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home : opinions : editorials September 15, 2014

10/28/2012 10:32:00 PM
Editorial: End the madness: Limit spending

People are hungry. People are losing their homes. People can't find jobs. People are on the streets.

And, we read Associated Press reports that tell us of the astounding amounts of money that campaigns for office are raising and spending during this election season.

The 2012 race for the White House, campaign accounting statements indicate, is the costliest in American history. Last week, the flow of cash was expected to surpass the $2 billion mark.

According to AP, President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, amassed more than $1.5 billion through the end of September. These figures do not include $130 million that nonprofit organizations have spent on campaign advertising because they are not required to file campaign finance reports.

One positive aspect of this monetary picture is that both major party candidates chose not to take money from the public financing system established to put limits on how much a presidential candidate can raise and spend. Both Romney and Obama would have been eligible for $100 million in taxpayer money to finance their campaigns through the General Election.

Right here in Arizona, political groups have spent nearly $30 million on television advertising in what many perceive as one of the nastiest campaigns among certain candidates the state has ever witnessed.

It's only fair to point the finger at almost every politician seeking a win in the Nov. 6 election. With a week remaining, the campaign-spending toll is bound to go even higher across the board as candidates make a last-ditch effort toward victory in the General Election.

American campaigning has spun out of control in the amount of money candidates and their supporters throw at trying to win votes. When campaigns get dirty, the money seems to swirl in a cesspool.

Great Britain has it right and has since 1883.

The United Kingdom regulates campaign spending by limiting the expenditures of both political parties and individual candidates instead of limiting donations that parties and individuals can receive.

What falls into the Brits' definition of "political expenditures"? Here is what they have deemed worthy of limits on spending: "party political broadcasts, advertising, unsolicited materials in elections, manifesto or other policy documents, market research and canvassing, media/publicity, transport, rallies or other events."

America's General Election draws near, and the citizenry grows weary of campaigning that has dragged on for months, even years in some cases.

The Brits have it right on this score, too.

Candidates have six weeks to convince voters they are the best picks for the elected offices they seek.

True. Politicians never quit campaigning, no matter the country.

But, limited spending and a narrower time frame for campaigning for the next election might end some of the madness.

Food for thought.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas


Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ @Hokas Pokas:

OK genius. I am willing to learn. Please explain to me what is the difference between 'state' and 'government.'

Should be easy for someone like you.

Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2012
Article comment by: @ Hokas Pokas

You don't even know the difference between state and government, nor do you care to know. All I have been doing is giving you facts. You just don't like them. That is no reason to ignore them. Typical of you on the far-right. Hold your position regardless of the facts presented to you. Pathetic, really.

Posted: Saturday, November 03, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ @hokas Pokas:

I agree, there is clearly no point in debating with a person who will not acknowledge the facts and refuses to learn.

I said, the Queen can appoint or dismiss the Prime Minister, not Parliament. Appointing and swearing in are two totally different things. Why I have bothered, I do not know.

This is why we have someone like Obama in office, because of ignorance.

Posted: Saturday, November 03, 2012
Article comment by: @ hokas Pokas

Actually, when I said no unions or corporations, I meant that those entities and organizations could not contribute to political campaigns. Only individual people should be allowed to contribute. It is not "we the unions" or "we the corporations" or "we the church groups" or "we the wealthy" as you prefer. It is "we the people." You prefer rule by the elite, I prefer rule by the people. Also, we have a federal elections commission to regulate campaign activity, so your argument that the incumbent can freely campaign while the opposition sits at home is negated. You need to take off your partisan glasses.
I think you should be more concerned with reconciling your belief that the 1st Anendmentbis absolute with the factual reality that it simply isn't. Again, libel and slander are restrictions on speech in this country (why you bring up Europe is beyond me), and that is a restriction of speech. You must think it's fine to libel and slander in order to keep consistent. You must believe that the Westboro Baptists also have the right to protest wherever and however they please with no restrictions and that Occupy has a right to assemble and speak for as long as they wish with no restrictions. You say you agree that freedom of speech is not absolute, then you take the position that it is. Can't be both.
Now, I suggest you out down the James Bond DVD and pick up the textbook. The Queen "appoints" the same way the Chief Justice here swears in. The PM is the leader of the party that won the most seats in ELECTIONS. She has no impact on who is elected PM. And, no, the Queen cannot dissolve parliament anymore. That was changed in 2011.
Have the last word, or not because I won't be back to read it. You clearly lack knowledge and understanding of comparative politics and nothing will be gained by continuing this discussion. We know where we stand. You are set on continuing billion dollar campaigns and plutocracy. I'm set on opening up democracy for all and ensuring that the representatives of the people are not representatives of the corporations/unions/billionaires.

Posted: Saturday, November 03, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ @hokas Pokas:

In your second sentence, you say: "When a citizen wants to run for office, he/she cannot fundraise outside of the campaign season window." You just limited sombody's speech. But which is it, campaign or fundraise? Meanwhile, the incumbent is free to engage in "government business."

I agree, freedom of speech is not absolute. You can't shout "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, etc. The difference is, this was not written into the 1st Amendment. It IS written in Article 10 of the European Convention. Along with such tidbits as: "The exercise of these freedoms [expression], since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society." What does this mean?

You would impose the $2400 limit on individuals and exclude groups of individuals (corporations, unions, clubs, church groups, etc.) Here you strike pay dirt. You suggest an infringement on not one, but two provisions in the 1st Amendment, namely, freedom of speech and the freedom of people to peaceably assemble. Nice work.

Finally, you have it backwards. The Westminster system was developed FROM the British political system for use by British Commonwealth members. I will concede that the Queen takes little part in the day to day operation of government. However, it is the Queen who appoints the prime minister, usaually the leader of the winning party, the head of the government after the general election. She also can dismiss him or her. She can also appoint a prime minister of her own choosing. Why do you think they, the British, call it: "Her Majesty's Government." The Queen is Commander-in-Chief of the British military. In council with the PM and the Cabinet, the Queen declares war, and peace etc., etc., etc. In fact, all of Her Majesty's powers have never been fully disclosed. Haven't you seen any James Bond movies? "On Her Majesty's Secret Service?" Ring any bells?

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2012
Article comment by: @hokas Pokas

The only one misunderstanding and twisting points here is you. Nothing proposed hinders your ability as a citizen to discuss politics. When a citizen wants to run for office, he/she cannot fundraise outside of the campaign season window. PACs can only form duiring the window and must disclose all contributions. Be accountable for your speech.
But let's be honest. Freedom of speech is not absolute. Example. You do not have the right to libel or slander. The Supreme Court has upheld time and place restrictions on protests. So your absolute interpretation of the first amendment is fallacious.
Regarding limits on contributions to campaigns, there is a current limit of $2400 to campaigns only. I would extend that to include PACs and that limit should apply to people ONLY. No labor unions, no corporations. Living, breathing people only.
The British head of state is the Queen. The head of government is the PM, David Cameron, a member of parliament elected by the people. This is a basic principle of parliamentary systems founded on the Westminster system. If you don't know this basic fact, then you are in no position to analyze or criticize the British system. If you don't know the difference between state and government, you really aren't in a position to discuss either.
For your last paragraph, I'm the one trying to change government. You are the one upholding the status quo. You accept the buying and selling of politicians and propose no solution nor do you take your own advice and run for office. In fact, you are quite happy with the proliferation of money into politics. Rather than favor democracy, you favor plutocracy.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ @ Hokas Pokas:

You missed my point. A citizen, running for public office, can only discuss politics within a certain time frame. By definition, that is a limitation on freedom of speech. But, let's assume we have your time limit: no campaigning until 6 months before the election. The incumbent can jet around the country kissing babies, shaking hands, giving speeches, promising more government handouts and opening factories for three and a half years while any challengers have to sit on their hands. The incumbent can claim that they are just doing their job. That it has nothing to do with a campaign. How would you enforce this? It's ridiculous idea.

"Buying and selling politicians" is nothing new. People have complained for decades about money in politics. This will never change. How would a constitutional limit on campaign contributions suddenly change things (aside from limiting someone's rights)? If you have 10,000 people giving $10 each (like a labor union, which is a single "person") or one person giving $100,000 what's the difference? However, 10,000 people is 10,000 votes. It's the votes that count, remember? And how does this limit enhance anyone's freedom? Anyone can donate to any political cause they choose right now! Whether it's $1 or $10 million. You would prefer to limit the amount to what? $1,000 or would it be $100? or maybe, $50? What is an acceptable amount? Who decides? You? What amount would make the politicians more accountable to the people? Zero? Then you would certainly have only wealthy people running for office.

I never made a claim that those in favor of campaign finance reform would prefer a monarchy. You are wrong on this. The head of state in the UK is the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. She was not elected. Please see my previous post.

Finally, I am amazed how so many people see themselves as passive recipients of something called government. If you don't like it, change it. Run for office yourself. In this country, you do not inherit your office, you earn it.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ bob grant:

Sorry, sir, you are wrong on all counts.

First, yes, there is freedom of speech in the UK. In 1998 the UK incorporated the European Convention, which includes Article 10, a guarantee of "freedom of expression," into its domestic law. This Article 10 has a lengthy list of vague exceptions, unlike the clear and concise statement in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Second, the Magna Carta, as great and meaningful a document as it is, has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It only places limits on royal authority and establishes consistent rule of law.

Third, in the UK, the monarch is head of state. The ruling party and the prime minister are selected, not elected, by popular vote and then appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the monarch. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. There was no election. Her son, Charles, Prince of Wales, is next in line. Again, there will be no election. This system is based on centuries of law and tradition.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: A Thinker

There are so many good suggestions here for fixing tough issues. Many seem to be well thought out ideas that would very likely work, if only.... (the dems would, the reps would, the politicians would, more people would.. blah, blah.)

They all hinge on the idea that politicians and government exist to enact our will and common sense solutions that benefit the people.

Kind of a laugh isn't it? That's not the business they're in and you know it.. you know it. How much proof do you need?

Good ideas falling on deaf ears are nothing at all. Finally admitting that those ears are deaf... that's a beginning.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: WHY WHY

Why would any Arizonian vote for a president who sues your state because he refuses to do the job he was elected for? Our DOJ is worse, he can't even control the guns nor will he tell the truth. Why wouldn't Obama even spend one day to visit our borders to see what the citizens endure with immigration problems? How about our citizens who have been murdered, does he even care? WHY?

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: Abolish All Political Parties

The answer is not more parties, it is NO parties. We can have elections without political parties.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to elect politicians who had the best interest of the country in mind, not the best interest of their political party?

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: @ Hokas Pokas

Again, no one is saying citizens can't talk politics whenever or wherever they want. You are free to discuss politics and policies at your leisure. A constitutional amendment stating a maximum amount of financial contribution actually protects free speech more than the current system because it means everyone has a voice, not just the billionaires giving $10 million to super pacs. That amendment also keeps candidates responsible to the people rather than the wealthy donors that bought them. Interesting how you're quite OK with the buying and selling of politicians.
Another amendment that defines the timeline of elections for federal offices would have no effect on the content of speech. You can say all you want to say and whatever you want to say. Again, no First Amendment controversy.
Finally, the British head of government IS elected by the people. Now you are claiming American citizens that want campaign reform are in favor of monarchy? What deep end did you dive off? As I said and e planned before, this is NOT a trade for another system. It is an addition to our Constitution to better protect and ensure our rights and democracy. But hey, if you like having politicians bought and sold like a commodity, at least you had the guts to say so.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: bob grant

Hey Hokas Pokas You are ignorant ,England has freedom of speach and also the laws of Magna carta.
The election of a head of state is what you do ,The whole obscene process here of $$$$ not ability, take money out of it !!!.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: Glenn J Gooding

The whole process has become disgusting. It is nothing more than buying the positions they seek. I think the amount and number of weeks allowed for campaigning should be limited.

It has gotten to the point that big business controls who gets elected, not the people of the U.S. What was once a fairly good process has been corrupted with the "Greed" taking over. If you think the politicians have your best interest at heart, you are sadly mistaken. They are only interested in taking care of themselves and getting re-elected.

These amount and content of the negative campaign ads have gone way over-board and just show the level of intelligence of the jerks running for election. It is no wonder that people are refusing to vote. I reluctantly have voted, but still remain disgusted with the process.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

There are a couple of points that I left out of this discussion:

1. The British head of state is not an elected office, as it is here, it is inherited. No need for long expensive political campaigns.

2. Please do not misunderstand my remarks. I am a huge admirer of Great Britain. From Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, to Stephen Hawkins. From fish and chips to Aston Martin and Rolls Royce. From Admiral Horatio Nelson, General Charles George Gordon to Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, just to name a few.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: What's Madness?

"Madness" is spending millions of dollars a day waging wars on foreign soil against "enemies" who didn't even know we existed until we invaded their homelands. "Madness" is sending unmanned killer drones to wipe out the families and friends of suspected "militants" who, understandably, don't appreciate our efforts to liberate them. "Madness" is spending billions of dollars a year in a campaign that kills more people than the "drugs" you're supposedly fighting, incidentally bringing our neighbors to the south to the brink of economic, political and social meltdown. "Madness" is a police officer and his dog, sitting on the median of the Interstate, not to insure traffic safety, but to harass and detain anyone he deems "suspicious." This nation is crumbling, financially, socially and spiritually, under the weight of its wars. And who benefits? The corporations, the police unions and newspaper editors who sell lots and lots of papers glorifying the warriors and vilifying the victims. "End the madness." Indeed.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

To: @ Hokas Pokas:

No, regulating speech is precisely the issue here. How can a law be passed that specifically states when a citizen can talk about politics and then claim that it does not limit speech? By definition, the law places limits on a citizen's right to speak.

The simplest way around this conundrum would be to eliminate parts of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is essentially what this editorial advocates.

Maybe we need a year and a half and $2 billion precisely BECAUSE we are the world's leading democracy.

Sorry, the system is not as "efficient" as you would like. I would not trade it for any other.

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: @ Hokas Pokas

And who exactly advocated the repeal of the freedom of speech? Regulating the content of speech is not the issue here. The issue is preventing the buying and selling of Congressmen and Senators. There is no reason that the world's leading democracy (America) needs a year and a half and $2 billion to elect a president. Some of the features of British election law can be amended to the US Constitution by the people without infringing on the First Amendment.

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Tea Baggers

Amend citizens united, term limits, public financing, campaign finance reform with teeth. All without the help of any politician. Good luck

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

Sounds like the UK has solved the problem . . . except for one niggling detail: in the UK there is NO constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. (There is, in fact, no British constitution.) Therefore, Parliament can pass any law it wants limiting what, when and how much can be spent or said.

My memory is a little hazy, but didn't we fight a war over this, at one time?

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Good Going Ryan

@Ryan Jensen-I agree 100% with a "one term" policy of 5-6 yrs. for president and no more. One gets too comfortable and doesn't accomplish any more in a second term. Anyway, one term would be enough for anybody to endure.

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

Because of the Citizens United ruling, any campaign finance reform law will be struck down as unconstitutional. There are two ways to get any kind of reform. 1. Ask politely for the supreme court to overturn that ruling or 2. Overturn the ruling through a constitutional amendment. Until this happens, all talk about the British model or any other legislative scheme is moot.

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Save Democracy

The people need to pass two Constitutional Amendments. One overturning Citizens United and one limiting the campaign season to 6 weeks. David Cameron, the British PM, stated on national US television that his campaign spent only $150,000 last election. $2 billion dollar elections are shameful and undemocratic!

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

Yeah, in 2008 Obama outspent McCain (who opted for public financing) 2 to 1. Funny how we never heard about that then, isn't it. Now that the spending is even after the Supreme Court ruling it's a huge deal. It's no huge deal at all, it's just donated money. If it were up to me I'd do it like the UK, and I'd limit the campaign to 6 weeks total. But some people get off on campaigns I guess. Myself I think they are pretty limp.

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