Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The myth of public financing

Bruce Murphy says the Supreme Court is at risk due to independent expenditures and calls for public financing.

I agree that the need to raise money in a judicial campaign has an impact on who runs. One impact, that Murphy and few others note, is the rise of self funded candidates. Although they might be good justices, a credible case can be made that at least three members of our Court might not be there if not for their ability to devote personal wealth to their campaigns.

Of course, that's a phenomenon that we see in all sorts of campaigns. It doesn't result in conflicts of interest. We get candidates who will be "nobody's Senator but yours," but who might also be nobody's choice if they didn't have so much wallet.

Public financing actually might solve that problem, but it won't solve the one that Murphy and others seem most currently exercised over.

What upsets them about the last Supreme Court election is not the money that Clifford and Ziegler raised, but the money that was spent on their behalf by others; mostly by WMC for Ziegler.

If someone is willing to spend that type of money on behalf of a self funded candidate who does not lack for campaign money, why wouldn't they spend it on behalf of a publicly funded candidate?

As I have written before, it is highly unlikely that any public financing bill can constitutionally stop groups from running issue ads during a campaign.

If that's true, then public financing might address the advantages of self funded candidates and the need to raise direct contributions, but it won't solve the problem that its advocates seem to emphasize as its rationale. Advocacy groups will still spend.


Anonymous said...

If we go with public financing for judicial elections; who will decide who gets the money?

I see all kinds of problems with both ways...had the WMC promoted an ethical judge we probably wouldn't be having this discussion now.

One other question that has been nagging at me is our judicial system so far gone that ethics don't matter any longer as long as they'll come down on our side?

Anonymous said...

Maine & Arizona have 100% public financing.
No doom & despair in those two states, in fact there are more minorities, women and creative taxpayers in office, in those two states....they have ended the good ol boy network.
In those two states, ALL OFFICES are publically funded campaigns.

Those two states are doing just fine in elections.
Ask John McCain and Olympia Snowe, who both were publically financed.

Jack Lohman said...

It is "the people" who determine who gets the money. The candidate seeks a predetermined number of support signatures. If they don't get signatures they don't get money. Simple as that.

The problem with private money is that it obligates the judges to recuse themselves from the job they are paid to perform.

Dad29 said...

No, Jack, it does nothing of the sort.

And in the case of a SCOWI justice, indy expenditures should NOT affect reading the constitution and legislation.

They're in English, you know.

Of course, if you wish, we could require recusal from ALL Justices who saw ANY indy expenditures on their behalf...

Meaning the whole damn Court would be in recess about 90% of the time.

Jack Lohman said...

Technically correct, Dad29, now tell that to Ziegler! A couple of years ago Common Cause found that 75% of the cases reaching the judges had a contributor on one side or the other. How's that for reading the constitution and legislation?

Anonymous said...

Alright, if signatures decide who get the money; then all the special interest groups have to do is get the signatures for the candidate(s) they want.
How is this going to help?

Jack and dad - I don't think the constitution and legislation has much to do with the courts any longer. That is only something we learned about years ago.

Jack Lohman said...

I agree. The whole system is corrupt and too many of our political pundits seem opposed to fixing it.

Dad29 said...

Well, boys and girls, you're finally learning the lesson.

Us "small-gummint" people have been right all along.

Get the Gummint out of evey nook and cranny, and rent-seekers will go away.

Jack Lohman said...

Yeah, I think we should turn it all over to the CEOs and their shareholders (as if they don't already own our politicians!).

Anonymous said...

If you want to see people give up and disengage from elections and representative government, just go ahead with these public funding schemes. When the government starts seizing money from my family to fund candidates whose positions I loathe, I'll be ready to acknowledge that the system is so stacked against the citizen that we might as well drop out, dig our personal bunkers, and wait for the collapse. Dad29 says it right ... the only reason these elections draw money is that we've let government become the giver and taker of all things.

Jack Lohman said...

Don't kid yourself.

a) The reason voting turnout has dropped to precipitously is because people have already given up on the politicians. They are owned by their campaign funders.

b) And secondly, you ALREADY ARE giving your tax money to politicians that you loathe. We all are, through the back door funding system. Special interests give money, then politicians give them taxpayer assets, and you and I pay through the nose. To the tune of $1300 per taxpayer par year.

Publicly funding a clean system costs just $5 per taxpayer per year and eliminates the $1300 in giveaways. So take your choice.

Jack Lohman said...

FYI see

Anonymous said...

You goo-goos are off your rockers. If you took the time to read the fine print on Arizona and Maine, you'd see:

a) as was pointed out, the signature gathering process is rigged.

b) there is no more competition than before. There is no great inclusion of minorities or women or whatever.

c) voter turnout is no higher than before the public stepped in and financed the campaigns.

And, Jack, do tell us all what happens when the public finances campaigns and seats are neither competitive nor the electorate engaged.

Will we start financing on a "progressive" scale to counter the effects of seats that just cannot be made competitive through redistricting?

And what of incumbents? Will they be allowed to communicate with their constituents? What about news coverage? Can they have any?

What about the possibility people ACTUALLY DON'T WANT TO RUN? Are you going to make them?

That's the problem with this silly debate. Dad29 is right - the solution is smaller government; with less to give away, the less people will seek.

Those big bad corporations that you loathe will always want something, it just may not be dollars.

If you want politicians who aren't corrupt, then don't elect corruptible people.

There are good men and women in government and few of them are on the take - they take stances on what they believe to be the right course of action.

For Lohman to besmirch those people and then ask them to create policy - with or without corporate dollars - is absolutely ludicrous.

And he knows it.

Jack Lohman said...

What a ludicrous piece of crap. Please check your facts. Go to and

What is it about money do you not understand? I expect not a lot or you'd not hide behind an anonymous posting.

These are not very intelligent fat cats to be giving money that doesn't buy political favors, wouldn't you think???

And I like this one: "If you want politicians who aren't corrupt, then don't elect corruptible people."

Most politicians enter the profession with good intentions. Not all, but many, become corrupted by the party leadership that knows full well who is funding the party. Get your head out of the sand.

Jack Lohman said...

And sorry to bust your bubble. Voter turnout increased by 22-25% from 1998-2002 source

Anonymous said...

Look, everyone "wants" something from government.

That's the inherent problem.

Big Corporation "wants" something. Jack Lohman "wants" something.

Lohman's interest isn't altruistic. He wants you and I to pay for his healthcare, so he concocts a cause celebre because he feels Big Corporation keeps him from getting free healthcare.

There is no one as self righteous as an income redistributor.

Jack Lohman said...

Obviously, you don't know Lohman!

I'm 70 and ALREADY GET free healthcare. Or at least it's healthcare I paid for during 50 years of employment. It's called Medicare, and it has eliminated the inefficiencies of the insurance bureaucracy. And it could be extended to 100% of the public for the same 16% of GDP we are paying today.

As well, we already have public funding of campaigns, it's just through our back door pay-to-play political system. If you are good at math you will see that.

You are obviously benefiting from one or the other or both. I'm benefiting from neither. But it's because of those ripping off the system that I continue pushing for reforms.

Now, maybe you're one of those insurance investors or a politician that takes their money. We don't know. But we do know who Lohman is, and he's not hiding behind the Internet.

Anonymous said...

I have long wondered what happens to the young lawyer with a strong sense of justice after they've been out of law school for just a short time. Does survival require them to keep there mouths shut?

Or, the politician that felt strongly that the people need to be represented only to end up transferring all costs upon them and forcing changes that they're opposed to.

For a start, I think if we got rid of the pension program for elected representatives in all branches of goverment, we would also get rid of the go along to get along crowd.

Marcus Aurelius said...

I have the Frederick Douglas test.

Would it be right to have forced Frederick Douglas fund pro-slavery candidates?

Jack Lohman said...

Marcus, under our current political system Frederick Douglas would indeed have funded pro-slavery candidates. See my comment at 12:21 P.M.

Follow the money.

Marcus Aurelius said...


So your answer is to have more of it?

Jack Lohman said...

No, my answer is "If politicians are to be beholden to their funders, those funders should be the taxpayers." At $5 per taxpayer per year it would be a lot cheaper than the $1300 it is now costing us. See

I don't want politicians working for me but taking money from them.

Jack Lohman said...

And let me add, I am a center-right Republican, and it is *because* I am fiscally conservative that I do not want a corrupt political system.

Dad29 said...

I'm 70 and ALREADY GET free healthcare. Or at least it's healthcare I paid for during 50 years of employment.

Jack, I don't doubt your bona fides at all.

But you did NOT "pay for" your healthcare w/50 years of work. Your children and my children are paying for YOUR healthcare.

The design of the system (written by FDR, made more grotesque as time went on) was originally called a "Ponzi Scheme."

All re-distributionist games are Ponzi schemes--some are time-bombs (such as SocSec/Medicare)--others are simply blatant handoffs.

Some of those handoffs are legit--highways must be built, armaments must be available.

But from there on, the "need" is less--but the "want" is more, and pandering takes over.

Jack Lohman said...

dad, I don't think it's important whether I paid for the generation before mine, or made payments for today's care.

My point is: we can choose between letting the corporate for-profits run health care, or make it a common good for the country. At the same dollars spent for 100% coverage, I prefer Medicare-for-all. And I prefer a common pool for roads and police/fire protection as well.

Dad29 said...

Jack, you missed the point I made earlier about Original Sin.

Doesn't make ANY difference who "provides" healthcare--the Gummint will f*&^ it up just as well as private enterprise...

...until the Gummint screws it up worse. Remember that standards of care will be set by legislation, meaning that you have no recourse.

And Gummint knows that, Jack.

Jack Lohman said...

If you think the government is bad, wait until it is 100% run by corporate CEOs and shareholders. Check out how Cigna Healthcare dealt with the 17 year old girl’s need for a kidney transplant. Yeah, they refused and after a long delay, reversed the decision after community uproar. Too late, she died. Aren’t profits neat? See,0,2893896.story

If the government set standards, they will be “floors.” Anything else you can buy on the outside. Isn’t the free market great?

Dad29 said...

Jack, I take it that you are privy to the precise language of the Cigna contract.

And that you are familiar with the motives and tactics of the attorney mentioned in the article.

You think 'corporate CEO's' are bad news? Think of a world run by PI attorneys...

Jack Lohman said...

Dad29, I don't generally like malpractice attorneys, especially Mark Geragos. But the alternative of no patient protection is not good. I have advocated for a three-judge medical board to replace the 12-man jury of uneducated citizens. The Dems and their cash from trial attorneys have blocked that reform, as you know.

That said, how many of the health care insurance contracts do you read and understand? I like my Medicare. I get sick, I get care and the caregiver gets paid. That's what we need at the state and federal level for all citizens.

Should there be limits? Indeed. But not against the doctor's advice or a panel of doctors. In this case there was a 95% success rate, but Cigna didn't want to be responsible for follow-up care. Cigna and its shareholders won, at least for the moment. I hope they ultimately pay big time.

I'm sorry for the parents but am thankful it wasn't one of my loved ones. Or yours.

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