Why Campaign Finance Reform is Necessary
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is the latest example of why campaign finance reform is necessary. Where else but in the United States of America could a high school student find the resources to give the maximum donation of $44,600 to Governor Schwarzenegger for his re-election campaign? Does anyone out there know of a teenager with $44,600 to their name? Capitol Weekly has the story.
Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult, can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial primary and general election. Elizabeth's parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor's reelection campaign.
This process, for the uninitiated, is what is known as bundling. Elizabeth Arkley may not have $44,600 but because her parents have more than enough, and because she is at least 18, under California law, she can donate the maximum to the Governor under her own name. So what politically active, rich parents do is donate the maximum in the names of all of their family members who are legally eligible to donate.
In all fairness, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challengers, Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, have donors who have bundled their donations and done the same thing.
It is has been proven that young people aren’t the most politically active age group, so while Elizabeth Arkley might be politically active, what about all of the other youth who have donated large sums to Governors, Presidential candidates and others? Are they all politically active, and if so why aren’t they voting? Also, teenagers are notorious for rebelling against their parents. Are we to believe that Elizabeth Arkley and all the other teenagers who have donated actually support the candidates their parents support?
Mainly, bundling is a way for big money donors to skirt campaign finance laws and to gain favor with the candidate of their choice. How many of George W. Bush’s Rangers bundled donations?
It’s time for serious campaign finance reform. More power to the 18 year old who is able to donate $44,600 in an election cycle, but I’m willing to bet there are less than 5 of them out there. And while the Supreme Court has equated political donations with free speech, there has to be some way to stop the madness. I’ve been hearing more about it lately and perhaps public financing of elections is the answer.
Your Personal Note:
Campaign finance reform is indeed needed, but in case particular case the family may have violated federal and state tax law - and may also have violated existing campaign finance law.
After all, it's unlikely that the teenager has $44,600 in income. If the funds were given to her by her parents, it's in excess of the federal gift limit - and she needs to claim it as income subject to income tax.
Furthermore, if the parents gave it to her with the express purpose of passing it along to Arnold, then they're probably violating the law against directing contributions in order to hide the source of the contributions.
(Not sure what California's exact statute on this is, but most every state has something along these lines. If they didn't, it would render reporting meaningless - and even most of the bad guys believe in reporting.)
Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Mar 2, 2006 9:34:24 PM
p.s. What they did isn't "bundling" - it's money laundering.
Bundling is when an organization pulls together a bunch of like-minded donors, assembles their checks in a 'bundle' and passes them to the candidate. (As opposed to collecting contributions to a PAC, and then writing one check to the candidate.)
Bundling isn't necessarily bad. It's the core strategy employed by Emily's List to elect pro-choice women Democrats. Their PAC maxes out at some 10-15,000 (whatever the limit is these days) but I've personally been involved with candidates who have gotten over a quarter-million bucks in 'bundled' $50-100 checks from women across the nation.
Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Mar 2, 2006 9:37:25 PM
We need real reform. Arizona is a leader in real electoral reform in the West with their Clean Elections Act. A well-structured plan for public financing of campaigns is the way to go. California is Democratic, but not particularly reformed. The one Schwarzenegger ballot initiative that made sense was a non-partisan redistricting plan, and it when down to defeat as did a similar plan in GOP-dominated Ohio. Paper trails for ballots are also part of clean elections, and Bill Richardson has been a leader for that reform. Clean elections promote clean government and a government that has credibility with its citizens.
Posted by: Leo Brown | Mar 8, 2006 6:42:21 AM
Public funding is definitely not the way to go. There are 2 reasons:
1. In any election where the incumbent and the challenger spend equal amounts, the incumbent has a huge advantage.
2. Third parties rely on small numbers of large donors, without them, there will be no alternative voices at all.
Public funding of campaigns will therefore end all serious political debate in this country, and all hope for serious reform where it is actually needed.
Posted by: Seth Manapio | Mar 12, 2006 11:11:05 PM
Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Elections and related links. “A comprehensive Clean Elections system has been in effect in Arizona and Maine for several years. In Maine, an overwhelming majority (3/4) of state legislators are "Clean." In Arizona, the same is true of a majority of the state house, as well as the current Governor (Janet Napolitano).” The Clean Election laws are well thought-out reforms. They allow the little guy to compete. The states with “clean elections” have more open government and less control by special interests. Debate has not been stifled.
“Clean Elections” reforms are voluntary, so they pass constitutional tests. Third parties can still be formed. Really rich candidates and really rich backers of those candidates can still spend what they want.
Posted by: Leo Brown | Mar 14, 2006 7:42:33 AM
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(and yes, we know that sometimes they're very, very wrong. Other times, they're right on.)