Welcome to the 2014 Meh-terms, America.
Sure, the attack ads are blanketing the airwaves, and sure, some guys from Kansas are spending millions for your vote, but all the mainstream media wants to talk about is how much no one actually cares about the midterms. America has had enough red meat rhetoric to send a grizzly bear into cardiac arrest, and that appears to be what has happened.
Steeped in nearly $4 billion dollars’ worth of campaign spending – most of it on vapid, sleazy campaign ads – it’s really no wonder that Americans are tuning out the midterms in droves.
To alleviate your despair, here’s an (almost) exhaustive list, in no particular order, of solutions to America’s big dumb, big-money elections.
The Supreme Court’s delusional ruling in Citizens United helped to demolish the last vestiges of sanity in the system that politicians use to finance their campaigns. For elections to be less dumb we have to make sure that everybody has a say in who gets elected, not just the people with $150 million dollars to blow on elections. The 28th Amendment would simply state that Congress has the authority to bar corporate spending in elections and place reasonable limits on campaign contributions and spending for the sake of leveling the playing field for those of us who aren’t pulling down nine figures this year.
Organizations that do not disclose their donors, known as dark money groups, can spend millions to influence elections without disclosing to voters who is actually funding the ads. That sort of makes accountability hard to come by. The DISCLOSE Act would simply require organizations that spend $10,000 or more on election-related ads to disclose their donors.
These bills would provide matching public funds to candidates who are able to collect large numbers of small donations. The first two would effect House and Senate Races, and the last one would be for both congressional and presidential races. Public financing would empower small donors by encouraging candidates to chat it up with regular people instead of spending four hours a day on the phone chasing millionaires (which can really skew your perspective on the important things in life).
Nothing fancy here unless you count retiring filing cabinets and putting data on computers as fancy. The Real Time Transparency act would require campaigns, parties, and committees to disclose contributions online within 48 hours of receiving them. And before you tell me that this should already be a thing, please ruminate on the fact that in the year 2014 the Senate still files its contribution reports on paper.
Don’t skip this one just because you’re not a well-heeled investment guru. The Shareholder Protection Act would require companies that spend money in elections to disclose that spending to their shareholders, which also includes anyone with a retirement account. And even if you don’t have a retirement account, no one likes to miss out on a good boycott.