Revive the Election Assistance Commission

The president has named the members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and tasked them with reporting back within six months of their first meeting, scheduled for June.
The unfortunate fact is that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is already tasked to do what the commission is being asked to do, and we would do better to focus our limited resources and attention to such matters on making the EAC a serious professional body that focuses on the many and evolving challenges of election administration in 21st-century America.
The other fact that seems to elude most is the sheer complexity of election administration. As a former member of Brazil’s electoral tribunal has put it, “There is no function of the modern state, short of going to war, that is as complex as election administration.”


Democracy’s masquerade ball

The IRS gave itself two black eyes by admitting that it has bungled processing the flood tide of applications for 501(c)(4) status in the 2010-2012 period. The bungling involved failing to treat all applications with the same rigor and apparently giving Tea Party affiliates a harder time than any other class of applicants.
This is tragic, in part, because we need the IRS to police the abuse of the tax code for secretive political purposes. And now the IRS is likely to be gun shy just when we need them to be rigorous. The result is likely to be a democratic process where more political actors are hidden — where democracy itself has turned into a masquerade.


It's time to fix the debt

Throughout our respective political careers, we have seen the damaging effects of partisan gridlock. Oftentimes when politicians engage in fierce debate on a contentious issue, they fail to recognize that it is ordinary citizens who suffer most from this counterproductive quarreling.

But we are also aware of the momentous breakthroughs made possible due to lawmakers’ willingness to come together and achieve results on historically divisive issues. Whether it was the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 during Marty’s tenure on the Ways and Means Committee or the enactment of the welfare reform law of 1996 while Tom was serving in the House, we understand that it is possible to overcome major challenges in a bipartisan fashion.


Prescription for a healthy communications campaign

Imagine this scene: A CEO, VP of government affairs, communications director, media spokesperson, social media manager and webmaster are huddled in a conference room somewhere in Washington, D.C. Sipping on Starbucks and bottled water, they are diligently brainstorming about how to raise awareness about a particularly challenging issue facing their organization.


Election Reform: It's about time

Democracy is a wonderful thing. Campaigning for national office in the 21st century? Not so much.

It isn’t just that officeholders spend less time governing and more time campaigning and fundraising. It’s also that we, the people, have less time to get on with our lives because of the constant campaigning we must navigate.

That the permanent campaign is bad for governing has been widely noted. But it also eats away at citizens’ time, demanding more than is needed for healthy civic engagement. Ignoring elections is an understandable, even rational response to all the campaigning; what if it becomes the rational response?


President's budget won't narrow the growth gap

At a time when the American people are searching for a responsible federal budget outlining pro-growth policy initiatives that Congress could enact with bipartisan support, President Obama decided to go in a different direction. Ten weeks late, the president’s budget reflects his belief in a bigger government and a citizenry dependent on it.


Raising taxes won't help the economy

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the modern income tax, which was established through the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. Over the years, our tax code has become bloated with loopholes, regulations and exemptions and now contains almost four million words. According to the Laffer Center, it costs up to $431 billion a year simply to comply with and administer our complicated tax system. Now is the time for tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and fairer, and the majority of Americans agree.


The right way to treat a terrorism suspect

It took no time for politicians to clamor for the Obama administration to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombings suspect, as an enemy combatant. The administration has properly dismissed those demands, charging Tsarnaev in federal court with using a weapon of mass destruction. But the fact that militarizing the treatment of terrorism suspects continues to masquerade as a legitimate policy option more than a decade after 9/11 is itself cause for concern.  


A thumb on the scale

I recently wrote about the similarities and differences between the 1998 and 2014 campaign for the U.S. House. One of the main reasons the 1998 DCCC broke the six year itch (picking up seats in the sixth year of a president’s eight year term) for the only time in the twentieth century was the strong effort we made in recruiting good candidates. If the DCCC is to have a chance to repeat that success in 2014 it will need to have a strong recruiting year.

Part of strong recruiting is that sometimes you have to put your thumb on the scale and help the strongest possible candidate win your party’s primary.  Senate Republicans failed to do this in the last two cycles and thus wasted golden opportunities to take back control of the Senate by permitting weak candidates to win primaries in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado in 2010 and in Missouri and Indiana in 2012.

Let me cite five examples of how we put our thumb on the scale in 1998 when I chaired the DCCC.