- Eliminate the ability of individuals and organizations to influence or dictate who is in office through campaign donations, advertisements, or other incentives.
- Attract a much broader selection of candidates by significantly lowering the financial and logistical hurdles to running for office.
- Allow officials already in office to focus on legislation by removing the burden of fundraising that, for many officials, currently consumes hours per day
- Create an “equal exposure” environment for all candidates so that every election is a contest of merits rather than a contest of funding or connections.
- Ensure officials up for reelection must earn the position by competing against a strong candidate field.
- Provide much better background information about candidates, and provide online tools to allow voters to compare candidates (such as allowing the public to register for real-time updates from candidates via a consolidated Twitter-style feed).
- Establish an environment where candidates and elected officials serve the “one master” of the citizens that elected them, rather than the many masters of special interests.
Text of The Law (Click to expand/collapse)
1. Federal Election Platform: The federal government will finance all federal elections and campaigns to eliminate the need for private funding in any form. All campaign advertising, debates, and media events will be funded by and administered through government-provided resources to create a standardized and equal campaign environment for all qualified candidates. Although the government will provide all facilities for the mechanics of the campaigns, it will not in any way influence the content of the candidates’ campaigns. Law-CAMP applies uniformly to all political parties throughout the nomination and election process.
2. Elimination of Outside Financing: Outside campaign funding for candidates is neither required nor allowed; therefore, citizens are legally prohibited from offering donations, services, or gifts of any sort to candidates (as detailed separately in Law-PL). To ensure a uniform environment for all election participants, candidates are also forbidden to use personal funds for campaigns.
3. Candidate Background Disclosure: All potential candidates must complete a Candidate Profile Form (CPF) as part of the candidate application process. The CPF will be a detailed profile that documents the candidate’s current views on topics critical to office (such as taxation, foreign affairs, etc.). The CPF will include a set of standardized sections that address key topics pertinent to government independent of current events. The CPF will also contain a “Current Events” section that is updated each election cycle to allow candidates to comment on critical issues or events at the time of the election. (For example, the CPF for 2008 would have included topics related to the financial crisis.) In addition to the Current Events section, there will be a “Regional Concerns” section that covers topics specific to the voting area. The Regional Concerns topics will be chosen by the applicable local district or state. Note that while the CPF must be filed prior to campaigning, it is entirely reasonable for candidates to change their views on specific topics as they interact with people and groups during the campaign. Accordingly, candidates are allowed to update their CPFs when they change positions. Because the CPF is online, viewers will be able to see the most recent version at all times, and changes will be marked in red and dated.
4. Candidate Experience: The CPF will also include sections that allow candidates to outline their experience background and to explain in detail how their experiences are applicable to their role in office. Because the intent of the profile form is to allow voters to get to know the candidates on a personal level, candidates must complete the CPF in their own words without assistance from outside parties. Profiles must be completed both by new candidates seeking office and by existing officials seeking reelection. The CPF will be published on a government-hosted site that allows voters to review and compare the qualifications and positions of all candidates.
5. Candidate Selection: Law-CAMP removes many hurdles and will open up a much wider selection of potential candidates; therefore prequalification of candidates is critical to ensure that only qualified candidates are permitted to enter the campaign process. Potential candidates must receive a minimum number of signatures through a government-administered signature collection system to qualify as candidates. The number of signatures required for qualification will vary as dictated by the voting district or state. Law-CAMP requires that the state/district signature minimum cannot be less than 1000. The maximum number of candidates allowed for a given federal position will be dependent upon the population of the district or state. The number of candidates allowed applies uniformly to each political party.
If the number of qualified candidate applicants exceeds the candidate positions available, there will be a prequalifying candidate selection process where up to twice the number of candidates can participate in pre-selection. The candidates participating in pre-selection will be determined based upon signature count priority. A pre-selection election will be held among the pre-selection candidates to produce the list of final candidates that will participate in the election. Each pre-selection voter may cast votes for two candidates plus one additional vote for every five candidates. Once the candidates have been selected, an election process structurally similar to the current nomination process will be used to determine the candidate for each party. The final election process among nominees will also be similar to the existing process.
Throughout the pre-selection, nomination, and election process, a series of government-hosted debates and other promotions will be conducted as warranted for each phase of the process to provide uniform exposure for all participants. These debates and promotions will be broadcast through public or commercial TV stations and/or internet streaming as warranted to provide the information necessary for voters to intelligently select their candidates. The government-provided election tools will also include innovative functionality that provides better and more current access to information. For example, the election environment will include a feed, similar to Twitter but consolidated across all candidates, that will allow all candidates to comment on current events in real time. Voters will be able to register to a single channel to monitor real-time responses from all candidates.
6. Funding: The uniform campaigns will be financed through establishment of a dedicated federal fund for elections. The fund will be supplemented with external income where possible from activities such as selling television rights for debates. Although there will be initial setup costs to establish the campaign infrastructure, technology such as streaming and economies of scale for the uniform environment will minimize the overall development and recurring costs. The cost of the uniform campaign environment will be a fraction of that currently incurred by candidates because, prior to Law-CAMP, each candidate was required to create all elements of his or her campaign from scratch. Although there are additional costs in establishing a campaign environment, it is reasonable to expect that savings from removing special-interest control of elections and policy in a $3.5 trillion annual budget will yield savings that vastly dwarf the election costs.
Background Info/Rationale (Click to expand/collapse)
1. Explanation of Broadening Candidate Field: It is logistically impossible to get the best possible officials into office unless the best people available are running as candidates. Historically, the pool of potential candidates has been extremely limited, because the barriers to running for office are extremely high. Examples of barriers are the following:
- Preparing a campaign requires immense time and effort: Potential candidates might need to take a year or more off from their careers just to run for office. Very few citizens have the luxury of taking this amount of time from their careers for a variety of reasons (for example, supporting their families and maintaining a career path in the event they are not elected).
- Running requires significant funds and connections: Candidates typically need personal funds and/or connections to receive donations for advertising in order to have any hope of being elected. The funding/connections requirement excludes the vast majority of potential candidates, because most Americans lack the funds or connections to have any chance of winning regardless of how qualified they are for office.
- The low chance of winning makes it difficult for anyone to take the leap to run: The odds of winning against multiple candidates are low to start with, and considerably lower if a candidate is not well funded. Additionally, there is typically no fallback position if they lose, so they have no way to recoup the time and money invested in running.
Currently, only a very small percentage of the population can consider running for office, and therefore the candidate base is extremely limited by definition. Law-CAMP removes all of the above barriers. Potential candidates will still be required to gather a following and collect signatures to qualify for candidacy (necessary to prevent a flood of non-serious candidates); however, once they become qualified candidates, no subsequent funding is required or even allowed. Qualified candidates can spend 100% of their time focusing on their messaging, because the distractions of fundraising and most aspects of campaign mechanics are removed. Law-CAMP makes it possible for persons of an average income level to run for office, and it ensures there is a fair and equal environment for all candidates independent of wealth or political connections.
2. Significantly Improved Focus on Legislation and Duties: The elimination of fundraising by elected federal officials will also allow them to focus much more effectively on legislation. Currently, fundraising requires considerable time in planning, strategy, and events. Several examples from WBEZ Radio Transcript: Take the Money and Run for Office provide clear insight into the direct impact of time and distraction that is directly attributable to fundraising. For example, Nancy Pelosi participated in more than 400 fundraising events – more than one per day – in 40 cities during 2011. Walt Minnick, elected to the House as a democrat for Idaho in 2008, took only five days off from fundraising upon winning the election and began immediately fundraising for the next election two years in the future. Walt indicated that $10,000 to $15,000 in donations were required per day to be reelected and spent between two and three hours every day on fundraising activities. Additionally, elected federal officials that are heads of committees typically have a much higher fundraising obligation to their party and are expected to raise funds not only for their own campaign but also for the party as a whole. Law-CAMP’s removal of the fundraising obligation will result in much better legislation by removing considerable distraction from all officials.
3. Increasing Diversity in Congress: An informal Huffington Post informal blog (Huff: Informal Business Experience Review of Congress) indicates that very roughly 35% of House Representatives have business experience, and 30% are attorneys. In the Senate, roughly 25% have business experience and 45% are lawyers. The remainder in the House and Senate come from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as teaching, medicine, physics, etc. There is some experience diversity in Congress, but the percentage of lawyers is vastly disproportionate to their occurrence in the population. Roughly 37% of Congress members are attorneys while, according to the American Bar Association, about 0.36% of the (total) population are lawyers. Staff attorneys address the legal details of laws, and therefore it isn’t strictly necessary to have a disproportionate percentage of lawyers in Congress. The duty of Congress is much more about defining high-level policy than it is about covering legal details, and therefore there is no overwhelming rationale for lawyers to make up a disproportionally high percentage. Law-CAMP enable a much broader array of candidates, and that additional diversity may bring the percentage of lawyers in Congress closer to their occurrence in the population (though this ultimately depends on voter decision).
4. Why Government Financed Elections Won’t Create Budget Issues: While funding elections may appear to be adding significant costs at a time when the federal debt levels are already out of control, the actual financial impact should not be significant for the following reasons:
- Many aspects of the campaign environment will be self-funding, such as the selling of television rights for campaigns, debates, and speeches. Additionally, many elements of the campaign, such as online campaign documentation and online streaming of live events, will have minimal ongoing costs once the systems have been established. Although economies of scale will allow the government spend per campaign to be much lower than in traditional private campaigns, the uniform government campaign environment will result in much better communication and allow for better voter assessment of candidates. For example, the Candidate Profile Form will be a clear record of each candidate’s view on issues, and the government campaign environment will provide unprecedented information through technology and streaming. Allowing the candidates to react to current events via a consolidated Twitter-like feed will allow voters to get a much better view of how candidates would handle issues that are affecting them.
- In the long run, any additional cost of funding elections will be far outweighed by cost savings that result from the elimination of influence and special-interest manipulation in policy making, tax rates, etc. (See PublicCampaign.org: How Corps Paid More for Lobbying than Taxes as an example.)