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Campaign finance reform a must going forward

Campaign finance reform a must going forward
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When an outside group can raise more money than a candidate themselves to influence the outcome of an election, there is a cancer on our democracy.

The amount of money raised and spent this election cycle for president, Senate and House is obscene. Now is the time for serious and meaningful campaign finance reforms.

How do we limit the amount of influence and donation from outsiders? I suggest the following steps be taken to level the political playing field so that the biggest voices heard during election campaigns come from the candidates themselves and the citizens who have the paramount interest in the outcome.

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U.S. House races 

  • Citizens can only contribute to a House candidate in the district of their domicile. 
  • Congress shall determine amounts of contribution by individuals, unions and corporations. 
  • National, state and local parties shall have caps set on their contributions to House candidates, directly or indirectly, to be determined by Congress. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union with a nexus to a congressional candidate can make a monetary contribution to a candidate. The "nexus" must be a test of contacts with the district to be determined by Congress. 
  • Corporations (not-for-profit or otherwise) and unions must disclose to shareholders/members and the FEC the amount of monies expended for "electioneering communications" and where such monies were expended prior to or contemporaneous with the communications being made. They must also disclose the content of the communication. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union must advertise in its own name and must disclose within the advertising its name and nexus to the district in which the ad appears.

U.S. Senate Races 

(The rules for Senate races will be the same for those of the House, except that they will apply to the respective state as opposed to a congressional district.) 

  • Citizens can only contribute to a Senate candidate in the state of their domicile. 
  • Congress shall determine amounts of contribution by individuals, unions and corporations. 
  • National, state and local parties shall have caps set on their contributions to U.S. Senate candidates, directly or indirectly, to be determined by Congress. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union with a nexus to a state can make a monetary contribution to a U.S. Senate candidate. The "nexus" must be a test of contacts with the state, to be determined by Congress. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union must disclose to shareholders/members and the FEC the amount of monies expended for "electioneering communications" and where such monies were expended prior to or contemporaneous with the communications being made. They must also disclose the content of the communication. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union must advertise in its own name and must disclose within the advertising its name and nexus to the state in which the ad appears.

Presidential races  

  • Citizens can contribute to presidential primaries and general elections in amounts determined by Congress; however, such donations could only be utilized by campaigns in the state of their domicile. 
  • Congress shall determine amounts of contribution by individuals, unions and corporations. 
  • National, state and local parties shall have caps set on their contributions to general election campaigns and conventions, directly or indirectly, to be determined by Congress. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union can make a monetary contribution to a presidential candidate's primary and/or general election. Such donations can only be utilized by campaigns in the state of their nexus. For instance, if General Motors has a plant in Michigan, it can donate in an amount to be determined by Congress and can only be utilized in the state of Michigan. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union and unions must disclose to shareholders/members and the FEC the amount of monies expended for "electioneering communications" and where such monies were expended prior to or contemporaneous with the communications being made. They must also disclose the content of the communication. 
  • A corporation (not-for-profit or otherwise) or union must advertise in its own name and must disclose its identity within the advertising.

Self-Funded Campaigns 

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  • A candidate for the House, Senate or the presidency can expend whatever personal wealth her or she wishes to contribute without limit; however, once a candidate passes the threshold of contribution in an amount decided by Congress, the U.S. government will match that contribution to the opponent.

Today, citizens can only vote in the district of their domicile. A citizen does not have the right to vote in the district of their choosing. Corporations and unions should only be allowed to influence an election if they have a nexus to that district/state.

It makes no sense for outsiders to have undue or unfair amounts of influence on elections in which they have no nexus.

These new rules would make representatives more beholden to their constituents. I always found it very strange when a New York congressman would attend a fundraiser for his own campaign in Arizona. Also, matching a personal wealth contribution beyond a threshold by the U.S. government will ensure that no citizen will have the chance to "buy" an election.

The elimination of outside influence would reduce the vast amounts of money candidates and parties would need to raise and would give more of a voice to those who have the greatest stake in the outcome of an election: the voters, corporations, unions and interest groups within a particular district or state. Today, it is possible for outside groups to wield more power and influence than the candidates themselves, and that is wrong.

Now is the time for fair and reasonable campaign finance reform. It is not in America's interest to continue to allow elections to be conducted in disregard of the rights of candidates and the people most affected by an election's outcome.

Common sense solutions to problems that aren’t going away is the only solution to protecting the election process and the vote.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. He is a principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm.