Commentary, Elections

Jim Gray: Liberty for Political Donations Requires Changes to Current Electoral Laws

Everyone knows that money is much too influential in today’s politics, so how can that influence be lessened?

To me the answer is to allow all natural people who are citizens or holders of Green Cards to contribute as much money as they wish to the candidates or ballot measures of their choice, with the firm provision that all contributions above a certain fairly small but fixed amount must be published in a timely fashion.  This would both be fair and consistent with freedom of speech.

Under today’s system, if Bill Gates were running for a public office he could contribute as much of his money to his own campaign as he wanted.  So why should he not be able to contribute to other campaigns as well?  And then if the voters feel that a candidate is beholden to Bill Gates or anyone else, they still would be free to vote for that candidate’s opponent.

But, critically, no organizations, including corporations and labor unions, should be allowed to contribute to any public elections whatsoever.   First of all, as a matter of basic fairness, since it’s the money of their shareholders and members, those shareholders or union members should not be forced to contribute to a cause with which they do not agree.  (And if they do agree, that’s fine, they can still contribute individually and also encourage other individuals to do the same.)

Of course, I understand that this idea conflicts with the ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, but that is still my opinion.  Secondly, under today’s system with all of its purported contribution restrictions, the wealthy are still able to contribute virtually as much as they want to whatever cause they choose.  How is that?  Because wealthy individuals and special interests are able to “launder” their donations through Political Action Committees (PACs) or political parties, accompanied by their “private request” as to where the money should be spent.

And, of course, that is where the money goes, because the recipients are mostly in business to help those causes.  So why not make those contributions above-board, public and available to all?  And along the way, Liberty would be enhanced, as would more accurate information being available to the voters.

(Political cartoon by Donkey Hotey used with permission.)

Judge James P. Gray (Ret.) was a judge on the Superior Court of Orange County, California for 25 years, and was the running mate of Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential contest, as well as the Libertarian Party’s 2004 candidate for the United States Senate in California. The author of multiple books and a play, he is a critic of current American drug laws.

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