Democracy To Dos
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation keeps up a blog called Editor's Cut with her reflections on the news and politics. She devotes this entry to issues of democracy that we must pay closer attention to -- from addressing voter fraud, to implementing instant run-off voting, to passing Fair and Clean Elections through Congress to ensure that once those voters make their choices, their representatives are free to represent their interests.Here's what she has to say about the progress we are making in Congress on full public financing of elections:Vital reforms are also needed to ensure that elected representative's are more responsive and accountable to the people. First and foremost, we need to get Big Money out of our campaigns. Only "clean money" legislation will allow ordinary people to run for office and have their voices heard. Studies by the Campaign Finance Institute placed the cost of winning a House election in 2006 at nearly $1.26 million; just over $8.8 million for a Senate seat. In November, one analyst projected that the 2008 campaign would burn through 5 billion dollars. Public financing of campaigns would free elected officials from the influence of big money, and also increase the power of the public over their representatives.In the Senate, Senators Dick Durbin and Arlen Specter's Fair Elections Now Act has garnered 9 cosponsors, and in the House, the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act has 52 cosponsors behind it. Under both bills, candidates who show a qualifying level of support and opt-out of further private contributions would be supported by public funding. The legislation was modeled on successful public financing systems in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina. Short of a system of full public financing, one modest proposal to reduce the influence of big money is to dramatically increase the amount of federal matching funds received for donations of $100 or less -- matching them on a 1:4 basis. The effect could be further reinforced by eliminating matching funds for donations over $100. The changes vanden Heuvel suggests are all vital components to encouraging voter participation, a more vital election process, and by extension the "change" that seems to have become the watchword of this presidential election.