ENGLISH FOR CONGRESS POSITION PAPER (Revised April 2014)

Public Funding of Elections

Much has been said about the need to reduce the undue and corrupting influence of money in the candidate selection and election process. Recent court decisions that equate unlimited campaign contributions by corporations and individuals as constitutionally guaranteed free speech have almost completely removed all constraints on virtually unlimited money expenditures corrupting elections. Primary elections were once thought to be an alternative to the smoke-filled rooms previously employed by party elites to select their candidates for the general elections.  However, the process of having two elections, the primary election and the general election, has made the electoral process for national office an expensive and fatiguing marathon for candidates, which can be almost a year in duration.  In addition, by denying some challengers forums to present their qualifications and proposals to the public, the political parties have effectively negated the intent of open primaries giving the public the information required for making an informed choice of candidates. The consequence of these realities is the fact that Congressional incumbents today are reelected 90% or more in current elections despite the fact that the Congress as a whole is favorably viewed now as an institution by only 10 percent or less by our citizens.

Before a public funding scheme for elections can be adopted, established national primary election dates for all states should be mandated and set beginning two months in non-presidential election years and six months in presidential election years before November for all partisan candidates in primary elections.  This would shorten the electioneering period between the primary and general elections and eliminate the undue influence on candidate selection by small states that deliberately set their primary election dates over ten months before the general election in November.

Congress should require all television and radio stations to provide at least one-half hour of free programming from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the five-day workweek (holidays exempted) for candidates beginning three months before the primary election date as a condition of their FCC license renewal.   The Federal Election Commission would supervise and manage the process to insure that all candidates received equal TV and radio coverage.  Likewise, all newspapers would be required to provide at least one page of free space for candidates on the entire second page of their first sections during the same period.   Tax credits for the print media would offset the loss of revenue from the free space provided to the candidates.  There would be no compensation for the television and radio stations because the free broadcast time for candidates would be partial compensation for their use of the public's airwaves.  All stations would be required to provide the same amount of free time at the same time of day, so no station would gain a competitive advantage over any other station during the candidate broadcast periods.

In exchange for the free broadcast time, all candidates would have to agree to forgo the use of any additional free or paid broadcast advertisements or personal media appearances.  The same restriction would apply for free print media coverage. (Please read the Congressional Term Limits Issue paper).

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