Friday, September 5, 2008

There is only one answer

I have been struggling for a number of years now trying to find the answer to return our country to an election process that removes Corporations from contributing to candidates and political parties. I have read many books and articles including the two books written by David Cay Johnston entitled, Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch. I am firmly convinced that only by taking out of the election process the enormous funds required can sanity be restored. Billions are spent each election cycle and while more and more small givers have entered the process, big money is still what greases the wheels of Congress to enact legislation for their benefit. Not only are the politicians of all parties beholden to the rich, the lack of time to address major issues is just not there. The time spent raising money detracts from their ability to study, discuss, read and meet with others to find solutions for the many and sundry items on the agenda. How many times have we heard that massive pieces of legislation are voted on based on the advice of subordinates with the elected officials never reading what they are voting for? This is outrageous.
Congress recessed (8/1/08) for five weeks without agreement on legislation to resolve the energy crisis. Both presidential candidates were not there. Perhaps had they been, consensus might have been reached. Why must everything important to our country, be put on hold waiting for the next election, after which it starts all over again with candidates competing for the next election without staying on the job and finding compromise solutions to our many problems. In my lifetime it was not always like this, FDR in particular stayed in Washington on the job. He didn’t even campaign after his first two terms. He was needed to lead us to victory over the Axis powers. I am not even sure when it started to change. It was probably when television became so important with sets in every household.
There have always been lobbyists. I myself lobbied for my company, usually to prevent State government officials from enacting legislation detrimental to the well being of my factory in Des Moines. Prior to working in Des Moines it never occurred to me that this was something I should be concerned about. My full attention was in the factory. This all started to change, at least for me in the 70’s as government started interfering with the manufacturing process. Year by year new laws and regulations were enacted, all of which detracted from our mission of making quality products the public would purchase. I did actually visit Washington on one occasion with other Iowa manufacturers. We were summarily kicked out of a Senator’s office. I remember him stating that he had no time for us since we didn’t support him in his re-election contest. He was a Democrat and we were all Republicans at the time. During that visit and others to State officials it never occurred to me that money should be handed over. I believed our message was logical and should be accepted on its merits alone. Perhaps that was true before but certainly not today. Those with the most to give have their ear, not the rest of us peons who are just concerned and are only making input because we care. We ask for consideration not for our personal benefit but for the good of all.
I have no illusions that writing this paper will have any influence on those in power. The most I can hope for is that others reading might discuss or share with others and in this way begin the thinking process on ways to resolve. To this end I have searched the internet asking how other countries conduct elections. I will share findings from several for comparison.


I received a very detailed response from Canada. The complete report can be found by using the web and going to;
Canada has a parliamentary system. There are numerous parties. While the Conservative and Liberal parties are the largest, after most elections the party that wins the most districts usually doesn’t have a clear majority, which means that the smaller parties are needed to pass legislation which gives them opportunities to add items from their agenda. The election cycle is 5 years but if a no confidence vote occurs then the government must dissolve. A new election is called usually 36 days after the election committee is ready.
Another aspect I like is that a candidate of the winning party with the most votes is declared the Prime Minister. Whereas in our country the candidates for President has in my opinion deteriorated into a very expensive beauty contest. We vote for a person instead of our own personal conviction.
I will now list pertinent items I gleaned from the report;
Contributions are tightly controlled.
Third party expenses are limited to $3,866/district and a total of $183,300 for all districts. This is in effect between April 1, 2008 & March 31, 2009. These numbers are usually revised upward based on inflation.
The limit for nomination expense is between $14,000 and $21,000 depending on the size of the district with an average of about $16,000.
Personal contribution limits are:
$1,100/year for a political party
$1,100/year for a district association, nominating contestants & party endorsed candidates
$1,100/year for independent candidates
$1,100/year for leadership contestants
I know all of these are confusing. In looking thru the list of donors I noticed that some people gave money to more than one candidate. The amounts are indexed to inflation.
The government encourages contributions and provides a tax credit of a max of $750 for contributions over $1,275.01, again indexed to inflation.
Candidates cannot receive gifts except from relatives or as a nominal expression of courtesy or protocol. This statement looked like a loophole to me. I tried for clarification but none was forthcoming.
As of 6/12/2007 all gifts over $500 must be reported while a candidate. Parties cannot transfer funds to candidates.
During the 39th election, which was the most recent, the expense limits for political parties ranged from $68,158 endorsing one candidate to $18,278,279 for all 308 districts. Limits for candidates ranged from $62,210 to $106,290, again based on the size of the district.
I found it interesting that the process has evolved over the life of the country I assume to keep it within reasonable control.

Of the following countries I will be reporting on, they are democracies with executive, legislative and judicial branches. In the interest of brevity I will only write about their election process. To check on other countries, you just google the name of the country and ask about their government. This will lead you to various web sites to find what you need.


When I started on this country I was excited. They have enjoyed being as close to a pure democracy as any country. The citizens with a petition drive can challenge a law passed by the parliament and overturn it or have it modified. They are governed by a seven member executive council called The Swiss Federal Council. The leadership changes each year selected from the council membership. The members are selected based upon the largest percentage of votes received by a major party. It had included two each from the Free Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic People’s Party plus one member from the Swiss People’s Party. In the 2003 election the People’s Party took one seat away from the Christian Democratic Party which normally would be OK except for the fact that there are no restrictions on financing elections and Peoples raised $17 million while the second largest raised $1.7 million. I realize that $17 million is chump change in America, but once it starts where will it end. There is consideration to control but as of now this is the way it is, which means to me that they are deteriorating. following our example with the party with the most income to invest increasing their control as they persuade the electoric to vote as the money dictates. I certainly hope this will be curtailed.


I was disappointed to learn that Corporations and Unions are allowed to contribute large sums to candidates and parties. In 2004-2005, the Labor Party raised $64.8 million from the corporate sector, while the Liberal Party contributed over $66 million. While again this pales to the huge amounts contributed in America, it is a disturbing trend. Hopefully they will adopt Canada’s policy which prohibits corporations and unions from giving funds.

New Zealand

In this country there is an Electoral Commission which allocates funds and time for broadcast election advertising. In 2006 they made an allocation of $3.2 million which parties can use for radio or television advertising, along with 72 minutes for opening addresses and 30 minutes for closing addresses. This was the same as the previous year.
Parties cannot use their own funds although candidates are allowed $20,000. Further, broadcast advertising can only be used five weeks before Election Day.
Wow, can you imagine what a blessing this would be instead of the constant year round haranguing we put up with in America.


There is little reason for me to keep checking other countries. What I have gleaned above is that there are problems everywhere with corporate type gifts. Most of the countries listed control it to various degrees. Canada and New Zealand have the best systems as far as I am concerned. The others appear to be heading in the wrong direction. The one saving grace for them is the quickness of the election process.
America cannot continue spending billions each year with the debilitating effect it has on the efficiency of elected officials. Perhaps in a small way this effort of mine may prompt discussion leading to legislation to curb this obscene process and restore sanity. The campaign finance legislation pushed and passed through the effort of Senator McCain did not accomplish the objective. Another effort must be initiated, hopefully by the next Congress, whoever is in control. I will not be holding my breath as they will not considered it critical as I do.

Jack B. Walters
3961 N. Hillwood Circle
Tucson, AZ 85750
(520) 722-2958
September 5, 2008

No comments: