Constitutional amendment could vastly improve campaign finance

In a Hill opinion piece, Meredith McGhee called for the passage of the H.R. 2034, the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act (“How Congress can reform campaign finance for the American people,” April 14, 2017). If passed, that bill will reduce partisanship at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), bring more campaign finance transparency and more enforcement teeth; all good stuff.

But even if the sponsors of H.R. 2034 get everything they want, any wealthy person or business can still legally spend unlimited money helping a candidate. And wealthy candidates will have no restrictions on use of their own money in their campaigns.

{mosads}And with money from the Mercer family funding Cambridge Analytica to scientifically customize advertising to each individual voter, the Koch brothers now look like super PAC amateurs.  But the Kochs and other super PACs won’t be down for long after they adopt these techniques.  So, as if big-money influence wasn’t bad enough, it just became a new arms race that will render the egalitarian promise of our republic almost entirely forgotten, and there is nothing the FEC at its best can do about it.

So while H.R. 2034 would certainly be an improvement, please don’t call it reform. We have to answer the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision with a constitutional amendment if we want reform.  Yep, it’s hard, but that’s actually another good reason to do it, because after adoption, big-money interests can’t tinker with it.

The trick is to craft a constitutional amendment that is effective without threatening free expression.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the 2014 amendment proposed in the Senate would effectively allow jailing the producers of Saturday Night Live for their political parody. He wasn’t wrong. Any amendment that empowers Congress to regulate political speech just won’t do. 

By focusing on the money, and how it is used for advertising, a proposed constitutional amendment called CFR28 preserves free speech yet sterilizes the influence of the likes of Cambridge Analytica and their wealthy sponsors.  We don’t have to nibble around the edges of reform with better enforcement of ineffective laws. With CFR28, we can instead make a permanent and comprehensive reform that preserves our heritage of freedom.

From Mike Kyvik, Tallahassee, Fla. 

`Shattered’ findings unsurprising 

I’m not surprised the authors of “Shattered” found Hillary Clinton’s inner circle more loyal than competent. I was sensing the same thing last fall. 

Here’s what I wrote in the Orange County Register on Sept. 19:  “It’s time for Hillary to fire her brain trust. If (she) was a commodity on a grocery store shelf, I wouldn’t trust the Mook/Podesta team to handle the marketing. At this point, I would have fired all of them by now.”

Trust me, it wasn’t easy to write my piece.  My Democratic roots run deep. My father was a delegate to the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Democratic National Conventions. As an 11-year-old, I shook hands with Sen. John Kennedy (D-Mass.) two months before he was elected president in 1960. My older brother, who worked for Sen. Clair Engle (D-Calif.) decades ago, served as a federal elector in 2000 and 2008.

Despite knowing I would receive blowback from my Democratic friends, I felt it was my responsibility to speak out as I did. By all accounts, it looks like “Shattered” authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes and I ended up on the same page. 

From Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach, Calif.

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