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  • Liza Logart

    PACs are even now getting close to their limits of usefulness if the idea is to save money by influencing legislation. It used to be that funding political campaigns and buying politicians was a homeopathic art, and a comparatively small amount of money spread around could yield a capitalist or union boss vast rewards, but the sheer amount of money required to win a political campaign these days is itself a correcting factor.

  • jack.skerritt.3

    We missed out on the best chance of attacking the corruption problem by allowing the Republican party and the mainstream media to destroy Sara Palin. Sara's record of busting corruption in Alaska speaks for itself. When she looked like the candidate of choice for the Republican ticket, they jumped into the idea and chose her for Vice Presidental seat. What they didn't count on is the fact that she wasn't going to tolerate corruption in the republican party either. So they disposed of her. Want to begin ending corruption? Put Sara in the White House and impose term limits of 4 years or less on congressional seats.

  • Jeff Nelder

    The bottom line is that we each need to accept individual responsibility to participate in the dialogue to the greatest extent available to us. What's different today is that we are empowered as a society to communicate and vote with our actions beyond the vote in our polling places.

  • murky303

    There's an even better fix for the way we choose leaders, and several posters here beat me to it - scrap the two-party, direct election of an chief executive system.

    Gridlock is the direct result of the fact that it's possible in the United States to have a chief executive who is not only of another party than the majority of one or both Houses of Congress, but who is diametrically opposed to them in what he intends to do.

    For all its faults, Westminster democracy (when the ruling party in the legislature appoints the head of government - we can still call him or her "the President" if we just want to) avoids that. It eliminates the temptation now being indulged in wildly for the head of government in the United States to violate Federal law (by "executive order") and ignore what the legislature says he ought to do.

    PACs and other things could still exist, or we could choose to make them illegal, but in a government which could be thrown out of office by a vote of no confidence and new elections called when needed, PAC-type electoral manipulation would be too expensive to work. PACs are even now getting close to their limits of usefulness if the idea is to save money by influencing legislation. It used to be that funding political campaigns and buying politicians was a homeopathic art, and a comparatively small amount of money spread around could yield a capitalist or union boss vast rewards, but the sheer amount of money required to win a political campaign these days is itself a correcting factor. Just think if George Soros, the Koch Brothers, Exxon/Mobil, Citizens United, the National Educators' Association or the UAW had to try and buy a Federal election three times a year, instead of every two years? They'd try, sure. Then I suspect that the oil companies and unions would move to Russia and work something out with Putin, while the public masters' unions would just settle for holding regular jobs when unorganized workers are Obamacared into the unemployment lines.

    True, a Constitutional amendment (at least one) would be required. But it would take this country a long way toward a government responsive to the needs of the People. Going from British history, Westminster legislatures aren't necessarily more or less inclined toward one political wing or the other - the massive presence of the public sector in Britons' lives is probably much more because Britain's economy came so much closer to destruction after World War Two that massive government intrusion into citizens' lives was a practical consequence of picking up the pieces.

    If we're going to change things around anyway, let's do it in such a way that there's no doubt what the middle class wants, because it's there making a damn nuisance of itself to the government when it needs to.

  • murky303

    Yes, I have something to say. Citizens United didn't start big money corruption of the electoral process. Unions did, through their own PACs. No one ever mentions union PACs, yet almost every American has to pay into them indirectly because almost every public school system is either a closed union shop or exerts incredible, illegal, against-the-Taft-Hartley Act pressure on teachers to join teachers' unions and contribute to political speech they have NO WAY of helping shape.

    • BlueCollarCritic


      Citizens United DID however grant legal status to the bribery of a public official (they use to be public servants) .

  • highjanel

    Let's do it. What is the first step?

  • danielwebster101

    So do it Lawrence. Find a coalition who believes in the concept of sortition and have some donors prepared to lob you a few million for this idea. Don't wait for the federal government to convene on such a proposal. If you need help, let me know.


    • murky303

      Nice bunch of hyper links. Print them all out, cut them into pieces about the size of a dollar bill, and take them to the supermarket once Obamacare has made it impossible for anyone to offer you a job.

  • Laura Neidich

    Wouldn't this plan be great......on another political note, why is the Commission on Presidential Debates STILL being allowed to exclude candidates other than Dem and GOP?

  • Camila Sandoval

    Great text! It's nice to read about what nobody else is talking about =) And it would be really great if one of the candidates would do what you suggest (although I think it's very difficult to happen...)

  • Vast Shadow

    I hope Romney gets into office, because we need someone good with money and that could straighten it out. Obama has made weird cuts and keeps spending money for fan fair... Just like after the GOP and congress had start assessing the recession from the budget cuts -- Obama started handing out money to undergrads. As his Obamacare was flawed *at first* and needed reassessing... Obama AGAIN, gives pill industries billions of dollars to allow lower prices(BUT FOR PILLS) .

    The money Obama spends has no deficit... It never rebounds. Sure Bush pumped money into oil and gas... BUT it gave the USA jobs and products. There is an old saying, "You have to spend money to make money" . Rather it is Obama, accidentally messing up or done purposely, who knows. Bush spent money but we saw progress from it. Obama spends money that we never see a rebound from.
    Then, Obama attempts to blame everyone else. An you get these ingrates saying that its all from other political branches -- Dancing to Obama's tune.

    Romney knows money... Its no joke, no hidden message, no secret... Obama has even tried to say Romney is greedy. However, Romney built his businesses up and even kept them from collapsing.

    The only thing that makes me even more angry with Obama, is how he blames everyone else for his accidents. I understand, no one is perfect, but making up stories of every other political party is just idiotic. Immature and that characteristic doesn't need to be in our Whitehouse.
    He blames the GOP for the recession, over his "Unneeded budget cuts".
    He has evenly for seen medicaid going to collapse, AFTER finishing Obamacare -- Then trys to blame it on senseless actions from Congress.

    WTF? If you really think Obama has done nothing wrong... You really need to pay more attention to the news. I know the bigotry and formal gestures they make are hard to follow. But if you don't get it, ask them to explain or get someone to explain it for you.

    • murky303

      Look, you're preaching to the choir (oh, pardon me, the "amateur vocal group that sings when the man speaking is taking a break"). Four years ought to have been plenty of time for at least signs that things are turning around, and that Obama's way is fundamentally right. I was willing (even hopeful) that there was some way other than letting businesses make money and hire people to fix an economy. There really isn't. Unfortunately, the soi-disant "defender of the middle class" doesn't trust the middle class to run its own economy. He invited 800,000 people to stay in the country illegally, and then set it up so that most of them will qualify for Medicaid, which will be funded by states which can't afford Medicaid's current user base (much less the requirement under Obamacare that families making less than $30,000 a year qualify for it) and by denying care to people who were expecting, having paid for Medicare all their working lives, to be covered by it.

      Don't believe me? Obama's boss, George Soros, has his people working on how to defund Medicare by $718 billion already and still "save" it. It's what we used to call the "hoof-and-mouth disease cure" - if there aren't any hooves and mouths, there won't be any hoof-and-mouth disease.

      Beyond Obamacare
      Published: September 16, 2012

      "WE need death panels.

      Well, maybe not death panels, exactly, but unless we start allocating health care resources more prudently — rationing, by its proper name — the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget.

      But in the pantheon of toxic issues — the famous “third rails” of American politics — none stands taller than overtly acknowledging that elderly Americans are not entitled to every conceivable medical procedure or pharmaceutical.

      Most notably, President Obama’s estimable Affordable Care Act regrettably includes severe restrictions on any reduction in Medicare services or increase in fees to beneficiaries. In 2009, Sarah Palin’s rant about death panels even forced elimination from the bill of a provision to offer end-of-life consultations."

      Well, since Steven Rattner was able to pick the taxpayers' pockets to make sure the United Auto Workers all had triple-figure incomes after GM and Chrysler went belly-up, I'm sure if Obama gets elected, he'll find a way to deny Medicare patients what they paid for all their lives.

      Voting for Obama this time takes you out of the "gullible" column and places your fingers around Granny's neck if she needs anything more expensive than a flu shot.

  • rands

    If we had a "sortition" process, limiting the influence of money in politics would be a good use for it. Instead, we have congressional committees and their findings. Then congress stalls. To make a sortition process would be a big, long effort before we even start the effort to solve the money-in-politics problem. What could make a difference is if people insisted on it. But "the people" aren't organized and don't communicate well. is working on this problem- allowing "the people" to communicate effectively on issues, letting people vote on issues and making their votes count. If you want to have an impact on this issue, and others, I suggest helping them.

  • Scott Swain

    I respectfully offer a differing point of view.

    I agree with you that corruption is widespread and needs to be dealt with. The sad thing is most people believe giving government even more power by adding more restrictions to corporations is the solution. That "solution" gives the corporations even more power because they control the government. A sad vicious circle. Well, not sad for the big corporations and bureaucrats. The real solution is to reduce government power so then corporations have no way to use legitimized force and must resort to being awesome for their customers?

    What prevents the corporations from secretly contributing to their favorite politicians? See, you are falling into the same trap of believing government is the solution. Government is a monopoly on force. Regulation has proven to be unsuccessful. Politicians have proven to be corrupt. Remove the politicians and the regulation and watch the market soar! I am sad when I think about how many will react to my words with defense of the State that has been programmed into most of us since childhood as we went to government schools and lapped up corporate-controlled "love and defend the State" media for a huge chunk of our lifespans.

  • duhigg

    There is a movement underway to have an amendment to the constitution that would enable our elected representatives at all levels to create legislation to control the money that goes into elections, in effect overturning the Citizens United decision. It would also state unequivocally that corporations are not people and are not entitled to the same rights as people. I think that if this effort is successful and we can control the money that goes into elections we can begin to clean up the swamp that is our current system. I don't see Congress voluntarily making this type of reform and making it stick (look at the fate of the McCain/Feingold finance reform law). We the people have the ability under Article 5 of the constitution to take such action and for the sake of our Democracy need to take this responsibility seriously. People who think this is just too hard and can't be done need to consider the 27 amendments our predecessors have enacted. We need to reclaim our democracy and make it work for everyone, not the wealthy few who buy our representatives. I believe this effort to amend the constitution is an important step to achieve this goal.

  • Josh K

    1.)Randomly selecting citizens doesn't guarantee that the end result will be neutral and non-partisan. Social psychology studies on group dynamics can attest to that.

    2.)Who would be presenting the information to learn from? If you control the information, you control the outcome (more or less).

    3.)People must know how to properly analyze statistics, logic, etc... to make informed conclusions. It has been my experience that most people are not well-trained in this endeavor.

    • Ben Goldhirsh

      saw and signed the petition for the debate question on the site you referenced. you should put that in as a "do" on the site for other GOOD members to get behind. I'll do it if you don't feel like it. Separately, I don't think the concept Lawrence put forward is felled by your concerns. Jury duty (albeit currently challenged by some stat analysis) has served us well and has faced a similar set of issues.

  • Angrias

    I think its great to get these kinds of ideas out and churning in people's minds, I also really appreciate that this article was written. Maybe I am indefinitely shaded by pessimism or likely, and unfortunately, being realistic. We are a long way off from such an approach. Not only because this creates yet another government project which would need staffing and managing and therefore funding; but its also unfair to say people are non-partisan and idyllic to think that this process wouldn't be corrupted. Plus, how do you force people to be neutral? Its unfortunate, perhaps if even a portion of your proposed plan could be adapted it would work out better. Until then, I'm at least grateful that there are, in fact, more than two candidates running.

  • Diana Ahrens

    I love this line: "They’re clueless because it is rational to ignore a system that ignores you. But if given a reason and an opportunity, ordinary Americans could understand these issues well enough to offer ideas for meaningful change."

  • Douglas Sellers

    We are asking politicians to police themselves. To stop taking money and embark on major reforms. I don't see that happening. It is against their best intrest. It seems like there needs to be some other organization doing this kind of check/balance.

    • murky303

      I agree, Douglas. It's called "the voters." As little as any of us cares for the prospect of more frequent elections, letting the clowns hang on to their jobs for fixed two-to-six year terms isn't getting the job done. We need a Westminster democracy (what is inaccurately called a "parliamentary democracy:" because the best-known example of is happens to be called "Parliament.") in which elections can be called as often as the legislature loses the confidence of the people (in what is, logically, called a "vote of no confidence"), and the leader of the government - the chief executive - is appointed by the ruling party or parties. (At present there is no single ruling party in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, for example - Labour lost the confidence of the voters, no single party mustered enough votes to rule on its own, so a coalition government under the Tory David Cameron consisting of the Conservative Party and a few others runs the country).

      The reason this would be better is that there is less security for the ruling party or coalition, and its appointed head of government. Moreover, consensus among parties is encouraged - in Great Britain, it was necessary during the last election. Also, it was possible during the last British election for a number of parties to take power away from the single party (Labour) which had the most votes, because it didn't have a MAJORITY of votes among those voting. This fixes the worst defect of the US two-party, electoral college system - that a party with clever political technicians can game the Electoral College and win a Presidential election here despite losing the popular vote. And if you don't think that's possible, it's happened in the recent past.

      There are more than one computer software companies like Aristotle Philips' aptly named "Gerrymander Software" which specialize in programs for political party strategists to use in getting pliant Federal judges and state legislative committees to design Congressional districts that can be won by a given political party or member of a given demographic group; the same sort of software allows party strategists to concentrate on winning the "right" states to get their candidate elected in the Electoral College regardless of how many people actually vote for their man.

      An electoral college map ( shows how this works in practice. While the most recent poll cited by CBS shows Obama leading by less than the margin of error of the poll (3%), current state-by-state polls show Obama leading Romney by 237 electors to 191 electors at present. The Democratic Party is calculated by the software in this particular Electoral College map as having a 98 percent probability of getting all the electors it needs to put Barack Obama back in the White House, based again on state-by-state poll results.

      Republicans shouldn't despair yet, however. Poll results are famously misleading in US Presidential races. While the President enjoys a popular vote lead at present, Jimmy Carter out-polled Ronald Reagan all the way to November 1980. And since Obama has managed to polarize the electorate while failing to maintain the lead in voter registration in his stronghold states, cities and districts, we could be looking at an election in November (the only Presidential poll that really counts) in which more Republicans than Democrats make sure they're registered to vote and actually show up on the day TO vote. Apathy among the same people who gave Obama his 2008 landslide is high.

      So, for THIS election, it all depends on how well Romney communicates and how well the voters calculate. So far, Romney hasn't been stellar in talking to the voters, playing into Obama's hands with that disparaging remark about the "47%" of the voters who don't actually pay Federal income taxes. But it's entirely possible that - not at all counting on those people to be self-honest about what they GET from their neighbors while not GIVING anything they don't absolutely have to in order to drive their cars, purchase gasoline, or use any of the other government services paid for by user fees - a slow but building anger on the part of the 53% of the population which DOES kick money into the kitty will help Romney in November. That particular remark isn't one I wouldn't have made, because it's not calculated to increase Romney's likeability. It all depends on how many of us are tired of likable Presidents who still can't run the country.

    • Scott Swain

      Thank you for recognizing what to me is obvious, Douglas. Asking politicians to police themselves is more of the same.

    • Jon Reese

      Well, not to put too fine a point on it, there already is. Voters. If you truly don't trust a bought pol, vote for someone who refuses to feed at the trough. It's our own fault we allowed the system to slide into decay. Time to take responsibility for that, and act.

      • Ben Goldhirsh

        I disagree. I don't think you're going to get on the ballot unless you're "feeding at the trough" and thus not really getting the chance to make your point. Would love to be proven wrong with an example if you've got one.

      • Josh K

        The voting system itself is broken. Winner Takes All voting naturally favors a two-party system (which we are entrenched in). Electoral college voting also disenfranchises any third (or fourth, fifth, sixth) party candidates from receiving votes that "mean anything".

        And simply, there are a lot of people that believe their government works for them. The beauty of their system is that it works just enough to think that it does (and they have such great spin doctors and endless blame games to fight off the rest of inner resistance).

        • Scott Swain

          Josh - Yay I'm glad to meet someone who is awake :-)