Washington has become so polarized that the city now has more extreme points of view than those belonging closer to the center — despite the fact that most people throughout the country are fairly moderate. Washington dysfunction should not stop these people from making their voices heard and spreading their ideas. Campaign-finance reform in particular is a heavily contested issue that strikes at the heart of fairness in politics.
In a debate with the Austrian School economist Robert Murphy, Warren Mosler, an American economist and founder of Mosler Automotive, outlined suggestions not only on how to improve the economy using Modern Monetary Theory, but on how we could use innovative campaign-finance reform to permanently change the role money plays in politics.
He suggested that campaign contributions be unlimited, but only 60% of every donation should go toward the intended candidate. The remaining 40% would go toward their opponent.
If money from special interest groups did not have such an impact on politics, this proposal may not have happened. Since campaign finance needs to be reformed, though, we should seriously consider Mosler's idea.
This 60/40 split in campaign contributions is ultimately meant to limit mega-donors from pouring millions into a single candidate’s coffers, thereby tilting the financial advantage one way.
“The idea is to eliminate the influence of money in politics,” Mosler said in an interview.
When special interests are brought up, it conjures up images of backroom deals in dark rooms. It seems counter-intuitive to mention special interests that have the interests of the voting public in mind.
Well-funded third party groups claim greater influence in Washington because they are the sponsors and the backers — the “funding elite.” People only have to look at the growing influence of Super PACs. Mosler’s plan is designed to limit the relationship candidates have with special interests so they have to run on their ideas. To those who doubt that a system allowing unlimited campaign contributions could limit the advantage of wealthier donors, Mosler replies:
“Because the opposition party knows it will get funded in any case it would in no case be beholden to the donor. Nor would the favored party as he knows his opposition is getting a large amount of funding as well. This proposal substantially reduces the ‘clout’ of donations in general. Note that today when corporations donate to both parties they are both beholden. With my proposal, this largely goes away.”
Third parties could have a role in this system too.
These smaller parties have often been less influenced by industries, but the sharing breakdown will be decided by state legislatures. “The [state] legislature would determine specific policy that I would expect to divide the funds more than two ways to accomplish the intended public purpose," Mosler said. “States that subsidize campaigns already do this.” Third party candidates will still receive some of the shared campaign funds, but it will take a few election cycles for states to break away from the main two-party system.
The only limits that currently exist in campaign finance concern the donor’s wealth, and mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and George Soros are able to tilt the financial balance of power toward one political party. Under the 60/40 split, it would make them think twice about spending hundreds of millions on campaign donations and would place a greater emphasis on connecting with voters.
Donors would not want to support their opponents, and in an indirect way the plan would limit contributions. With less money to spend on negative advertising, the candidates would need to rely on their ideas and constituency more than the mega-donors. In general, Mosler said, the system would reduce the number of donations, regardless of income level.
Ideas such as Mosler’s and Lawrence Lessig’s “money bomb” present new solutions to real campaign-finance problems. Removing money from campaigning involves political ingenuity.
Unlike how Citizens United changed the rules of the game in favor of the wealthy, real reform such as the Mosler Plan would remove special interests from politics all together, leaving politicians beholden to individual voters and not mega-donors.
A version of this article was posted on IVN.us.