Posted by: lorihowell | October 23, 2011

Let’s Not Talk About Campaign Finance Reform

At the heart of whatever diseased system needs reforming, one can almost always look to the involvement of money in politics as a root cause.

Robert W. McChesney illustrates many examples of political corruption, from the valuable monopoly licenses that are awarded at no charge to like-minded telecommunications companies; to the record-setting dollars that communications and technology firms spend lobbying congress; and finally to the “golden revolving door” where these same members of congress become highly paid lobbyists themselves just one year after doing their time in “public service.”

No significant movement has been made in campaign finance policy because the two sides are in a stalemate: one side concerned with corruption, the other arguing for free speech. It’s probably time to stop talking about it directly since no headway has been made in decades.

An attempt is underway to re-frame this conversation.  The Pew Charitable Trust has partnered with Campaign Finance Institute, American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution on a report, Reform in an Age of Networked Campaigns: How to Foster Citizen Participation Through Small Donors and Volunteers.   There is promise for the grassroots theories, encouraging broader participation, especially with the increasingly farther reach of social media campaigns.


On p. 133 of The Political Economy of the Media, McChesney says the state has a duty to see that a viable press system exists.

1. What would it take to diagnose the current system as failed?

2. What do you imagine it would look like for the state to create a system that meets constitutionally mandated requirements?

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