meek on my radio show and thanked him for this provision, inasmuch as it would significantly empower talk radio hosts.)

    So instead of an independent expenditure that pays for direct mail to slam a candidate, someone will simply start a "newspaper" and send it instead.

    Moneyed interests involve themselves in politics because it is a good investment. It is a good investment because government has the power to do a great deal of damage to moneyed interests, and also because interest groups can use the powers of government to enrich themselves.

    So if you want money out of politics, take power out of government.

    I'm not naive enough to think that is going to happen anytime soon, but I think it is very naive to think campaign finance regulations are going to keep money from finding a way to finance political speech.

  • (Show?)

    Rob, thanks for your comments. i agree with you to a large extent. the more complex the ballot measure, the more likely i am to vote against. they just cause more problems than they solve.

    and you're right: money will remain a problem. i've no illusions about that. you say "take power out of government" and you are half-right. we need to take power out of the hands of a few within government; the more broadly we spread power, the less power money has. this is what grassroots politics (i like to think of it as Deanism, but that's me) is my hope for doing this. it's a big project, probably long-term beyond my lifetime. that's why i think voluntary spending limits can work: there's nothing like public shaming to keep people in line. some people don't care, but they are the minority. there's no perfect answer, but i'm not looking for one. i'm looking for the next step. that's all. i think publically financed elections are that next step. it's what i'll be working towards.

  • (Show?)

    Rob Kramer says I "admit there are gaping holes through which the money will flow." I have never admitted that. So I challenge Rob to document this claim.

    More later.

  • (Show?)

    Here's the thing: We already tried this.

    What happened?

    In 1996, candidates weren't able to raise or spend much money. So, independent groups set up their own campaign committees - and communicated directly with voters.

    If there's one thing that's worse than candidates sending attack ads, it's independent groups sending attack ads.

    Gil wrote, If the corporations can find loopholes in the laws created by 46 and 47, so can the unions.

    Yes, and in 1996, they did. And it was horrible. When a candidate is unable to get their message out - and has to rely on an independent organization to communicate for them (without any control by the candidate) that doesn't serve voters well.

  • (Show?)

    Public funding of campaigns would be great. I was a big donor to that cause in 2000, when it was defeated 58-42%. It was also defeated in Oregon by over 70% "no" vote in 1976. It will likely go down to a huge defeat in California on November 7. Polls showed that the Portland system would have been repealed by the voters, had the referendum qualified for the ballot.

    Voters do not want to provide taxpayer money for candidates. Voters do want limits on political contributions. And such limits are a prerequisite to a workable system of public funding. If the developers has gotten together and really supported Ginny, she could have overwhelmed the Portland public funding system with private contributions that the public system could not have matched, due to lack of appropriations. Public funding systems work in Maine and Arizona, where they are accompanied by low limits on private contributions.

    And, TA, what is your position on Measure 46, which removes the Oregon Constitution's ban on limiting political contributions? Should we also not do that?

  • (Show?)

    Today Willamette Week also endorsed both Measure 46 and 47. Are the WW editors also irrationally smitten with love?

  • damiana (unverified)

    For any law to be effective it should be clear, concise and compelling. M47 fails to meet any of those standards.

    Measure 47 institutes a complex web of unworkable restrictions on non-profit political groups and small donors. These constraints will seriously chill political speech, limit non-profit capacity and create unnecessary legal and administrative barriers for groups doing issue advocacy and educating voters. Even Representative Peter Buckley, one of the original chief petitioners, has taken the extraordinary step of coming out against the measure. He has come to understand the unintended impact will be to make Oregon's campaign finance system WORSE. Despite their good intentions, Measure 47 will end up limiting non-profit organizations while doing nothing to stop the very real problem of wealthy individuals dominating Oregon politics.

    Legal analysis shows that key parts of Measure 47 are unconstitutional and will be struck down. Meek publicly contents that he is confident all provisions will stand. Yet he clearly anticipated this and added a severability clause, stating that if one or more parts of the measure are found to be unconstitutional then the others will stand. Recently, he has begun to imply that maybe he is making Oregon a federal test case.

    The Supreme Court has said that the ability of wealthy individuals to finance their own campaigns or express their opinions through independent expenditures cannot be limited (Buckley v. Valeo, 1976). The limitations on small donors and politically active non-profits, on the other hand, will likely stand.

    When the litigation is done and the dust settles, the result will be that the very groups that provide a voice for those of us without big checkbooks will be stifled. But people like Loren Parks, Howard Rich and even Harry Lonsdale, who financed signature gathering for these measures, will be able to continue to spend as they please.

    Of the 31 groups in favor of the last campaign finance reform measure proposed in Oregon -- the Clean Money campaign in 2000 -- twenty-nine have refused to support Measures 46 and 47. In fact, many of these organizations are in the extraordinary position of asking their members to vote AGAINST 46 and 47, because they believe these acts will actually end up making the problem of big money in Oregon politics worse.

    Campaign finance reform sounds like a good idea, because it is. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get us anywhere near meaningful reform. Learn about the coalition that has formed to oppose 46 and 47 and get the facts on why.

  • (Show?)


    I'd like to take issue with a few of your comments...

    Dan Meek has done more for the public interest in Oregon than almost anyone I've ever met. He championed SB 408 during the last legislative process last year and almost single-handedly kept a team of PGE attorneys from hijacking and bastardizing the bill to reap even more profits from ratepayers for taxes that they aren't paying.

    I know of no legal mind more capable, nor more willing, to ferret through very complex legal code in pursuit of the public interest.

    Dan has recovered hundreds of millions for Oregon rate-payers over the years, and has donated most of the money he has made from those efforts into promoting progressive causes.

    Unlike Ursula LeGuin, Dan was an editor of the Stanford Law Review, a counsel for 2 congressional committees, and a regulatory counsel for Governor Jerry Brown in the State of California.

    I'm not sure what LeGuin lends in opposition to these measures other than name familiarity. Whatever it is, I suspect that it is not legal expertise, nor familiarity with campaign finance law.

    As to the specifics of the law itself ...

    I think that you badly misunderstand Measure 47 if you believe that the small donor provision of the statute does not protect the rights of workers to allocate a portion of their dues to political causes.

    As we've seen in Colorado, unions have raised substantially more using small donor committees than was the case before the statute passed in 2002.

    I personally spoke with the head of the AFL-CIO in Colorado, and his report of their experience with Small Donor Committees was glowing.

    It's worth noting that in states like Montana and Colorado, where the Democratic side has embraced campaign finance limits, the Democrats, and progressive side generally, have experienced a resurgence.

    You may not like some of the specifics of Dan's proposal, but I strongly encourage you to treat with skepticism some of the arguments opponents are making about these measures, particularly with regard to the underlying concepts of limiting independent expenditures and placing limits on campaign contributions.

    • Sal
  • (Show?)

    Sal, i appreciate you repeating Dan's credentials. he is one of the good guys and has done much of good. that doesn't mean 46 & 47 are any good, however; they aren't. i stopped voting for most ballot measures long ago; they do more harm than good. and the longer they are, the more complex, the more damage of which they are capable.

    regarding LeGuin: what she has demonstrated in the body of her work over the years is some of the finest art and humanity our country has produced. few living American writers rival her. and when it comes to the rights of artists, and the need of society to protect those rights, i stand solidly with her. this is an area of the law i am confident she knows about and she is right about.

  • brett (unverified)

    I agree with Gil: the current system is stacked against us. But I believe that t.a. is right that the Supremes have said you can't ban spending; you can only regulate contributions, or try voluntary caps, which seem to've stopped working in the last Presidential election, as the campaigns decided that the risk of embarrassment over not using public funds was less than the risk of not outshouting your opponent.

    I think it was Thurgood Marshall who said that we all know that money is speech, but some of us think that's the problem, not the solution. I have no problem with limiting contributions and am surprised to hear someone say here that because money talks in America, it's unAmerican to regulate it. We certainly have laws against bribery and other spending t hat's against the public interest, and the Constitution does allow us to regulate the "time, place and manner" of speech; all contribution limits do is prevent someone from buying a megaphone so big that it drowns out everyone else, as happens now in Oregon.

    The best proposal I've heard combines limits of, say, $100 per candidate per race (including corporations) with public financing triggered by a threshold number of petition signatures. Getting voters to pay for it, when sleazebag opponents cry "welfare for politicians" is harder. Portland's system, if properly enforced (as it wasn't, quite, this time), sounds close to it.

    It's true that the bad guys will then go spend their money on independent expenditures (i.e. swift boating), but at least that money isn't all controlled by the candidates, which makes it less effective, assuming the law is effectively enforced. And it really does start to sound unconstitutional to ban that kind of spending.

    Anyone familiar with how Arizona and Maine have dealt with this issue? I've heard good things about their systems but don't know details.

  • (Show?)

    They do more harm than good. and the longer they are, the more complex, the more damage of which they are capable.

    That's a fair point, T.A. I'd respond by saying that legislative leaders in both political parties knew that Fair Elections would seek to put these initiatives on the ballot if no action was taken on campaign finance reform during the last legislative session. If I recall correctly, the subject did not even get a hearing in either chamber.

  • brett (unverified)

    Oh, and I should add that I'm a fan of Dan Meek's work ... and also, since I was a teenager many years ago, Ursula LeGuin's!

  • frank carper (unverified)

    Dan Meek has done more for the public interest in Oregon than almost anyone I've ever met.

    guess you need to meet some more people.

  • (Show?)

    Dan, During my show, you readily acknowledged that the likely result from exempting "media" from the limits was that interest groups would create their own "media" and use it to advance their political agendas.

    In fact, as I recall you even said that this would be preferable than what we now have, which you characterized as something like "independent sound bite attack ads."

    That is what I meant by saying "even he admits there are gaping holes through which the money will flow."

    Certainly you remember the exchange? I don't really have to get a disc of the show to send you do I?

  • Kevin (unverified)

    Although I'm very partial to both severely capping donations and to voter-owned systems... I agree that there are ways around both.

    So here's an idea... rather than capping donations let's instead force uberly strict disclosure rules. Ya know... like forcing independent PACs to explicitly spell out where the money for their ads comes from and do it in large print rather than small print.

    Just remove any way for them to hide who and what they are and then let them spend whatever amount they wish and let the voters decide the relative merits of it all on election day.

  • Alejandro Blu (unverified)

    Kari wrote: Here's the thing: We already tried this.

    Its true, in 1994 over 72% of Oregon voters passed a measure that banned corporate and union contributions and strongly limited individual contributions. That's democracy at work and shows how the people of Oregon feel on this topic.

    Kari: In 1996, candidates weren't able to raise or spend much money. So, independent groups set up their own campaign committees - and communicated directly with voters.

    Nothing currently stops groups from doing independent expenditure campaigns (ask Rob Brading), and so Measure 47 would be an improvement from the current system in that regard. Because of voter action in 1994, in 1996 candidates raised and spent ten times less than what they did in 2002 when voter imposed limits were struck down. Because of the growth of indepedent expenditures in 1996, that's exactly why Measure 47 both caps what independent expenditure campaigns can spend AND sharply increases the amount of disclosure required in their advertising. But even if the US Supreme Court won't allow caps (though they were willing to ban so called 'soft' money), the disclosure rules would still stand, a marked improvement from the current situation.

    Kari: If there's one thing that's worse than candidates sending attack ads, it's independent groups sending attack ads.

    You act is if independent attack ads don't already exist, but you know full well they are in full effect this election right here in Oregon. Don't you think they should be limited or subject to increase disclore if possible? That's what Measure 47 would do.

    Kari: If the corporations can find loopholes in the laws created by 46 and 47, so can the unions. Yes, and in 1996, they did. And it was horrible.

    Was a there massive shakeup in the legislature or Governor's mansion in 1996? No. But again, Measure 47 deals with independent expenditures head on - this isn't 1996.

    Kari: When a candidate is unable to get their message out - and has to rely on an independent organization to communicate for them (without any control by the candidate) that doesn't serve voters well.

    Agreed, which is why Measure 47's limits are needed, and if the Supreme Court won't accept limits, then how about greater disclosure of the funding sources and amounts spent of the independent expenditure campaigns? Surely that's better than the current system, no?

    Let's face it, the only reason an inexperienced guy like Ron Saxton is a serious contender for Governor and has both outraised and outspent Kulongoski is because he can accept $250,000 checks from individuals and corporations and has raised millions of dollars from rich CEO's and logging companies. Surely unlimited big money in Oregon politics doen't serve Oregon voters well.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    You expose your lack of knowledge of the campaign finance reform landscape. Voluntary limits on campaign spending [mandatory limits are unconstitutional] have no chance of success without a generous public financing program. This has as much chance of passing in Oregon as full funding of public education. Let's face it, Oregonians are cheap. Not only did public financing lose when we voted on it, opinion polling since shows it would lose again.

    Also, every state with public financing has contribution limits as well. The two are synergistic, as limits make it more attractive for candidates to go the pubic route.

    Opponents of Fair Elections are playing a Catch 22 game that you have bought into. On one hand, they complain of the difficulty of plugging all the loopholes where political money might escape. Then they call Measure 47 "overreaching" and "complicated" for trying to plug these loopholes. Predictions about M47 provisions that will be found unconstitutional are predictions that are not well supported by the facts. For instance, there are several states with limits on the use of personal funds in political campaigns. This has not stopped opponents from predicting that this provision in M47 will be overturned, however.

    Much of what you write sounds to me like reasons to vote FOR Fair Elections, not against it. An important provision of M47 is small donor committees, which are designed specifically to empower grassroots organizations such as labor unions. It is even allowed to direct a portion of union dues directly to such committees. Each union can set up an unlimited number of small donor committees. So, you see, Fair Elections enhances your ability to pool your small contributions with others in your union [and any other group you belong to] in order to affect the outcome of elections. Really, it's right there in the text. Read it.

    If you had attended meetings of the Fair Elections coalition, you would have discovered that EVERYONE in attendance was pro-union, including Mr. Meek. Though there is often irritation expressed at the short-sightedness of union leaders in rejecting Fair Elections, there is universal support for the interests of union members, interests we believe will be supported by the changes that Fair Elections will bring to Oregon's politics.

    I'm growing really weary of hearing folks say they recognize the need for campaign finance reform, but that they don't like this particular version. Reality check: the opportunity to get reform is a rare thing.

    Contrary to the silly suggestion in literature from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Legislature will NEVER enact comprehensive reform. In general, legislatures are highly antagonistic to campaign finance reform. The Massachusetts legislature repealed voter passed public financing there. The have been several attempts to gut Colorado's system of limits. I could go on.

    It takes about 10 years to take a campaign finance reform initiative from conception to the ballot. How many opponents of Fair Elections are working on such initiatives? Have you begun collecting signatures yet?

    All the objections I've heard to Fair Elections sound damn petty given the tremendously negative effect of big campaign contributions. When given the chance to cut yourself free of the chains of oppression, it's foolish to complain about the color of the bolt cutters you are handed.

  • (Show?)

    Damiana and Dan are debating this two weeks from Friday in front of the City Club. Yours truly is moderating.

    I'd be happy to have people post a list of questions that they think the proponent and/or the opponent need to answer.


    Direct email communications with me are OK: [email protected]

  • (Show?)

    I'm very depressed that this turkey of a Measure will pass. Many voters simply don't bother to read past the top line; they'll say "campaign finance reform" and just vote for it.

    So instead, I've started thinking about what the practical effects of what will happen under this measure. Here's my prognostication:

    1) It will be immediately challenged in court, and a temporary injunction will be put in place. The legalities about this whole system are so complex that this may very well take us past the 2008 elections.

    2) The courts will, at a minimum, strike the self-financing provisions (including the "no loans to one's own campaign" limit), put in place some sort of inflation adjustment, limit restrictions on independent expenditures, speed at which the administrative law judge much handle such complaints, and resolve some of the absurd ambiguities of the code revolving around intra-party financial transfers (likely not to Mr. Meek's satisfaction).

    3) Once the law goes into place, organizations such as the Bus Project will find it simply impossible to continue operation, except as think-tanks. Canvassing on behalf of candidates will quickly run into "contributon in kind" limits, and the pipedream of organizing as a "Small Donor Committee" will prove impossible: most Oregonians won't even LOAN $50 to their own political party.

    4) Republicans will prosper, as they've long ago learned to buy their campaign communications in bulk - by buying radio stations and putting right wing propaganda on 24 hours a day. And using right wing churches as de-facto Republican candidate support organizations.

    5) Because this measure says nothing about intra-party financial transfers, it is nearly certain that political parties themselves won't be much affected. If the Oregon State GOP has hit its $50,000 limit donating to its candidate for Governor, it'll just transfer another $50K to each political finance committee of each of its County party subdivisions, who will then be allowed to donate $50K each. Expect each and every caucus (faith based, outdoorsmen, small business, etc, etc) in both parties to set up their own political committees immediately.

    6) The total number of small donors will plummet because people will see the reporting requirements as onerous and an invasion of their privacy.

    7) The kings of campaign contributions will become national organizations that can direct individuals from around the country the maximimum allowed directly.

    8) Every election, Administrative Law judges will be flooded with complaints about petty campaign "violations". There will be a huge amount of legal wrangling over what will be considered "substantially the same" individuals in control of a political committee. Small time donors will get caught up in these disputes, and will be forced from time to time to pay significant fines.

    9) Conservative multimillionaires will continue to dominate Oregon elections by qualifying feel-good State Initiatives that have nasty side-effects.

    10) This will tilt the Oregon even more into a "rule by referenda and right wing news" type system than it already is.

  • (Show?)

    I find it pretty interesting that there has been so little mention of the first amendment implications of this measure.

    This is a "progressive" blog, right? I know some will claim that "money is not speech," but let's be real. Government limits on political expression are PRECISELY what the first amendment is supposed to prohibit.

    Limiting independent expenditures are a clear limitation of political speech. You think our founders would have thought it OK for to tell Thomas Paine he could only print a certain number of copies of "Common Sense?"

    Here we sit in a state where the Supreme Court ruled that live sex shows are protected "speech," yet a good number of so-called "progressives" think it is just fine to have the government directly limit the amount of political speech that individuals can conduct!

    I understand why people dislike big money in politics, and I understand the desire to do something about it. But most everything in life and politics is an exercise in prioritizing values.

    I always thought the first amendment protection on speech was one of the highest political values for "progressives."

    It is curious to see so many of you so ready and willing to sell that value down the river in favor of chasing the holy grail of getting money out of politics.

  • (Show?)

    Tom C, i agree: i'm fairly ignorant about the details of M47. it's slightly huge and hard to fathom, and i don't have the time to study it. what i'm not ignorant about is the nature of complex ballot measures: they carry so many unintended consequences (those who voted for M5: did they intend that my son not be able to take Spanish as a sophomore?). i see no way this measure cannot blow up in our faces. at least with our non-system, we know what we're dealing with. let's begin with the status quo, work on the most egregious elements and start educating the public about public financing, acceptable and appropriate limitations, etc. the grassroots that is building in this this state, including the increasingly influential netroots community, can actually have an influence on the Leg to pass real reform (i know my State Rep, will work for reform -- right, Sara?). i expect Sal & Brian Clem and Paul Evans and Rob Brading to work for cleaning up campaign finance.

    i trust M47 to switch a set of known problems for a brand new set of unknown & untested evils. and if what Steve M says is anywhere near correct, the possibility that the Bus Project could be harmed makes the need to defeat this even stronger.

  • Kevin (unverified)

    Government limits on political expression are PRECISELY what the first amendment is supposed to prohibit.

    I disagree. The first amendment is supposed to protect the right to expression, not the right to the biggest megaphone with which to drown out someone else's right to expression. It is the expression which is protected, not the size of the megaphone.

  • George (unverified)

    Kevin wrote: I disagree. The first amendment is supposed to protect the right to expression, not the right to the biggest megaphone with which to drown out someone else's right to expression. It is the expression which is protected, not the size of the megaphone.

    Right on Kevin! When wealth correlates with political power we have a serious problem with the details of our democracy. A constitutional amendment akin to Measure 46 is a necessary first step in solving the problem, given our capitalist system's ability to concentrate wealth coupled with the curious equating of money and speech by the Oregon Supreme Court.

    That said, the initiative process is a very poor way to legislate. I have enough doubt about the unintended consequences of 47 to vote no. I'm still not sure how I will vote on 46: a three-forth majority is an extreme requirement that will prevent a majority of 'good guys' in the legislature from fixing problems that are certain to occur with any initiative. If you are opposed to 46 yet agree that wealth shouldn't be equated with speech, what would you propose, and why haven't unions and progessives given us a better choice at this late date - after all campaign finance isn't a new topic to Oregon politics.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Only an observer with Rob Kremer's "free market as Holy Grail" politics would minimize the corrupting influence of big contributions in electoral politics. Free speech is of little value if there is no functioning system of democracy.

    Steven Maurer's predictions are so divorced from reality I won't address them individually. I suggest Steven take a look at the sources on money in Oregon politics, and then figure out how that money will find a way around Fair Elections. I haven't been able to. Maybe Steven missed the list of states I posted that already have personal limits of the kind Fair Elections opponents predict will be overturned.

  • LT (unverified)

    I agree with TA and Steven. It IS about the details.

    I live in a district where the incumbent raised almost as much out of state as the challenger raised. The challenger has appeared in public settings more often, the incumbent appears at debates, on billboards, on radio with soundbites, in mailings. The challenger seems to have more visible support--actual people out campaigning. There are people who can only afford to give small amounts of money, although they can donate large amounts of time. We'll see how that one comes out in November.

    I don't see how a whole set of new rules helps first time candidates win. Do we want first time candidates, or only wealthy people / campaigns who can afford the lawyers necessary to follow all these new rules? And how do we know the new rules wouldn't adversely affect the Bus Project--and if they did, why doesn't Dan Meek like that group?

    Now, if the legislature would debate this (as they haven't for maybe 10 years), that would be the place to reform the system. Hearings where people could talk about the diff. between rural campaigning (where the cost of gas is a major expenditure) and urban campaigning, about the role of caucuses in campaigns (26 years ago, did people run as individuals or were all the candidates recruited and supported by caucus operations?), about publicizing (if it is impossible to limit) out of state contributions, that sort of thing.

    I don't see how these measures make that open public debate possible, which is why I admire the headline on Steve Novick's column--my compliments to whoever wrote that.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    For folks overwhelmed by the complexity of campaign finance reform, maybe a focus on results would help:

    In 2002, the voters of Colorado passed Amendment 27, a set of reforms similar to Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47. In the 2004 general elections, Democrats took control of both houses of the Colorado legislature for the first time in 30 years.

    That would not have happened if contribution limits stifled progressive politics and enabled rich guys.

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    Like Maurer, I'm very depressed...except that my depression is related to the fact that self-described progressives want to spend more time ripping into the two most progressive measures this time around (by far!) instead of spending their energies on defeating (pick 'em): 39, 41, 43, 45, 48...

    And sorry Mr. Kremer, I listened to your radio interview with Dan Meek and don't recollect the particular exchange you reference (some admission of loopholes in the bill?). Nor do I agree with you that free speech equals a big checkbook anymore than I believe it entitles me to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre.

    Oh and BTW, to ALL of the doomsayers who are might rue the passage of 46/47 for its "unintended consequences" (i.e. certain provisions being found unconstitutional), please note that the US Supreme Court recently rejected 1,900 cases to start its latest term.

    The most likely result of any appeal to 46/47 is a reversion back to the states. Don't believe me? Check with the 45 other states who have some form of campaign limits that have stood as law for years now.

    Let's stop paying lip service to campaign finance reform and/or making excuses to not read these proposed laws and simply believe the self-interested opposition's talking points. Please vote YES on 46 & 47 and let some real reform begin...

  • Bill Michtom (unverified)

    Dan Meek has done more for the public interest in Oregon >>than almost anyone I've ever met.

    guess you need to meet some more people.

    This is a pointless comment without mentioning anyone else. It does nothing to further the discussion and is merely sniping.

  • (Show?)

    kaza, my progressive soul is safe in god's sustainably green heaven, so i feel no shame in "ripping" 48. i think it's bad law and a bad approach to this problem. those of us on the grassroots left are going to disagree about a lot stuff. this is one of those things. i want real campaign finance reform, and i've written about that quite a bit here. Meek's plan is not one i can support. that does not make me any less progressive.

    Tom C, the results in Colorado had more to do with the emergence of the deaniacs than campaign finance reform. there were a number of candidates getting strong support from DFA and the huge body of activists awakened and set in mortion by his campaign. money is not going to win very many elections for us on the left; the right will always have more. we'll win because we get out into the community -- the whole community and not just the churches -- and we'll spread our message. we'll win because we raise just enough money to support our real resource: people. so i'm happy to wait and get campaign finance right (or close to right) than simply toss in with a flawed plan just cuz it's there.

    and Kevin, whatever your opinion of money=speech, it don't mean much when the Supreme Court says money IS speech. i don't like it, but that's the (current) law of the land. last time i checked, the opinions and beliefs of citizens didn't carry the same clout as Court precendent.

  • Terry (unverified)

    After reading all the comments on this post, I'm convinced that few, if any, of the opponents of Measures 46 and 47 have actually read them.

    T.A. Barnhart --he wrote the post, for godsakes-- admits that he hasn't taken the "time" to "study" them, yet he takes the "time" to write a long-winded rant against this version of campaign finance reform because of the "unknown and untested evils" the measures may unleash on Oregon.

    I've read them, Kaza's read them, and obviously Meek and Civiletti have. That why we support them. And why we find the arguments in opposition to M46/47 so lacking in substance, so dishonest, and so lame.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Today Willamette Week also endorsed both Measure 46 and 47. Are the WW editors also irrationally smitten with love?

    Just a reminder. The Willamette Week endorsed Measure 5 in 1990. WW is more than a little capable of being "irrationally smitten" by silly ideas.

    I agree with TA and Steven. It IS about the details.

    I think the problem is that people who talk about campaign finance issues ignore the issues people care about. The problem is not who gets elected, its that everyone who gets elected is beholden to people with deep pockets, even if they get no money at all from them.

    The result is a legislative process that doesn't fund schools, builds new roads while letting the existing roads deteriorate, creates a health care system that is the most expensive in the world and leaves large numbers of people faced with bankruptcy if they get sick, some of the worst and most expensive access to broadband internet in the developed world - and even large parts of the developing world.

    The reality is that some of our most intractable problems are intractable only because they threaten the financial interests of people who can contribute to electing candidates who will protect those interests.

    The real problem would be solved by simply making having accepted a campaign contribution from someone with a financial interest in legislation a conflict of interest and require legislators to not vote on such legislation. Then make it illegal for them to solicit contributions for any purpose from anyone who has a financial interest in legislation while they are in office. It wouldn't dry up the money, but it would sure reduce its influence.

    I think there is something to be said for the notion that our choice leaders shouldn't be limited to those willing to spend months focused on their own self-aggrandizement and paying for the effort by soliciting money from people who have a substantial financial interest in specific legislation.

    Like most Presidential candidates of his time, Lincoln didn't campaign for President. That was the responsibility of his supporters. Perhaps we should start seeing candidates as people we select for public service instead of choosing among people who seek it out.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Check out the radio transcript I posted under Steve Novick's blog on this subject; but not right after you've eaten.

  • Gary Duell (unverified)

    Rarely in one place does one read such a concentrated pile of pronouncements, rules, & tests which have no basis in logic & rhetoric. A measure must be "clear and compelling" to justify support? "Compelling" to whom? What the hell does "compelling" mean? With whip cream on top? Naked ladies? C'mon. I'll settle for complete and effective. And then Mr. Mauer's 1-10 laundry list of fabrications, suppositions, and prognostications is trotted out. Sheesh. Neither you nor Mr. Barnhart have even READ M47!! Yet you know all about it, what the courts will do with it, and what every single one of its impacts will be. What a bloody waste of blog space. I have read M47 several times. It is brilliant. It is legally unassailable. It is exactly what Oregon needs at this time. How dare you people even discuss it without studying it. You are what Rollo May once termed, "innocent murderers". 16 pages is nothing. Do your homework before coming to class.

connect with blueoregon