Rigging the system

Whenever I tell people that I support scrapping practically all of our campaign finance laws, they say that I must have a ridiculous amount of trust in politicians and private donors. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is one reason that disclosure for large donations is one regulation I could potentially still support. It takes much greater faith in human nature to believe that allowing incumbent politicians to write the laws governing their own elections will lead to a healthy democracy. In his most recent column, Radley Balko summarizes the many ways the ruling parties have rigged the system to keep challengers at bay:

Consider these two figures: Congress’ approval rating right now is a dismal 19 percent. Clearly, we aren’t happy with the people who are governing us. Yet 90-95 percent of the incumbents running for re-election to Congress will be victorious on election night. Many will run unopposed. Between gerrymandering their districts to ensure a friendly electorate, campaign finance legislation, debate rules that effectively bar third-party participants, onerous ballot access rules, and the privileges of office, the Democrats and Republicans have ensured that the vast majority of the country will chose only between one of two candidates this year — candidates who, when it comes right down to it, really aren’t all that different.

Whole thing here. For a more in-depth look at campaign finance, John Samples’ The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform is well worth reading.

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Big Tobacco fights back

Apparently political contributions from tobacco companies are causing consternation in California right now:

The nation’s largest tobacco company has donated $50,000 to the Ventura County Republican Central Committee as the local party gears up to help GOP candidate Tony Strickland in what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar campaign this fall in the 19th Senate District…

The role of tobacco money in politics has long been controversial, and many candidates decline to accept contributions from the industry. However, health groups in Sacramento say the influence of tobacco money in politics is on the rise.

“There’s an alarming trend of the tobacco industry increasing its influence by ramping up its political contributions,” said Jim Knox, vice president of the American Cancer Society Action Network.

Knox noted the tobacco industry played “a major role in killing healthcare reform in California last year. They don’t issue press releases, they don’t testify at hearings, but they’re hard at work in the halls of the Capitol.” … Part of the financing of the healthcare plan was to have been a $1.75 per-pack tax increase on cigarettes.

If Californians don’t want tobacco money in political campaigns, they should stop bullying the smoking minority with exorbitant tax hikes. If they they think health care reform is an important goal, they should pay for it out of general revenues. What they shouldn’t do is bully smokers, tie their health care programs to a declining revenue stream, and act indignant when the tobacco companies fight back.

[Via Seeing the Forest.]

Related:
Boosting tobacco tax won’t serve kids’ health

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