The Problem Of Money In Politics

We have finally gotten videos up on the web from our Hacking Society event that happened in late April. A number of participants are going to blog this week about some of the specific topics and my contribution will be about our conversation about money and politics.

This 14min video clip starts with Larry Lessig outlining the issues around money and politics and then goes into some potential solutions. I advocated for a hack of the campaign finance system that starts with the internet industry contributing something like 5% of its combined ad inventory to a pool that is available to politicans who agree to certain conditions.

There was a debate about what those conditions should be. One group thought the candidates need to sign onto the Internet Freedom Pledge. Others thought that the candidates should renounce traditional campaign finance. Others thought candidates should do both.

Of course, this idea requires the Internet industry (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc, etc) to allocate 5% of its inventory to this kind of a pool. I have had a few conversations with the industry leaders about this idea but honestly it hasn't gone anywhere. It would be great if our industry could rally around this idea and make it happen. Hopefully this post and other actions we are taking this week might get this idea rolling.

Here's the video:

By the way, interested folks should check out the Hacking Society web page. In addition to videos, we now have a transcript of the event as well as audio recordings, photos, and lots of quotes. There's a lot there and its interesting and engaging stuff.


Comments (Archived):

  1. bernardlunn

    The most radical solution is to That is NCAA rules – if you want to play top level basketball/politics you cannot take a dime from anybody period end of story. I would not suggest making the Internet Freedom a condition, it sounds almost like lobbying pressure. If the money comes out, we will have genuine democracy and the people want Internet Freedom so that will take care of itself.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      That is exactly what it is.It takes money, that money comes from somewhere, so politicians will *always* be beholden to someone – wealthy individuals, business, labour unions… or the Internet companies… or the system itself. It is not a question if you can free them, it is a question of to whom they will be beholden. At least now it is everyone. I cherish the fact that I can contribute, as can you.Reminds me of Churchill’s famous quote about democracy.

    2. Dan Lewis

      The NCAA is, perhaps, the biggest warning as to why “getting money out” is a terrible idea.Beyond corruption issues, the NCAA’s no-money system has created a group of locked-in elites. Duke basketball is a great example. Because money has been removed from the equation, non-pecuniary advantages come into play. You’d rather play for Coach K and with all these other great players than, say, take a chance playing basketball for NC State or Virginia, even though Duke pays you the same amount that they do and you’re even in the same conference. And you’d be better off in the ACC than you would be in the A-10, even though they play in the same general region.If we were to do the same for politics. Incumbents would have a huge advantage and the already powerful two major parties would be come more powerful.That’s not to say that there’s some reform which would work, but “getting money out” is (even if it were possible) not really a great idea.

      1. JLM

        .First, screw Duke. Go, Heels!OK.The NCAA is a slave plantation stealing the hard work of student athletes without compensation.When I get some time, I intend to organize a revolt against the NCAA by having all Big Dance participants undertaking a sit down strike before the start of every televised NCAA Tourney game for 15 minutes.Fifteen minutes of blank air time until the NCAA agrees to compensate student athletes based on their revenue generating potential.The NCAA is a slave plantation stealing the labor of student athletes..

  2. paramendra

    America is not a one person one vote democracy. Fundamental campaign finance reform is needed. And I am glad to be writing the first comment. Usually I am not up this early. πŸ™‚

  3. Avi Deitcher

    The US essentially is free-wheeling finance. Public funded (I have seen Canada and Israel) are more restrictive. Canada’s is cleaner, but far less likely to lead to revolutionary changes, “big” (Emancipation, Civil Rights, etc.) and “small” (Internet).Israel is also “publicly funded” (although less so nowadays), and all that happens is instead of serving interests, politicians serve the political system.It takes money to get your message out to the masses. If it comes from individuals, you will be responsive to those individuals. If it comes from the “system”, you will be beholden to the system.I don’t like the apparent beholdenness of lawmakers to monied groups – WalMart or AFSCME or Soros or Adelson – but the alternative frightens me much more.Whether through $10, $100 or $100MM, we have the opportunity (First Amendment, according to SCOTUS) to influence those who would make laws. Would you really want to give that up?

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      My opportunity sucks compared to GE’s opportunity.

      1. Avi Deitcher

        True. But better to both have them. Would you prefer no one has?Quoth Churchill: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

        1. bsoist

          I would prefer GE not have the opportunity at all. Doesn’t matter what Mitt says, GE is not a person.

          1. Avi Deitcher

            So only individuals can contribute? This fits with the “has a pulse” philosophy of @paul. In the end, all corporations – GE (shareholders), USV (partners), unions (members) – are really owned by individuals. You want to restrict the right to finance to those human individuals, from the broader legal persons.It doesn’t hold Constitutional muster under Citizens United, but I think it is interesting. I am philosophically in favour, with reservations (mainly that I haven’t thought through the implications yet, or had someone explain to me what I missed).

          2. ShanaC

            then they are actors for humans, not humans themselves. I want to find a neat separation point between my actors and myself

          3. Avi Deitcher

            I get the actor point; what does the “neat separation” imply?BTW, what is that green “MOD” tag next to your name?

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Ah, the “there is no alternative” argument. Churchill was a great guy, but even England didn’t want him in charge after the war.I’m saying that a vote is a vote. Money isn’t speech. Publicly funded elections (are intended to) force the candidates to run on their ideas, experience and merit, not on how much money they can raise.If I want to support a candidate, I can get out there and campaign! I can put a bumper sticker on my car.Making corporations people is actually adding people with huge amounts of money to the equation. It says that the top executives of a corporation represent every single person who works there. It says that those executives get to decide on behalf of everyone who has generated money for that corporation who gets to run for and be in office.

          1. bsoist

            That is another concern I have. To say that corporations are groups of people as a defense is ridiculous, because they are normally controlled by a very small majority of the people they represent.It might seem that my main two concerns run counter to each other, but that is not really the case. A corporation is a group of shareholders. The corporation should act in the interest of profit alone. That *is* in the interest of the shareholders, BUT some (many?) of those shareholders, if they were making decisions for themselves, might make decisions based on other concerns – even if it cost them money. So, on matters of policy, they do not represent shareholders properly.

  4. Dan Lewis

    One of the interesting side stories in this election cycle is going to be exactly this — money in politics. Romney is going to benefit more, from a dollar per dollar perspective, than Obama will, but most of that advantage is going to come from SuperPAC spending. There’s a very good chance that this will actually harm Romney. We’re already seeing media outlets publishing less than flattering pieces on Sheldon Adelson (see, e.g.,… and http://www.huffingtonpost.c… ) and there’s already been a long history of George Soros and Koch Brothers bashing from their opposite sides.It wouldn’t be shocking, at all, to see the electorate react negatively to major campaign spending from third parties (i.e., by and large, SuperPACs). The Lessig assumption that money absolutely corrupts is double-edged — to the extent that people agree, reform may become *less* necessary because the electorate will simply internalize that factor into their votes.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      I thought it was power that corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.Ever read Chernow’s House of Morgan? Great tidbit there about JP Morgan testifying in front of a Senate Committee where the Senator challenges Morgan, “does it not say in the Bible that ‘money is the root of all evil’, wherein Morgan responds, ‘no, sir, it says love of money is the root of all evil.'”

      1. Mark Essel

        Great quotes

    2. gorbachev

      The problem with the argument in your last paragraph is that the current campaign finance system leaves no alternative certainly at the national level. There are a couple of states that allow public funding, but they’re a very small minority.So what happens, and Lawrence Lessig describes this in his book “Republic, Lost”, is that while a populist candidate might get elected using the protest vote, he will be eaten in DC by the lobbyists (statistically speaking).Freshmen are, according to statistics presented in Lessig’s book, MORE EASILY swayed by lobbyists than incumbents. Lessig theorizes in his book that it’s because freshmen haven’t necessarily formed opinions on every issue, so when lobbyists with their constant presence in Washington DC interact with the legislators every day, the freshmen start leaning towards the lobbyists’ side in the absence of other “message” regarding the issue the lobbyist is campaigning for.

    3. ShanaC

      the only way to know is in november – though I doubt your conclusions. Even if everyone reacts negatively to the money bit, they’ve also been primed to act more negatively to xyz politics bit. It is just a dump of who you find the less negative. Not a good way to vote.

  5. Humberto

    I love the idea but hate the conditions. If this is supposed to be democratic, they should only be “committed” to rally around ideas that are democratic and the public asks for. THe IFPledge is only one idea. There should be something more of AmericansElect in here…

  6. Paul

    It strikes me that the problem would largely go away (I think) if we simply restricted political contributions to only be allowed if a person can actually vote for the candidate in question and restricted donors to those people who have a pulse (no PACs or other such groups). If you, personally, live in New York and want to buy off YOUR senators, fine, but you can’t give a dime to the other 48. A lot of politicians on the national level would instantly get a lot poorer, and their attention would immediately return to where it’s supposed to be – the people who actually vote for them.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      That is really interesting. Restricting your donations to those for whom you can vote is a fascinating idea. I am not sure it would pass First Amendment muster, but it has definite appeal.I don’t necessarily like the idea of restricting it to those who have a pulse. Corporations – whether management companies like USV, mega-corps like Wal-Mart and GE, or mega-unions like AFL-CIO and AFSCME – are all legal individuals with distinct interests (viz. Citizens United). Why would we want to restrict them?

      1. Paul

        they can’t vote. If we restrict contributions to only those who can vote for a candidate, then those who can’t vote (legally fictitious persons) can’t contribute. How do you keep wal-mart from buying all 50 senators? They have employees in every state who *might* have money in the pot.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Your argument is: corps have interests, but they are either the interests of their owners, employees, members of shareholders. So if the AFSCME wants more money to hire more local employees who will become union members, then individual union members will contribute, but not the union as a whole. If Google wants Net Neutrality, then really its shareholders or managers want it, and those shareholders and managers will contribute directly.I see the logic, need to think it through. I am always wary of anything that removes the legal fiction of a corporation as individual. It is one of the key elements of the growth of the last several hundred years.Still academic, though, since the law of the land clearly states they are Constitutuonal individuals who can contribute.

          1. bsoist

            One problem for me is that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize profit. I have no issue with making a profit, but profit is – and should be – the only concern for any corporation. If not, it is doing a disservice to its shareholders. People, on the other hand, weigh issues based on other factors (most of them anyway).I guess you’re right that it’s “academic” but it would be best if we could pursue this in practice. Citizens United was a mistake, in my opinion.I like @96d36d0ba1744bc3d347af919b5843dd:disqus ‘s distinction that they cannot vote. Simple way to rule on this, if you ask me. Though I wonder about real persons with a pulse who have lost their right to vote.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Yeah, I like it, too. But I am sure there are unintended consequences I am missing here.I remember learning “triple bottom line” theory from some pretty heavy advocates back in B-school. I was always discomfited by it. The corporation’s job is to serve the interests of the shareholders. If shareholders want to give money to feeding the poor in Africa, or conserving Tierra del Fuego, or whatever, distribute the funds and let them do it. On the other hand, the Katrina aftermath showed pretty clearly that sometimes a for-profit corporation, functioning in philanthropic mode, can be the best vehicle for doing profitless social good.Tough issues…

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        The doctrine of corporate personhood is the unholy result of judge-made law over the last 100 or so years.The original intent of granting corporations personhood was to make them subject to punishment by law when they violated that law.But of course crafty corporate lawyers over the years have managed to manipulate those old rulings into the idea that corporations have a right to privacy. Think: no surprise inspections of meat packing plants. That’s the result.So, in fact, the result now is exactly opposite to the original intent. Lawyers and executives for huge corporations use the doctrine of corporate personhood to give those corporations permission to do things that really only actual individual people should be protected to do – like LIE.Corporations are not people. They can live forever. They can grow new limbs. The result of extending the Bill of Rights to entities that were never contemplated when those amendments were written is clear to see. Congress is mostly millionaires.When corporations are persons, then people become second class citizens.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          There are multiple issues mixing together here.The important one is the concept of corporation personhood. The idea of a corporation as a distinct legal entity is actually to provide the limited liability and protection that an individual cannot have, and the longevity you list. The idea of protection enables individuals to take risks, which in the long run are very beneficial to society, wo which individuals would be too averse.Longevity is also important. It allows corporations to own assets, have liabilities, generate income, etc. without mixing it with the individual owners’. These are all positives.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I’m not necessarily arguing against these things.I’m saying that we can create these protections without granting corporations ALL the rights under the consitutional amendment which was written to free the slaves.About ten years ago a case went to the Supreme Court involving Nike. Nike lied in their advertising about their use of off-shore labor. Nike even admitted they lied. The Court ruled that Nike had that right to lie in its public statement, under the doctrine of corporate personhood. To me, that’s the just beginning, and a tiny example, of how this has all gone wrong.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Understood. Of course, Nike didn’t lie, some person at Nike lied. The question I want to understand is, “so what?” People lie all the time; why are corporations bound to tell the truth? Yes, I can see special statutes with respect to food, health, etc…. for which we actually have laws. Very similar to doctors. Why isn’t that sufficient?

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Your point is good, because the real problem here is that corporate personhood is used by certain people to do things that we don’t want them to do. That is exactly the problem.And maybe it doesn’t matter so much on the level of a little company with very little money and influence. But the reality is that it’s used by people who lead monstrously huge corporations with more money than a small country to buy our elections. A small number of people who have been allowed to create a new super-rich person who gets to decide who is president.How can one argue that a corporation is a person? How can our system be anything but horribly distorted if we’re operating on that principle?

          4. Avi Deitcher

            “we don’t want them to do.” Who is the “we” in that sentence, and who decides what “want” is?Are you uncomfortable that it is a corporation, or that it is huge? Plenty of corporations spend lots on lobbying, but have less money than, say, Gates or Adelson or Soros. Are you more comfortable that they are the ones spending? And if so, why? Does it just come down to the agency problem, i.e. manager spending money on lobbying that isn’t their own? But managers do what is in their best interest, which is to make the corporation successful, which makes shareholders pleased with them. So, is there really an agency problem here?Is there a discomfort with the entire system of legal incorporation underlying some of the threads here?

          5. Kirsten Lambertsen

            You’re point is good about rich individuals. Frankly, I’m not comfortable with them owning our elections, either. But, as someone who believes in compromise, I think we can start with corporations (and unions, just so everyone can feel it’s fair).People seem to forget that shareholders aren’t the only player in the corporate game. There are employees, too. They have a stake and contribute value to the corporation. The fact that public company executives are required by law to place shareholder value above everything else is just more reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to take their vast resources and sway elections with them.Our whole system is supposed to be about checks and balances. Corporate personhood has removed any check and all balance from its role in our system.I do not have a “discomfort with the entire system of legal incorporation.” Not sure why you would get that from anything I’ve written. I just have a problem with corporations being classified as persons.Are you advocating in favor of corporate personhood? If so, what are the benefits that our society enjoy as a result of it that we couldn’t have without it?

          6. Paul

            I think it’s important to note that, within the scope of what we’re talking about here (campaign finance) corporations are already treated as non-people – they don’t have the right to vote. Whether they are (or should be) treated as people in other areas is somewhat irrelevant. Unless the courts are prepared to grant corporations an actual vote at the ballot box, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say that they can be restricted from other aspects of the electoral process. If we can manage to define campaign donations as part of the electoral process, then everything else should flow from that.

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I like this way of getting at it.

          8. Avi Deitcher

            Actually, I wasn’t referring specifically to you. I saw a number of comments here that seem to imply discomfort with corporations as entities.I don’t think it is a question of “fairness.” If we follow the @Paul Doctrine of “if you can vote, you can finance,” then no corporations, unions, associations, memberships, synagogues, churches, PACs or anything else can finance.Wait a minute. Doesn’t that violate Freedom of Association? Isn’t it fundamental (First Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court) that we as individuals have a right to associate and form an association to petition our government and otherwise influence its policies? The underlying theory is that individuals have less clout than an association. Further, Eric Schmidt may have more money, and thus influence, than each of us, but combined into an association, 1,000 of us can have equal influence.So… if you really want to reduce the influence of moneyed individuals, should we not specifically *allow* and *encourage* these associations?

          9. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Well, we place restrictions on all our freedoms all the time, if it is in the interest of the public welfare. My go-to example is, you can’t yell, “fire!” in a crowded theater. That isn’t covered by your freedom of speech.But, I’ve done a lot of defending of my views here. What are yours? Right now I’m just getting that you think everything is fine and nothing needs to be changed or fixed.

          10. Avi Deitcher

            The issue of falsely yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre was, if I recall correctly (just checked, I do recall correctly, at least if Wikipedia is reliable), that the speech was *both* false (i.e. served no valid immediate purpose) and created a tangible and imminent (clear and present? I don’t recall Holmes’ wording) danger. Campaign finance speech are opinions, neither valid nor invalid (unlike “fire”, which is either true or not), and cannot create a “clear and present” danger.My views? They are in there, just need to tease them out.1) I am extremely hesitant to impose any new regulation on any activity, especially speech or politics related, no matter how noble the cause, because of the law of unintended consequences, and because those imposing that regulation are never disinterested actors, no different than the rest of us. Not, “never,” just “hesitant.”2) I am far more comfortable asking questions than giving answers, because I am not convinced I have them. I know what does not work; I know in many cases what does; but I am mature enough to recognize that in many others no one knows. When I have an answer – based either based on data or on principle – I defend it. For example, Freedom of Speech, which is both: it works for society, and it is a moral issue.3) I prefer fewer campaign finance laws over more, because as long as there is power, and a need for funds to get into positions of power, the money will be there, just a question of where and how (i.e. they don’t work and have severe negative repercussions); and because restricting speech is a moral issue, even with its side effects. As such, if you want money out of politics, get politicians’ away from large budgets.4) I am open to the @Paul Doctrine, as long as it doesn’t restrict the ability of @Kirsten, @Shana, @Fred and me to create an association to lobby and finance issues on which we agree, while choosing not to associate on others about which we disagree.5) I am fiercely loyal to the ideals on which the American republic was founded (yes, I have and regularly read my copies of the Declaration, Constitution and Federalist, and I am not a lawyer), have great faith in the system and the people, despite its occasional lurches, and think that we will always do the right thing in the long run, as long as we avoid trying some subjective utopia in the short-run.How’s that?

    2. Dan Lewis

      That’d be very interesting (First Amendment concerns aside). Another interesting idea would be to devolve the Senate/House elections process to the states, allowing them to make their own rules to a great(er?) degree.

      1. Paul

        We already limit contributions. If it’s constitutional to limit speech in the name of trying to keep everyone’s opportunity to speak the same (even though that clearly is not the case), I don’t see why it would be unconstitutional to prevent someone in California from using his speech to affect my congressional election in Louisiana.

    3. andyswan

      So women of 1910 should have been restricted from raising money, organizing and supporting a candidate that shared their views? Quite a slap at the 1st amendment you’ve done there.

      1. Paul

        women of 1910 were restricted from a lot of things. And the only thing I would prevent them from doing is writing a check. They could work for whatever campaign they wanted, organize whatever protests they wanted, none of that would change. For that matter, I’d even be ok with allowing people with a pulse but without the legal right to vote to contribute to the candidates that they could vote for if they were able.The thing I want to prevent is (for instance) all of wall street being allowed to influence the votes of all 535 members of congress. Each of those individual people is represented by 1 representative and 2 senators. Those 3 congressmen are the only 3 that should be beholden to any one individual. You don’t get to influence all of congress just because you have a pile of money.

    4. fredwilson

      likely to be found unconstitutional as well

      1. Paul

        I’m not convinced. Like I said below, we already restrict contributions. And really, I’d even be ok with eliminating the total contribution caps if we did this. I’m a pretty freedom loving guy, and I can see no reason that someone in Florida needs to be able to have fully available speech with regard to the official actions of an Oregon senator.On the corporate personhood problem, at the very least we could restrict corporate donations to the officials that represent the official domicile of the corporation. After all, if a corporation is a person, then it has to live somewhere.

  7. Avi Deitcher

    Say one thing for you, Fred, you are not afraid to go for the sensitive topics.

    1. fredwilson

      what’s life for if not the interesting stuff?

  8. Fred Destin

    Part of what makes America such a powerful machine is that it puts primacy on execution.As a result voters seem to look at how well candidates run their campaigns as a proxy for whether they are good executives that will run the country or state well. The corollary is that everything is up for grabs : redistricting, fundraising, campaining, direct marketing. Throw as many resources at each problem as you can and demonstrate you are the best execs.So everyone applauds when a candidate is able to raise more than the next man because they feel he must be the better executive. But it’s really a bit of a sham, since we know the money is extremely concentrated: per the video, “196 individuals have given 80% of the superPAC money”.So money means infeodation to the ones with the purses. The same is true of lobbying. Your democracy is getting hijacked.French democracy has massive issues, but here is one thing I like about it: campaigning is time bound and broadcasters are obligated to carry the message of each political party for an even amount of time on television.I think legal action may be required to curb the amount this is permissible to be spent, that broadcasters or publishers should have an obligation to carry the message from each party, that negative campaining should be banned, that there should be radical transparency on campaign contributions.

    1. William Mougayar

      This hits it on the head: “voters seem to look at how well candidates run their campaigns as a proxy for whether they are good executives that will run the country or state well”. Cheerleading and playing the game are two very different things.

      1. JLM

        .The real problem is that guys like the Ax and the Brain run campaigns, not candidates.The running of campaigns is a contracted service and the intellectual basis for those same campaigns is provided by paid consultants.I would pay Bob Shrum to run Obama’s campaign. Inside politics joke as he is the worst campaign manager in the history of politics.Bush would never have been President if Jim Baker did not go down to Florida and instruct all and sundry persons as to how the cow was going to eat that particular cabbage.And then he went back to fly fishing in Montana.I miss Jim Baker..

        1. ShanaC

          but running a campaign is not the same thing as running a country – I mean, very different skillsets.

          1. JLM


        2. William Mougayar

          Wasn’t Karl Rove a factor in Bush’s election and re-election?

          1. JLM

            .Karl Rove is the Brain..

  9. Mark Essel

    After watching the video I got the Kid Mercury twitch. Amendments and reforms are tools of the incumbent. Real change comes from radical social and economic upheaval. Why do 196 people have that much influence? I dig capital forces and motivaion, but money is too potent in our “free” society.

  10. Dan Cornish

    Fred, the core problem here is that there is power in politics. The more centralized power becomes in government, the more money plays a role in influencing it. No matter what hack anyone comes up with, it will not amount to a hill of beans. The real reward is to hack the power structure in your favor, therefore no matter how many schemes we come up with to try to control spending, the incentive is too great to become a crony/beneficiary of government largess. The only solution and the one our founders realized is the only way to avoid this is limited centralized control.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      @Dan, I think they call that the limited “enumerated powers.” As long as there is more power, there will be more demand to influence it.

      1. andyswan

        thank you. It’s almost as if Dan is begging for an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, but then ignoring it in favor of good-ol-boy gov’t expansion.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Much as I want to despise the politicians and those who buy them, I cannot. It is in the nature of expanding power to create a demand to influence it.

        2. Dan Cornish

          to be clear, I have embraced about 2/3 of the Libertarian point of view. The less government there is, the less there is to influence.

          1. Avi Deitcher

            So in 50 years will I have the Jubilee version of “Atlas Shrugged 2” by Dan Cornish next to my copy of Ayn Rand’s masterpiece?

    2. Mark Essel

      Right on Dan.

  11. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Problem of money in politics? I don’t get that.where is the politics without money? … to extend that a little further ‘there is nothing without money… now-a-days’.Politics in general and election in particular is like manufacturing and comes with a bill-of-material cost (BOM) … someone has to give that money and that someone will expect an ROI for that … whether it comes from internet companies or individuals there is an expected ROI.Now if we say we will elect those who are those funding guys … for that and now we will start another election to elect who are those who are going to fund and there is going to be again money involved for that election … it goes beyond my Homer Simpson’s brain.Sorry. Can’t control the rant.Best is take fixed X-million (or billion) from tax payers money (anyhow they are the one’s who is going the enjoy the ROI good or bad) and distribute equally X/2 to both parties for campaigning. Anyone raising any money from outside are disqualified…. ha that can happen only in my own dreamland where i am the president, tax payer and voter πŸ™‚

    1. Mark Essel

      Two parties isn’t enough. It’s like two channels on network tv. Fuck channels.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        X/3? or X/4 … I am glad you actually read my rant Mark :-).

        1. Mark Essel

          X/(Number of Voters + 1)

      2. Avi Deitcher

        Be careful what you wish for. Two parties tends to be quite stable and centrifying. More than that leads to extortion politics by small parties.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          Yep. I can vouch that coming from India … every nuts and bolts has a party here… seriously and on top of that … there are independent candidates … totally screwed democracy.

          1. Avi Deitcher

            Israel has it, Italy, etc. Two parties is frustrating, but multi-party is corrupting in a way few Americans have seen.

          2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            @deitcher:disqus Yes. After election buy-outs is totally funny and makes politics a real ‘business with definitive ROI which are getting funded by better VC’s of the political world πŸ™‚ “You should see the start up funding comedy in Indian politics…only thing that is missing is kickstarter for politics …

          3. Avi Deitcher

            Oh, I like that. OK, here is a modest proposal.You are only allowed to contribute if you are registered investment fund. You need to post your returns in quarterly 10Q and annual 10K, and are subject to regulation by the SEC. LOL!”Invest your 401k in the Domestic Civil Unions Political Investment Fund.”

          4. Dale Allyn

            Same for Thailand.People often trumpet for multiple parties without having studied the effects elsewhere. Corruption is rampant, primary control is often gained by a small group simply by securing a slight advantage over multiple diluted parties, etc. Six, eight, ten parties or more, with the winner securing only 12% of the vote.”Be careful what you wish for.”

        2. Mark Essel

          I’d prefer no parties, just a sea of excellent leaders with individual motivations and agendas.

          1. Avi Deitcher

            As would I (says this fierce independent).Ever read George Washington’s farewell address on the dangers of political parties?

      3. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Jim Hightower said it (paraphrasing): This country doesn’t need a third party. It needs a SECOND party.”

  12. andyswan

    Where were these headlines in 2008 when Obama outspent McCain by a record amount and spent a breathtaking record amount to do so?In fact, I think I recall that the way “Obama ran his campaign” and “revolutionized fundraising” as evidence that he has the executive muster to run the country!Money is speech. Corporations are people. Unions are people. is people. These are provable facts, essential to the debate.Do we REALLY want Government (or industry in this example) providing the support for candidates?Why would you restrict people to being funded by the entity that they are specifically setting out to change!??!?Does ANYONE think past the short-term when it comes to granting power to the government anymore? Ugh!SUMMARY: To get the money out of politics, you have to get politics out of money. There is no incentive to buy off a politician that is working within a severely restricted government…there is every reason to buy off politicians that have the power of redistributing the treasury of their citizens.

    1. Ed Freyfogle

      The reason for govt support of funding is so that poor candidates have a chance. Many European countries do this, it seems to work well. The model is simple – if you get over X% of the vote (say 2%) then the govt pays Y amount per vote received.Rather than saying “it’s impossible!” (not saying you specifically are, but many times I hear this), why not learn from the experience of other succesfully functioning democracies around the world?

    2. Mark Essel

      I like the extreme of where this philosophy goes, but how can a powerless government function? What type of national and state management do we need? I think the trend towards minimalism would be a perfect fit to government.

      1. andyswan

        The enumerated powers of the Constitution are a great start. The government is there to protect people from violence (internal and external), protect people’s negative rights, and provide for a justice system to settle disputes. NO MORE. Once you get into taking money from one group to give/spend on another, THAT is where corruption comes into play…and politicians become more powerful than the people that hire them.

        1. JLM

          .The enumerated powers are the law. They are not advisory, they are the law..

        2. bherd

          “NO MORE.” This is not true. The Constitution also allows Congress the ability to tax and to regulate interstate commerce among many other enumerated powers.

      2. JLM

        .Every dollar spent by any government must first be TAKEN from someone who has earned it.When it is then spent on unnecessary or imprudent expenditures (researching the viability of the snail darter), money that might have been productive — in say producing jobs — is now wasted.This is why the Stimulus did not work. The money was pissed away on every unfunded liberal wet dream imaginable. ATX built a $1MM frisbee golf course.When it is given to folks who are unwilling or incapable of producing money of their own (the bottom 49% who pay no income taxes), the producers are simply subsidizing the unproductive.If this money had not been TAKEN by the government, the producers would have arguably used it to create jobs thereby providing employment to the same folks who are otherwise feeding at the trough of the producers.This is why lowering tax rates — letting the producers keep more of their own money — works, it stimulates job growth because the producers (job creators) have more money.BTW, the government makes a dollar into $0.76 simply by changing its zip code..

        1. Matt A. Myers

          “This is why lowering tax rates — letting the producers keep more of their own money — works, it stimulates job growth because the producers (job creators) have more money.”We know this doesn’t work. Producers keep / horde money for themselves. There’s no incentive for them to keep spending. And if we want to take globalization into account, then most of that money can be spent on cheap goods – goods that are only so cheap because the quality of life of people of the where the goods are being produced are outside of the local area, therefore not making jobs in the local area.Re: Unproductive people – That population size will increase as you don’t provide them with education they need to be skilled / experiences they need to learn + don’t provide healthcare for them to be healthy enough to learn. So why not focus on getting them back on their feet, increase the tax paying base? That would help solve that problem you bring up, no?

          1. JLM

            .How did the rich guys get rich?By investing their money.More money, more investments.Is Larry Ellison hoarding his money? Hell no, he’s buying up real estate in every corner of the globe and renovating it..

          2. leigh

            well that’s not only how rich got rich πŸ™‚ that’s just how the rich who have integrity got rich.

          3. Matt A. Myers

            The rich guys first got rich by being given land with natural resources on them, which allowed them to continue to amass resources as they had advantage over others.And we can drop individual examples that support the one side of our argument all day long. Easy example, look at money Apple is holding. How many billions is it? Here’s first result on Google for a search I did:

          4. JLM

            .Hmm, I did not realize that Larry Ellison had been given land with natural resources. I must have missed that.You are way over thinking the issue..

          5. Matt A. Myers

            Yes, please ignore the context I’m using in discussion in order to make a sleight of hand remark.Re: Over-thinking – I try not to keep a narrow view when making arguments relating to important things. From my understanding, Larry Ellison wasn’t one of the first landed here in America (unless he has some magic forumla for aging and is really old) – so if you want to try responding again keeping in context, going back farther in time where your argument doesn’t hold, then I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it.Everything that has happened is important to learn from. It’s why history is its own whole category.

          6. ShanaC

            Rich guys also get rich by having labor invested into them, using money from someone else. Or the equivalent in labor. What if you can’t make that investment, you need that labor/money to eat?

          7. LE

            “using money from someone else.”What do you mean by that?

          8. ShanaC

            parents having spare cash

          9. Matt A. Myers

            He won’t answer directly, though from his other responses he’d care less – it’s your own fault; You should steal your food, etc.. whatever you need to survive. Maybe create a mafia.

          10. JamesHRH


          11. JamesHRH

            @ShanaC:disqus Only Results Matter. Eat today, work more tomorrow and begin to save so that you can be an owner.@JLM:disqus I believe is correct in telling Matt that he ‘ is over thinking it ‘. Today’s problems are not solved by complaining (or crying unfair) about actions taken 200 years ago.Larry Ellison single comparative advantage is his attitude – he was given nothing extraordinary and certainly did not have the family advantages of a Bill Gates, Michael Dell or Donald Trump.Now, re: margins v core.Can you imagine a society where margins are eliminated? I doubt it.There will always be a marginal group in society. It is a structural issue not a cultural one. They will always need special programs or policies.Society should be trying as hard as hell to make the margins as skinny as possible, but the hard cold truth is that they will always be there.So, JLM is also right that leading the core and serving the core is the core issue (JLM types – i.e., natural born leaders of people – are very, very strong on finding and holding onto the core issue, fwiw).And, the core of North America is far less productive than 30 years ago. They are also given more through government programs than 30 years ago.And, the insidious thing about giving people something is that they come to expect it. ‘Entitlements’ is the deficit issue, but ‘sense of entitlement’ is the cultural issue.JLM is just saying that leaders who produce should not have to be forced to support a growing core that produces less (yes, that core produces wealth for the rich, we all get that) and wants more.History shows that great empires fail when the ratio of highly productive to highly entitled people falls to unsustainable levels.Passionate though he is, I don’t think JLM can save western culture from our impending fall. Obama will get re-elected.

          12. ShanaC

            deal. But when I look around I do see privilege, and the more we ignore the margin vs core issue, the worse we are long term

          13. JLM

            ;Perhaps the most telling element of your comment is the word “provide”.People need to get off their butts and provide for themselves.We need to provide opportunity not outcomes.A robust economy will provide opportunity but we cannot make people take advantage of it..

          14. Matt A. Myers

            So, say you broke your legs, you have no money. You should be left to die?Or say, something happens, you get deeply depressed over something and can’t work for awhile. We should let you suffer and your health diminish until the point you perhaps can’t work?So then perhaps you start a criminal / violence-based enterprise to survive, hurting people, stealing goods, etc..And then say we catch you, have to pay for you to be put in jail where you’re not providing for society – but taking away from society. And then when you’re let out, you’re still not providing for society because you’re not skilled, and maybe not healthy – and perhaps you learned how to be an expert criminal.Part of providing opportunity is helping people be healthy enough and safe enough to be productive. Not doing so is bad for everyone as a whole, and brings you down lower, costs more, hurts productivity, etc..

          15. JLM

            .You cannot manage a large core of people by focusing on the margins. Every example you cite is an extreme example. A marginal example.Of course, there is a necessity for a social safety net — no emergency room in the US can turn away an emergency patient by law. By law.We are selling society short as it relates to serving mankind.I was on the Board and a meaningful financial backer of the People’s Community Clinic in Austin, TX for years. We provided counsel and services to young women in order to prevent them from having a second, third, fourth baby before they were 20.This is the real world.To be able to support these worthy and noble causes, we need a vibrant economy which can allow wealth to be created and then invested in these causes. It is a circle of life..

          16. Matt A. Myers

            “Of course, there is a necessity for a social safety net — no emergency room in the US can turn away an emergency patient by law. By law.”But this is the kind of government control you want to eliminate – otherwise you need to state this in your examples or you’re giving everyone the wrong idea, and teaching people a simplified version of your thoughts – which is never a good idea.I disagree that you can’t manage the 80% of people by focusing on the margins — you in fact are not focusing on the margins, you’re putting things in place that focus on the 80%, and then you’re helping the margins out through the fluid functionality of societal structures you create, those structures which benefit the 80%.I don’t disagree with your conclusion about needing to support social items / structures, support networks, like helping young women make informed decisions, etc. and helping take care of any children they do end up having – so those children are productive in society, and not detrimental, etc..I do disagree that this is done by eliminating government regulations. You do however need to make the intent clear, know the leading metrics you’re following, and prevent for-profit influences on dictating regulations.

          17. JLM

            .I am not sure I understand what you are saying.Universal health care — core issue.Pre-existing conditions — marginal issue.You deal with the core issues first and then focus on the outliers, the marginal issues. It’s just simple numbers. Deal with the big issues and then the little issues.You mischaracterize my views on the issue of “control” as I am very much in favor of clinics, electronic medicine, getting the AMA’s thumb off the scale, more docs, more prescribing nurses, home visits — all cost cutting initiatives..

          18. Matt A. Myers

            I meant to add, you can in fact incentivize people to take advantage of it.

          19. matthughes

            We know this does work – it works every day in every corner.I’m not saying there aren’t a few who “keep/horde” for a moment and even fewer that keep/horde to their dying day.But the great majority is in the game, innovating and making things happen through investment and hiring.

          20. Matt A. Myers

            It’s true this is a tangent and a distraction, and doesn’t fully affect the whole – people do eventually spend that money, once it’s beneficial for them to, once the markets are aligned in their favour.The solutions to the issues aren’t relating to this, though I believe would help alleviate it.

          21. JamesHRH

            @ShanaC:disqus Only Results Matter. Find a way to eat less or work more so that you can save and become an owner is the@JLM:disqus answer.JLM I believe is correct in telling Matt that he ‘ is over thinking it ‘. Today’s problems are not solved by complaining (or crying unfair) about actions taken 200 years ago.Larry Ellison single comparative advantage is his attitude – he was given nothing extraordinary and certainly did not have the family advantages of a Bill Gates, Michael Dell or Donald Trump.Now, re: margins v core.Can you imagine a society where margins are eliminated? I doubt it.There will always be a marginal group in society. It is a structural issue not a cultural one. They will always need special programs or policies.Society should be trying as hard as hell to make the margins as skinny as possible, but the hard cold truth is that they will always be there.So, JLM is also right that leading the core and serving the core is the core issue (JLM types – i.e., natural born leaders of people – are very, very strong on finding and holding onto the core issue, fwiw).And, the core of North America is far less productive than 30 years ago. They are also given more through government programs than 30 years ago.And, the insidious thing about giving people something is that they come to expect it. ‘Entitlements’ is the deficit issue, but ‘sense of entitlement’ is the cultural issue.JLM is just saying that leaders who produce should not have to be forced to support a growing core that produces less (yes, that core produces wealth for the rich, we all get that) and wants more.History shows that great empires fail when the ratio of highly productive to highly entitled people falls to unsustainable levels.Passionate though he is, I don’t think JLM can save western culture from our impending fall. Obama will get re-elected.

          22. Guest

            Exactly what is an “entitlement?” Isn’t a lower tax rate an entitlement or maybe not paying taxes at all an entitlement?If you look at the income streams of government 30 years ago vs. today you notice that there is a dramatic shift (corporate taxes, personal income taxes, and payroll taxes) vs. today.There is absolutely no proof to substaniate the logic of your or JLM’s argument. In fact, the “sense of entitlement” that you refer to has totally shifted in the last 30 years, with the voodoo economics represented by the who basis of your argument.You also need to document “the core of North America is far less productive than 30 years ago” because it isn’t true but what is true is that 30 years ago productivity gains were shared with the “core” at a much higher percentage than it is today in the form of higher wages, now we are witnessing the stagnation of wages and record setting profits for corporations.The reality is that the elitist jargon of you and JLM represents exactly what is wrong with this country.

          23. JamesHRH

            @JLM:disqus & i are not philosophical soul mates. Merely agreeing that you lead the core not the margins.Whether or not the offshoring of lots of industrial jobs meets your philosophical view or not, it happened. We are now in an era where labour competes globally (unless energy prices skyrocket & Jeff Rubin is right – http://www.jeffrubinssmalle… ).Stating that some people are far far more productive than others is not elitist, its factual.JLM’s leadership is the type of productivity that I am talking about – not the syphoning of productivity that is the modern Wall Street casino.I disagree with the recent tilting of wealth to the top 2% and believe that the deregulation of the US banking system borders on treason.My philosophy is that wealth that is more evenly distributed protects society from armed insurrection – blood in the streets. People with far more credibility than me see that as a probable – not possible – scenario for the USofA (… ).

          24. Guest

            The USA has the most productive workforce in the world and thats a fact.The off shoring of jobs is a fact no doubt, but to claim that people who derive their livelihood from W-2 wages as being less productive and or having an increased sense of entitlement is bogus.What neither you and or JLM can do is separate your arguments from that which you call “Wall Street Casino.”Wealth that is more evenly distributed is not only a way to protect society from armed insurrection it also creates more growth by increasing demand, more innovation because of more demand, and a more secure future for a nation.The reality is we have de-incentivesed personal productivity through the stagnation of wages. Our tax structure penalizes W-2 Wages, and now you have the economy that we currently have all because we bought into the stupidity of supply side economics, job creators, and free markets.

          25. JamesHRH

            “What neither you and or JLM can do is separate your arguments from that which you call “Wall Street Casino.”I don’t see how you can support that statement.Chris Dixon has written pretty extensively about builders versus extractors and how Wall Street migrated from facilitating the first group to becoming the all time alpha dog of the second group. HE also bemoans the last 15 years of the most productive people in America choosing financial extraction over company building.Let’s put it this way – JLM & I respect this guy –… – a hell of lot more than we respect this guy –… @JLM:disqus I don’t mean to speak for JLM – he’s more than eloquent. But I think this deserves rebuttal.

          26. Guest

            The reality is we have reached the point of no return; we have made some real disasterous decisions over the course of the last 30 years, which have enriched a few beyond imagination and has regulated a majority of Americans to eventual poverty.In this election we have a choice between one party which hasn’t got a clue about what to do and on the other hand a party which is represented by someone who represents “…the most productive people in America choosing financial extraction over company building…”I just returned from Texas, the state that JLM waxes poetic about regularly, where they have created more jobs in the last few years than the rest of the country as a whole (oh, but lets not mention they are minimum wage jobs).I just look around me and cannot help but wonder what kind of country can continue to watch its middle class and its working class fall further behind.At what point does this trend effect us?What is really absurd is the fact that when England found its self in the same situation after WWII and the loss of India, it decided to become the financial capital of the world and at the same time its government became quite socialistic.We, the United States on the other hand, want labor to compete globally and in turn we want to support ideas like Paul Ryan’s where we do away with the social safety net because only the few can come to expect anything from government.I am looking for someone or some idea that is neither republican or democrat, but one that benefits all Americans, and I think that Americans, as a whole, are worth a hell of a lot more than minimum wage jobs and substandard educational system.I don’t want big government, I don’t like socialism, but I also find it hard to believe that a majority of Americans are going to idly sit by as they watch themsleves fall further and further behind.

          27. JamesHRH

            We have been buffered from this in Canada – the oil sand boom has money sloshing around the entire country.To be honest, I pick up a “best of two not great choices’ vibe from JLM’s Romney support – he frequently refers to his ‘ whipping of a To Do List ‘.Tough spot to be in – if you watched the Jim Rogers clip, it ends with ‘ a pox on both their houses ‘.I truly believe that Kid Mercury is right and that massive systemic change is on the horizon.

          28. Guest

            During hearings in 1953 the CEO of GM said:”During the hearings, when asked if as secretary of defense he could make a decision adverse to the interests of General Motors, Wilson answered affirmatively but added that he could not conceive of such a situation β€œbecause for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”Today, the interests of our major corporations no longer have any relationship with the best interests of this country.Globalization is not just something that labor has to compete against, it has also fundamentally changed the nature of government and the concept of “a nation.”The Obama’s stimulus created 1.4 jobs overseas for every job it created in the United States.The reality is that if government cannot justify its existence by showing that it has improved the lives of its citizens then what good is government?I love my country as much as JLM does and I admire our history but when I find myself asking “…what purpose does government serve?” Then I cannot help but realize that we are right back where we started from (1776).”Massive Systemic change” is something I would like to believe that sane adults would want to avoid at all costs; because it will be devastating and effect at least one generation of people. Thus the cost of massive systemic change is unfathomable and of course with our current leadership there is a good chance that we never emerge out of the other side….The depression was “massive systemic change” and we got through it because it effected everyone today “massive systemic change” would be different because everyone would not suffer, thus today we would see a revolution….

          29. JLM

            .The simple fact of the matter is that government expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been growing for some considerable time.In my view, we have a spending problem which the Democrats are trying to sell as a revenue problem.Not only are they trying to ignore spending, they are accelerating spending at an accelerating rate.Revenue collections, spending, deficits, national debt, GDP — these are discrete data points which when viewed together provide a view of the health of the Nation — financial health.The Democrats want to go back to the same well of progressivity that they have always relied upon — more taxes for the “wealthy” while reducing taxes, in fact sending a check to, for the bottom 50%.The problem is that this has the unintended consequence of reducing taxpaying employment just at the junction in time that services must be expanded and we are missing a lot of taxpayers.Costs up and revenues down.There is no evidence that you can tax your way out of a recession. If so, recessions would be short and sweet.Problem solving while looking at the real numbers is not elitist, it is pragmatic. The injection of such inflammatory language is exactly why Washington has not been able to solve a problem that a first year accounting student could do a credible job of.You have to start with some level of certifiable revenue and not spend more than that.That is what every State Governor and Legislature has to do every year..

          30. Guest

            That is the fundamental difference between you and I; you want to measure the “financial health” of a nation by its balance sheet. I want to measure the health of a nation by financial balance sheet of its citizens.To me, neither party has a plan or a clue…Gotta go, the “severe Thunderstorm watch” has hit 3 seconds ago and I just lost power and apparently one sky light in the sun room….

          31. JLM

            .Take care of yourself.Actually, I want to measure it by BOTH..

        2. RJ Johnston

          Amen brother!

        3. orson

          I’ve always wondered why the number of folks “incapable of producing money on their own” always goes up after a banking and financial crises.And the bottom 49% DO pay payroll taxes ie social security/medic, state taxes and sales tax – all at a much higher % of their income then the top 51% do from federal income taxes. For your statement about the bottom 49% to be relevant you should consider an individual’s overall tax burden….

          1. JLM

            .I agree with you more than you do with yourself.The individual should always be looking at the total tax burden which if calculated honestly (income taxes (Fed, state, city), payroll taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, etc. etc. etc.) would total well over 50% for the folks who actually pay income taxes.To your point, the bottom 49% are buying a long term benefit and they are typically actually getting it.This is more akin to insurance (most of the programs are really enterprise insurance programs at the end of the day).I have paid into SS for almost half a century having started at age 12. I will never see a penny of that money because of impending means testing. I will not get back even half of what I paid in and guess what?I am OK with that but just don’t tell me that I need to pay more or that I am not paying my fair share..

          2. orson

            I’m not saying you should pay more or less. I’m saying you (we) should pay for exactly the amount of government we actually have (baring exceptional circumstances). In most years taxes should exactly equal the cost of government. We can then have a real debate about the size and role of government. Want to launch a war, have a large military, subsidize corn farmers, provide medical services for the poorest people, have public education etc – then we have to pay for it that year. Simple.By saying the bottom 49% don’t pay (federal) income taxes is technically correct but is misleading when paired with your comments about the 49% not earning money to support themselves. The bottom 49% pay a lot of taxes on their income – sales tax, property tax, payroll taxes etc. And usually at a higher percentage of their income then then very wealthy – regardless of any federal income taxes paid.

          3. JLM

            .The States have to balance their annual budgets by law.The States start with a projection of revenue typically done by a comptroller.In this manner, the legislature can aggregate programs that are ongoing and develop a sense of their discretionary spending.When they have no discretionary funding available, they tap “rainy day” funds or reduce the budget and the size of government.This is the basic discipline that is missing from the Federal government — no constraints on spending because it has been allowed to run a deficit and then these wicked deficits accumulate over time and become the National Debt, a burden to future generations.The solution is not difficult — get up off the couch, stop eating dessert first and sharpen your pencils, Congress.In addition, enterprise funds like SS have to be segregated from general funds and the fiction that a bunch of IOUs from the general funds will pay for SS has got to be stopped..

        4. ShanaC

          I realized when reading this one particular thing:when you say money is being taken, what do you mean – do you mean money as medium of exchange, money as unit of account, or money as store of value?Strictly speaking, the US government has a kind of corporate personhood. We have a social contract with the government, and taxes are our stock owning way into this contract (in part). When you say the government is taking money from producers, don’t they have a fiduciary duty to take that money in order to fulfill the social contract had?

          1. JLM

            .The government is US. They are not an independent person. We own the government.Of the people. For the people. By the people..

        5. William Mougayar

          I really like the simplicity of this explanation. It’s hard to argue with that.

        6. Druce

          I’m all for small government, although my concept of small might be different from some other people’s. But a lot of what people view as uniquely American enterprise grew from a pretty strong government influence. Railways from land grants and homesteads. Aerospace from defense spending, not to mention airports and air traffic control. Tech from defense and NASA research, the Bell monopoly, development of the Internet by DARPA. Effective government sets rules where innovators prosper, provides necessary infrastructure and schools, and sometimes a little push goes a long way.

      3. bernardlunn

        I am a classic bleeding heart liberal who is painfully learning that crony capitalists use our desire for good regulation to capture the regulators and use that to control the playing field for their business. In the Internet age we can replace an office full of regulators with tons of data and millions of eyes. Take one example – SEC. Some good UI stuff on top of XBRL encoded data would change the game way more than the cubicle dwellers at the SEC. Same is true of FDA, EPA, etc. There still needs to be government legal action but it should be 90% market discipline and 10% government discipline or something like that.

        1. JLM

          .In the specific instance of the SEC, they just have to enforce the rules and laws that are already in place now.Coupled with public beheadings, that would clear things up pretty damn quick..

          1. bernardlunn

            But what if that is not happening? Because it is not happening. We have regulatory capture – not just SEC, but also FDA, EPA and other 3 letter acronyms I don’t follow. I get the theory, but it is not working in practice

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Because billion dollar companies (and industries) have a lot more voting power, with as you say “money is speech.”The main focus of all decisions should be how things affect people’s lives, therefore they are the entity that they are specifically setting out to change / help, IMHO.With business profits in mind, the bias is towards setting the interests to how to maintain and increase business’ profits. Eliminate that and you’ll have a healthier, more balanced society as to what people want – a more democratic society, too.And let’s get rid of patents too, so we have a true free market, so more people can benefit from innovation – the point of capitalism and innovation, right?

      1. andyswan

        If you severely limit the functions of government (as the founders did via enumerated powers), there is zero benefit for a billion dollar corporation being involved in politics. Only through complex schemes and redistribution systems “for the greater good” do politicians gain the power you speak of.

        1. JLM

          .Bingo! Brilliant comment. Right to the heart of the matter.If you get the Feds back to the enumerated powers of the Constitution their diminished power makes the investment in their election a bad investment.The money will dry up.Because they do not wield the power necessary to provide the ROI for all that cash.Well played..

          1. panterosa,

            Sounds great. WHo does what to make it happen?

          2. JLM

            .We have to redefine the role of the Federal government by challenging the existence of every department by asking — any reason this could not be done by the States?Departments of Energy, Education, HHS — all returned to the States at huge savings to the Federal purse..

          3. panterosa,

            But so many states are broke. RI is chasing me for filing fees. Really it is pathetic. Other states same tax wise, chasing pennies, from years ago, none valid either. All wheel spinning from desperation.Their mentality needs a 180.

          4. bernardlunn

            I agree with you and Ron Paul on this one – I just wish Ron Paul could reach across to Democrats by supporting a woman’s right to choose. But which comes first. I still think getting MoneyOut of politics needs to precede Getting Politics out of money

          5. BenWinokur

            @JLM:disqus returning these things to the states is great if you trust state governments to do a good job, but as someone living in a state with a horrifyingly inept state government, I’m terrified of the state government gaining any more influence (I live in Alabama, for the record).The ‘states as laboratories’ idea is among the most appealing theories of government, because it encourages innovation by state and local governments. Unfortunately, the underlying assumption that makes the theory work is that citizens can ‘vote with their feet’ by moving from a states with failing policies to states with successful policies. In practice, only a subset of the population has the resources to pack up and move to a ‘better’ state. Thus, state governments, even more than the federal government, have an economic incentive to cater to only those citizens who have the means to take their tax dollars to a ‘competing’ state. The poor have no power to escape a ‘bad’ state and no way to incentivize the state to serve their interests (by threatening to take their tax dollars elsewhere).If power were returned to the states with very strict minimum standards legislation attached, that would go a long way in guaranteeing that the states act responsibly while still encouraging governmental innovation to improve the quality of the services offered.

          6. JLM

            .States will benefit from or be punished by the state of their governance.Witness the different outcomes of California v Texas as an example.Today you cannot swing a cat without hitting a Californian in Texas.I love Alabama and have business interests there but I know exactly what you mean about the quality of the governance.Nonetheless, the real issue is this — absent the enumerated powers granted to the Fed gov’t, the states own these issues. That is the law and we have allowed ourselves to drift from it.I have a lot of faith in the goodness of people even in Alabama. Not a shot, just being perfectly honest. I love Alabama and it is a fun and great state..

          7. ShanaC

            poor cats

          8. BenWinokur

            @JLM:disqus Thanks for the kind words about Alabama. I grew up here and I love living here in spite of its obvious foibles.I respect your point about the enumerated powers, and I agree that states benefit/suffer as a result of the quality of their governance. I would add the caveat that they benefit/suffer as a result of the quality of their governance of the citizens with the greatest ability to leave. In the long run, I would expect California to try to retain the migration-capable population’s tax dollars by catering to their interests. The same economic incentive does not exist to protect the interests of the poor. Additionally, if California’s policies fail, those who cannot afford to move bear the brunt of the mistakes.I *hope* for the goodness of people (including those in federal/state/local governments), but I’m not always convinced. I feel more comfortable with the idea that citizens in every state have a minimum level of protection from the whims of their state governments.I struggle mightily with these issues, because I agree that our country has taken a dramatic departure from the founders’ intentions. I am less sure than you about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Cheers to a civil political discussion. It’s tough to find that anywhere other than

          9. JLM

            .The problem with socialism has always been that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.Maggie Thatcher said that.It is true. California is like a junkie who needs to hit rock bottom before it can be reorganized. It is getting pretty damn close..

          10. Alan Minor

            Well, well. Look who it is…

          11. ShanaC

            could society function though – we’re not farmer landowners anymore, women vote, and there are no more slaves. Life has gotten complicated.

          12. JLM

            .More complicated or easier?If you were a Colonial subsistence farmer and could not shoot straight or the rhutabagas did not come in for you, you could not trot over to Whole Paycheck and get some kumquats, no?We have a simple, indulgent life and a great standard of living — even if women can vote.Just for the record, I think the country is better when someone like you can vote..

        2. Matt A. Myers

          The problem with no “government involvement” – and government in the truest form, if it can exist, is what the will of the people want – is that for-profit organizations can still negatively affect things.We have enough experience to know that if A occurs then B will happen.Easy example is with pollution.Should we eliminate all regulations on pollution?Yes? Okay, so we all get sick and die. Or perhaps once the mob finds out, they run over to the people running the factories, etc. and kill them all off – but maybe it’s too late, and with no regulations then it can happen over and over again —- so long as there’s a profit to be made, and you can make higher profit if you don’t have to clean your exhausts.So what’s better? Let people fend for themselves? Sadly that doesn’t work when we’re all inside the same ecosystems, and what I do affects you.I do agree it isn’t done well currently, though we’re getting there, and the internet is facilitating that immensely, speeding up the process towards wellness – which includes political will not being corrupted, etc..

          1. andyswan

            See I would consider spewing deadly pollution to be a violent action, which means it would absolutely fall under a limited-government’s authority to deal with from a criminal perspective.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Sure, definitely a violent action. And what if it’s only deadly after 20 years of exposure? Who’s going to pay to test / check for that?

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Except that a government that is bought and sold by the corporations that do that polluting will never exercise that authority. It’s exactly the situation today.

          4. Justin Kuepper

            Well, a solid legal system is necessary to empower people rather than government regulators that unilaterally do things.To take your pollution example: Pollution goes beyond what a company owns and affects what other people own (air). An effective legal system should be able to support a class action lawsuit that would deter corporations from excessive pollution. No need for the EPA once a legal precedent is in place- no company would risk being sued for excessive pollution.

          5. Matt A. Myers

            Legal processes can take years, maybe even a decade. Companies do cost-benefit analysis. This is why oil is still being burned in our cars, even though we know it’s very bad for our environment and for us. The penalties aren’t great enough. The general population doesn’t have a deep enough understanding to be able to care about how things will affect them over the long-term – so there likely won’t be a mob or class action lawsuits that occur. It’s through experts putting pressure on politicians and educating the public that ends up having regulations put in place. Or it’s billion-dollar profit industries paying politicians to persuade/bribe them to put regulations into place that benefit them.

    4. Scott Barnett

      it seems to have become cliche that we can just say “government sucks, it’s inefficient and shouldn’t be in <pick your=”” favorite=”” topic=””>”. The private industry has several examples of incompetence and inefficiency as well. In my book, anything that benefits all citizens can and should be a potential to be managed by the government.What people were impressed by with Obama was how much he made in “micro-donations” – I think very similar to the idea that was discussed in the video where smaller contributions complement the large donations as a way to level out the voice. But that is besides the point. I don’t see Fred saying Obama did it ok in 2008 and it isn’t working now. I hear him saying it isn’t working PERIOD.

    5. Matt A. Myers

      To add more, let for-profit businesses spend money to convince the general population, persuade them, that what they are offering is a good idea — thereby they are actually having to convince more than the majority of a society, rather than just paying off a relatively few politicians who citizenry has allotted power to — and who clearly have shown they abuse their powers, or are just stupid about it (or perhaps overwhelmed – which is a problem still).

    6. fredwilson

      andy, you know that in certain parts of the country it is impossible to get elected without the support of the public service workers unions. is that right? i don’t think so. both sides of the aisle are corrupt and we need to deal with that reality.

      1. andyswan

        Agree…I think corruption is a necessary symptom of expanding govt power and influence. There’s a lot less ROI in corrupting a govt with severely limited powers.

        1. Ciaran

          Except of course where limiting those powers is in the interest of people/organisations with money.

          1. Aaron Klein

            In practice, that has never been the case. The people with money like to use government to protect their monopolies and promote their interests.@andyswan:disqus is right.

          2. Ciaran

            Duplicate comment due to disqus saying there was a server error. Sorry!

          3. Ciaran

            Duplicate comment due to disqus saying there was a server error. Sorry!

          4. Ciaran

            @aaronklein:disqus In many cases, yes. But, as @mattamyers:disqus points out, in the case of pollution, many corporations do everything they can to remove regulation because “it gets in the way of business”.That’s a case of money trying to limit regulation. And there are plenty of other examples, in every sector from agriculture to pharma.Government can and should have a role: absolute power corrupts, without a doubt, but so does too much money.

        2. raycote

          Both centralized and decentralized power structure are equally susceptible to high levels of corruption. The key variable is really how cleverly either of those systemic-structural-frameworks are designed and implemented to attenuate corrupting feedback loops.Every democratic society is forced to pick some perceived optional tipping point between centralized and decentralized structures between the interests of individuals and the interests of community at large. Only after that democratic debate(election-process) has been framed into a temporary-political-working-conclusion(party-platform-winner) can one move effectively to the implementation phase.In the American political system the 3 branches of government are rarely controlled by the same party. Thus you never really get the chance to actually implement either party’s temporary-political-working-conclusion-framework.That process of picking a temporary-political-working-framework, of picking a tipping point between centralized and decentralized structures is never resolved adequately enough to actually get on with a serious stab at working through the implementation phase.That implementation phase is simply pecked to death by the opposing party’s obstructionists in either the the senate or congress or both.The 3 way political-power balancing act designed into the American constitution was very clever and may have served very well over the last 200 years. However its disservices may now be out weighing its services. As the complexity and interdependence of society accelerates, a more effective integration of a political-philosophy-framework and its corresponding implementation phase may be worth revisiting?Just like hardware/software integration is now being force fed by complexity and interdependence political-framing/political-implementation may need to become more integrative.Just saying!It may be worth zooming out and reframing the political process in light of our new network-economy information age realities?

      2. Matt Zagaja

        I think it’s also important to consider that what is corrupt from one perspective is merely legitimate representation from another. There’s a difference between the clear-cut quid pro quo corruption (I will pay you X to do Y) which still does happen versus the thornier issue of a group supporting a politician that supports their issues. If you already believe something and people support you as a result that’s not corrupt, even if you take their money for your campaign. If you are changing votes or regulations to satisfy the supporters it seems like it is, but also important to consider we live in a republic and groups are all entitled to their say.In other words, the limited government politician has to represent the public employees as well. They’re all his constituents. Where you vote your own convictions versus where you vote the interests of your district is an age old debate politicians have been having for years. I think the hack (or public finance) will certainly make it easier. However, if your district/constituents are mostly public employee unions you will probably vote and represent their interests regardless of whether you take their money, otherwise they’ll put in one of their own in your spot.

        1. JLM

          .Of course, you are absolutely correct.On the other hand, as a guy who actively contributes to candidates I do notice that my phone calls get returned quicker from those to whom I contribute.Am I corrupt? I certainly hope not. But, yes, I am an unrepentant influence peddler. There, I’ve said it..

          1. fredwilson

            i plead guilty too JLMuntil they change the system, i am going to play it to win

          2. JLM

            .Fred, I am going to have to get a DNA test for us. We are converging at an alarming rate. Perhaps we were separated at birth?.

          3. fredwilson

            i grew up on army bases my friend

          4. JLM

            .As did I and what an idyllic existence that was.I remember going out to play on my bike (circa 1950s) and roaming for hours. When I would get lost, I would hail an MP jeep and get a ride home.I remember going to the movies for $0.10 including popcorn.What a life..

          5. fredwilson

            we turned the statues, cannons, and other landmarks around west point into our playgroundsa few broken limbs resultedbut it sure was fun

          6. LE

            We definitely didn’t come from the same DNA no army base connection going on here. Not related to either you or @JLM:disqus .Raised in an immigrant culture (as opposed to by a military person like your father (who as I’ve said I admire what he did) and I will assume was a totally straight shooter and precise engineer ) I have no such cognitive dissonance whatsoever about exploiting any legal advantage that I can. Not only that but in our culture behavior like that is frequently celebrated admiringly like a sports win might be in your family.

          7. JamesHRH

            The First Lady’s motto – if we are in it, we are in it to win it.

          8. fredwilson

            i like her

          9. JamesHRH

            I think she is a big asset…not in direct campaigning, but as a reminder of what he believes. It is not something Romney has at his disposal, as he is so short term focused.

          10. LE

            “my phone calls get returned quicker from those to whom I contribute.”To this day I remember the whopping $1000 (in todays dollars) gift that I got from a neighbor at my bar mitsvah. I don’t remember any other gifts but that one.One of the most important part of sales is getting someone to listen to your spiel. It doesn’t guarantee they will agree with you or give you what you want (buy your product). But it does guarantee they will at least hear what you have to say. That is a large part of the sales battle (the ear of the decision maker or their surrogate) as anyone who has ever done any cold calling would tell you. And the most important part is “listen to what you have to say and consider it.”In the case of donors who give $$ there is more though. There is the halo of someone who is important enough to give money and as a result has a certain amount of respect simply because the politician probably has categorized them in a certain way as someone to be taken seriously and additionally taken the time to vet the individual and find out who they are and what they do. That respect goes a long way. And giving money is somewhat of a shortcut to that halo process that helps with being listened to. It’s a shortcut almost as good as a red feathers marker [1]. The only difference is that a marker w/o money has the additional benefit of the “unknown” which is a powerful motivator “how much money can I get from this guy?”.I told the story here in the past about the congressman who wasn’t in my district who I met on the Amtrak back to Philly in I think 1999 approx, where I went to discuss ICANN issues with various people in DC at the commerce department. He wanted to hear what I had to say and then had his people follow up with me many many many times to see what he could do (literally phrased like that). I wasn’t a contributor but I’m guessing (as mentioned he wasn’t my district at the time) seeing what I was doing and how I was dressed in a nice suit he felt I was someone who he should get in front of and what I thought was important he should think is important. [2][1]…that a male robin will attack a simple bunch of red feathers but ignore a detailed replica of an actual male robin that does not have red feathers. This is an example of what scientists call “fixed-action patterns” in animals. A fixed action pattern is a precise and predictable sequence of behavior. It’s instinctive. There’s no thought involved, just automatic response. This sequence is set in motion by a very specific “trigger.” For the robin, the red feathers are the trigger, and they set off a sequence of attack. Generally, the trigger works properly, since the red feathers are usually attached to a male redbreasted robin and not to a stick. However, the trigger works even in the absence of another bird β€” all that’s required is a bunch of red feathers.[2] And today I see this:http://www.washingtonpost.c

          11. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Hmm – If you believe financial success is irrevocably coupled to right thinking, then “unrepentant influence peddler” – (which BTW @JLM:disqus – implies one who sells it ! ) – is a righteous thing to be.If financial success and improved societal conditions are mutually exclusive the it is dreadful.Essentially, the truth is between.What I am hearing is people what to be governed by people who a) Know their ass from their elbow ! ,b) Have a respect for the public interest.Unfortunately now “public servants”, work at self-service joints . – Think G. Marx and membership and we see the problem.

          12. raycote

            It seems to me that in the aggregate that unrepentant influence peddling is not working for America?

      3. JLM

        .This is universally about the body politic and not really about party politics.The Citizens United case makes this a huge problem.The CU case almost makes it a fiduciary obligation for management of any enterprise to influence the marketplaces in which they conduct business.In many state legislatures, a $1K contribution would put you at the top of the donors’ list..

      4. Dave Pinsen

        Deleted. My comment bored me. It would have probably bored the rest of you too.

    7. Fred

      What a bunch of misguided bullshit.

      1. andyswan

        Excellent and intelligent retort!

        1. fredwilson

          but i do like his name

          1. LE

            Check out and note the number of “Fred Wilson” shots.

          2. fredwilson

            yup. lots of bad guys with my name

        2. LE

          As @CharlieCrystle said to me yesterday “only time for a drive by”.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        It’s ignoring the big picture, so in that way, I agree with you it’s misguided.

    8. bernardlunn

      yes, you have to also get politics out of money. But I think the place to start is getting money out of politics

    9. ShanaC

      will you witness my marriage to exxon mobile then </sarcasm>Government is people too – all these things are just structures of society, which we can change. We’re just stuck on how

    10. orson

      If corporations = people then why not skip the legal bills and just have people? We can just get rid of corporations.Being less flippant. Corporations are a creation of society. The limited liability corporation was created by government as a tool to encourage investment in for-profit activities by allowing the separation of investors from managers and to limit the downside risk of investment i.e. you can only lose your investment if the business fails. Corporations were created for and exist for economic purposes to encourage investment and risk taking and limit the liability of investors, employees and managers.Our Constitution clearly provides basic rights to individuals (“we the people…” not “we the people and corporations….”). Corporations are created expressly for economic purposes, not political purposes. They are an economic tool for society and have no inalienable rights.Lessig’s book “Republic Lost:…” is a great read on the corrupting and anti-democratic influence of money in politics and some solutions that do not involve any restrictions on free speech.

      1. raycote

        It is radicals like you and Lessing and just for good measure I’ll through in Chomsky that go around trying to sell the idea that:Corporations exist just as an elective institutional mechanism for implement the needs of democratic citizens to collectively generate wealthinstead of the reality thatCitizen exist just as necessary entities for the production of corporate profitsShake your head!;-)

    11. kidmercury

      the people will never vote for it, we’ve cross the point of no return as there are too many people — rich and poor, dumbocrat and rethuglican — getting a government hand out. only solution is a reset. it seems impossible today. but with each passing day, it comes closer to being inevitable.

      1. andyswan

        I hear ya

  13. Scott Barnett

    Based on what Larry said in the video, why wouldn’t all political contributions go into a central pot, and then that pot gets divided equally among the eligible candidates? If everybody is supposed to get an equal vote, then I would think that everybody should also have an equal opportunity to run for office. We have an elitist system now… currently 2 party – and the only way a third party could ever exist is if it had 2+ Billion dollars to contribute to it.So, what if we had a system where you had to get some minimum percentage of people signing a petition to let you on the ballot – how ever many people get that percentage will get an equal percent of the overall contribution dollars – that way, it isn’t at all about ANY type of advertising – Internet or otherwise. The Internet companies could still donate advertising (equally, of course) and I think that’s a great idea. But the fact is, given our current system, if Fred’s idea took hold, I simply think that 0.000063% (or whatever it is) would just increase their SuperPAC donations to make that Internet contribution less meaningful.What’s missing from this idea? I’m sure there has to be something πŸ™‚

    1. andyswan

      Freedom of speech for one. Loss of liberty for another.

      1. Scott Barnett

        you’ve got to help me understand this… I don’t get why either one applies

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      What is missing is … you are also dreaming like me πŸ™‚ … wake-up.

      1. Scott Barnett

        ah, to dream :-)If we are really serious about equality for all, I don’t see why this is a bad idea. All we’re doing now is protecting some pretty ridiculous turf. Neither side has this figured out, and I have no faith they will given the current system.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Friends, there are municipalities in this country where publicly-funded elections and ranked-choice voting are already being used with success. We have examples right here in our own backyard to work from.As much as I love radical change (and I DO, truly), I think it’s worth considering what’s working out there already.

      1. Scott Barnett

        Kirsten, can you be specific? Which municipalities do this today?

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I’m a little rusty and don’t know these things right off the top of my head anymore. But here’s a pretty good starting point:http://www.publicampaign.or…Wikipedia has a fairly good page on “clean elections” as well.I seem to remember, back when I was really involved in this stuff (circa 2002), that New Mexico had a very interesting election when they first implemented publicly funded elections and the publicly funded candidate for governor (I think, but I can’t swear by it) was elected. We all looked at it as major validation.

          1. Scott Barnett

            Thanks Kirsten, this is helpful. This seems mostly focused on decreasing/eliminating corporate and special interest campaign funding – which I agree is important and helps, but I don’t know that it goes far enough. But it would improve things, for sure.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Yes, all of these are the result, I would say, of compromise. I don’t think you could completely turn the system on its head in one pass, even in San Francisco πŸ˜‰ (San Fran, when I left in 2009, had some publicly funded local races and ranked choice voting.)If you are looking at possibly trying to make something happen at the local level, I think these examples are valuable. It shows that you can get a certain amount of public funding accepted if you frame it right.Interestingly, though, I think that ‘introductory’ measures like this can be really vulnerable. Any weakness, any point of failure, and the opposition can run with it and kill it in its infancy. Politics doesn’t seem to work on Lean Startup principles πŸ˜‰ It really requires having some legal minds on your team to help try to make it bullet-proof from day-one.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I apologize if this is a duplicate comment. I replied before and it appears that Disqus ate it :)http://www.publicampaign.or…That link is a good starting point. It’s been a long time (7 years or so) since I was deeply involved with this stuff, but I seem to remember New Mexico being interesting then. I think (not 100% sure) they elected a publicly funded candidate for governor their first year of implementing publicly funded elections (called “clean” elections).

    4. Paul

      You’ve just basically neutered the “speechness” of campaign contributions. By sending money to a political candidate, you are in essence endorsing them. If you remove a person’s ability to send money to ONE candidate (by stipulating that their contributions will be equally split among all candidates), then you’ve severely restricted that person’s ability to support that one candidate. Also, who would donate, knowing that their money will be given equally to everyone? The whole point of a political contribution is to give your guy a leg up. If there’s no leg up, there’s no point.

      1. Scott Barnett

        Yes, I get that. So, you’re saying that if you have $100 to contribute to your candidate and I have $1, that this a fairer method than giving each candidate an equal voice in the market? The idea is that every vote should be equal. If you can give a disproportionate amount of money to ‘your’ candidate, then your influence is far greater than mine.

  14. Tom Labus

    Get one “politician” elected this way. Get another one.Those attracted to that business will only react to something that is in play. They don’t take chances with their careers only with our cash and future.They are beyond reckless because they are not going to be around when the shit hits the fan. Tie their retirement benefits and health benefits to the results of their tenure in congress plus where they took money from for the election process.

    1. fredwilson

      good advice

  15. kidmercury

    the entire conversation is centered around US politics.because of the US national debt, 15.88 trillion and counting, the “solution” is going to be the same as any default. you lose your assets to your creditors. in the case of the US part of restructuring the US’ debt will involve the US handing over control over lots of internet stuff to the UN’s ITU (a totally old school organization BFF with the phone networks). there will be other parts of it that will involve more of a world government and a world currency, as any kook can tell you, and as any observer of the situation in Europe can tell you will be seen in due time any real solution requires non-violent revolution. reforming the existing system is hopeless for too many reasons. there is no need to fix the old governments — they are going to die anyway. creating new ones is the game.anyway. we are getting there, just takes some time. the political will still needs to be built up.9/11 was an inside job,kid mercury

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I agree, and the structures will continue to evolve. Things like eliminating the opportunity for billion dollar industries to easily influence politicians is an easy short-term part-fix though, and will in fact allow for many dramatic shifts in policy that are needed.

    2. kidmercury

      on an unrelated note check out what a judge in the UK just made apple dohttp://www.businessinsider….apple must post a notice on their UK web site saying samsung didnt copy the ipad! hahahahahhaahaha

  16. Joseph Lizio

    Fred – would love to get your thoughts on this article about the trouble with VC –

    1. Avi Deitcher

      +1. I saw that article too. Like to hear about it. This deserves a post of its own.

    2. fredwilson

      i have written a lot about this issue. it is real and it is a problem and our firm is part of the problem.

  17. Joseph Lizio

    But, politics is where the money is. Do you know of any company that can spend $4 trillion (with a capital T) each year and 1) not earn a dime of it and 2) not show anything for it?

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Some companies could get away with it, in theory. But the best part is that they are the *only* “company” that can take the funds by force.

  18. John Revay

    Election Process – this is one from Left Field -AMERICAN IDOL – it is amazing that via TV shows we are able to audition many performers and vote for the winner – no money.Image – if all of the outside money was removed from the process, each candidate would be allocated a set amount of cash, TV time, internet streaming time etc. and we changed how we elected our leaders.I would throw in and push for term limits for all elected positions.And use the internet to help w/ voter registration

    1. leigh

      Democracy in the hands of the people? You talk such nonsense.

      1. John Revay

        One can always dream of such a place.

      2. ShanaC

        They thought that in sparta too!

        1. John Revay


  19. William Mougayar

    I was slightly confused by this proposal. You’re replacing money that buys politics by money that buys another policy. That’s not radical reform, unless I missed the point.Why not raise money to totally eradicate Campaign reform so that every candidate gets an equal amount of campaign budget and that levels the playing field and allows the candidates and voters to focus on the issues, and not on the campaign and fund raising.

    1. gorbachev

      This is the exact comment I was about to make. This is not a good idea.

    2. kidmercury

      i thought that too at first, but then i read the post and it says “5% of ad inventory.” so it sounds like not offering money but offering free ads?

      1. William Mougayar

        Ah, Ads to promote something or use the $$ for something else? I’m sure @fredwilson will clarify.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Interesting. I missed that point too.Are ads actually effective though, any more than branding a name, and thus automatically building trust for a name / face regardless of what they support? That’s how current politics works. It’s whoever gets the most facetime and keeps the simplest cheerleading messages that wins.

      3. Kirsten Lambertsen

        That’s still money, though, no?

        1. kidmercury

          sort of….i think it is more attention (which is perhaps a form of money, but a different type than US dollars). i dont think internet players can win a war rooted in US dollars. perhaps they can win one rooted in attention. the issue is moot, however, as the political problem is an international one, not a US one, IMO.

        2. bernardlunn

          Yes, it is money and that is the issue. All this would be is lobbying for Internet. Personally I prefer lobbying for Internet than lobbying for fracking (as one example) but this should be about eliminating all money from politics.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      This was my reaction to the idea, as well.I was pretty involved in this stuff for a few years. I was giving presentations about corporate personhood before Jon Stewart et al made it mainstream (and thank you, to them!). There are plenty of very solid (and proven) ways to take the money out of politics already out there. They’re just damned hard to implement for obvious reasons.Right now, we can’t take money out of politics because, thanks to years of Supreme Court decisions, that would be unconstitutional — we would be violating the rights of those corporate ‘persons’. What’s needed is nothing short of a constitutional amendment. Which isn’t easy to do – just ask the people who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment.I just can’t see how solving the problem of money in politics is solved by pouring in more money. There are too many other solutions out there (publicly funded elections, ranked choice voting, to name two).However, it’s going to take time to amend the constitution, so maybe in the meantime we do need to fight fire with fire…

    4. fredwilson

      that apparently is unconstitutional as found by our supreme court. it violates free speech apparently.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        And by the way, we put limits on free speech all the time, in the interest of the public welfare. You can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater πŸ™‚ Just makes that decision even more annoying.

      2. JamesHRH

        When was that decision brought down (decade is close enough)?

    5. bernardlunn

      William, I agree this is The idea that politicians cannot communicate without money is very thin baloney in the Internet age. A good idea gets viral traction. It is only bad ideas that need tons of money to get traction.

    6. Matt Zagaja

      Places like Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut do something similar using taxpayer money. It’s voluntary so you raise small donations and if you qualify you get a big public grant and use that to run your campaign. No fundraising from the public allowed after that. So it’s a similar hack.The jury is still out but I think the general consensus is that it’s been successful. The main problem being that the public grants (as with the Presidential election grants) become irrelevant at the point your opponent can significantly outraise you. Well that’s the theory, as I mentioned in a previous post there is evidence to suggest that there is diminishing marginal return to campaign spending (although few political consultants or pundits believe that). The other controversy is people that criticize the use of public money to spend on bumper stickers in a time of budget crises.Candidates will always need some money from somewhere to engage in the conversation with people. I think building a private “campaign finance” system is a great hack idea.

      1. ShanaC

        you can do that at the federal level, but you can raise more if you ignore the FEC matching funds.

    7. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I think we could just start by taking out money from non-individuals. No corporate money. No union money. If non-individuals are not allowed to pour money into candidates and PACs, that would be a good start.And ya, right now that would violate the rights of corporations, because corporations are considered to be people like the rest of us.

      1. mcbeese

        I agree with this as a start. If you don’t have a vote, you shouldn’t be able to contribute. Businesses don’t vote, so they shouldn’t be contributing.

    8. jason wright

      It’s called playing the enemy at their own game. It can be condoned if one truly believes that it is in the service of a higher purpose. Unfortunately power corrupts.

  20. JLM

    .While we are discussing the removal of money from politics, I have a simpler idea:Let’s remove STUPID from politics.Take the recent Obamacare bill. A stupid way to make public policy.If the President had not been held hostage to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, he might have called in the House, Senate Republicans and Democrats and said:”Fellas, tell me your top 25 healthcare ideas and would you please rank order them. I will have my staff do the same thing.”We would have had 5 lists of 25 ideas. Likely the top 5-10-15 would have been pretty close, some meaningful overlap. Low hanging fruit.Who could be against making health insurance policies identical across states lines?Then he could have said:”Hey, why don’t we take 5-7 at a time and pass them in an 80 page plain English bill and break this big problem down into a series of small problems.”How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. One bite at a time even if you are a Democrat, Republican or a President. One bite at a time.He would have mandated dual sponsorship of every bill with a R and a D on the front of every bill. Bi-partisanship from the start.When it got a bit dicey, he could have said:”OK, we are getting into some contentious issues. So, each of ya’ll take a turn one after the other and throw out your next idea.. We’ll do a bit of horse trading to get to our next few 5-7 idea bills. We won’t stop working together.”In this way — which would have required dispassionate leadership — the entire health care law could have been passed while building trust along the way. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, engaged in to pass civil rights with almost only Republican votes.But, no, we got a monstrosity of a bill that nobody could read, understand, embrace or intellectually support. Rammed through on a party line vote. Spiked the football thereafter.Let’s get STUPID out of politics and inject a bit of leadership..

    1. panterosa,

      Taking STUPID out requires taking SELFISH out as well. As you point out, group effort in collaborating on group benefit. I still feel so much of our government is still based on our society’s US and THEM mentality. Put the WE back in and WE win.

      1. JLM

        .I agree with you more than I agree with myself.Let’s pack STUPID and SELFISH for an around the world cruise and get those two bastards on the road.Every party they attend ends up in a disaster. Get them out of town and now..

        1. panterosa,

          Same boat or other iceberg to float out of town – US and THEM. They never solved anything.WE solve things. We are those people who agree – sometimes more with each other than ourselves. Sometimes WE simply agree on basic goals and get there by negotiating the greater WE.”We The People”…..why do people forget that simple powerful idea?

        2. ShanaC

          so then why the problems with obamacare? I now get free birth control (i got a letter in the mail from my insurance company about this) so it means that more women will have a boost in their wages…http://www.huffingtonpost.c…It also means that friends of mine can now go see the doctor for a checkup instead of using the emergency room/putting it off.

          1. Dale Allyn

            It’s not “free” Shana. My wife is paying for it in her premiums (you’re welcome ;). Since the beginning of the Obamacare debacle the insurance companies have been fortifying their coffers by very systematically increasing premiums on independently insureds at an alarming rate. We’re talking significant increases every ~90 days over the past couple of years. Self-employeds are getting creamed through this process, and the solution is not to force people to go onto public programs by means of price escalation. My wife continues to increase her deductible such that there is essentially no coverage, but without the advantage of a true catastrophic-only policy (lower premiums).I’m glad that your friends can get checkups if that’s what they need, but the costs are hidden and many. Healthcare in the U.S. is definitely broken, but Obamacare was wholly irresponsible. It’s bad law written with so much pork, deceit and misdirection that it was a direct attack on the American people. It needs to be repealed and work should begin as @JLM:disqus has described – in tranches of bills which are actually read and understood before signing.To be clear, I want you and your friends to have great healthcare. I should have some, too. But not like this.

    2. William Mougayar

      That’s too much logic for politics πŸ™‚

    3. leigh

      You should run “No More Stupid” would be more powerful then “Yes We Can” this time around….

      1. JLM

        .Vote for JLM”No More Stupid, America”I will begin accepting campaign contributions tom’w..

    4. Matt A. Myers

      Define stupid.My definition of stupid involves narrow-mindedness and not thinking on a holistic level with an intent / leading metric decided / determined by all of society – something like say health or wellness of people.

    5. bernardlunn

      Hey JLM, now that is hijacking the thread to make a party political point. I love your comments normally, but voted that one down

      1. JLM

        .Not really, Bernard. I actually either do not GAS about a down vote or encourage them. I love to hear ideas. It takes a bit of friction to get ideas to wrestle.Bring your best ideas and I will bring mine. Let them wrestle and let’s end up with better ideas.I get most of my ideas by shoplifting from people who are smarter than me. I am a quick #2.The point is really not even partisan when you distill it to its essence. I want health care. Universal health care really. But it has to be bi-partisan and it has to be pragmatic.if Lyndon Johnson had not been willing to engage and had the Republicans not been willing to support him, we would never have made the civil rights progress we did under his leadership.I have provided health insurance to my employees for a third of a century. If I can do it, why not everyone else?So, see you in the ring, Bernard. And I promise not to bite you on the ear, friend..

    6. mcbeese

      JLM – that is one of the better posts I’ve read in here today. The one thing I’d add to your recipe is that Obama should have also said up front that agreeing to disagree was not an option. In other words, work things out together or I’ll take over.

  21. Ryan Tanaka

    I think the tech industry learned the hard way (through SOPA mostly) that you can’t stay apolitical forever. Eventually they’ll realize that in addition to economics, they’ll have to participate in the process of cultural production if they really want to influence people toward their causes.I’m still waiting for Google to get their hands dirty in the messy process of content creation. Or maybe someone crazy enough will step up to the plate.

  22. pointsnfigures

    Want to get money out of politics? Then have no limit contributions-but every donation online and searchable in a database within a week of it being received. No more bundling. No more hiding behind certain PACs etc.Corporations would be limited by how much they could give because shareholders could be outraged if it impinged profits. If corporations gave “too much”, then it would be easy to draw the lines of crony capitalism from the politician and corporation.Union members would have more transparency into how their money was spent. (unions way out spend corporate America by the way)Individuals could see everything online, and connect the dots themselves.The truth is, there is no way to get money out of politics-so we might as well be able to follow the money on a transparent and granular level.

  23. Seth Lieberman

    It is clear that money is destroying US politics- but why literally tax the internet advertising economy 5%? Either advocate *all* media allocate 5% to fair, free campaign advertising or none at all.

    1. fredwilson

      to get politicians to sign the internet freedom pledge?

      1. Seth Lieberman

        I would prefer to fight for change that overhauls the fundamentally broken election process as a whole vs the fiefdom of the web (of which I care deeply). As Fred *might* say- I’m going after a bigger market. That will take more capital and time, but the results will be dramatically larger. And BTW- 5% of all media is a much bigger carrot to dangle…

    2. bernardlunn

      I agree. Trying to get the Internet giants aligned is too hard – too many moving parts. Easier to do something at consumer level such as “any politician who signs the constitutional amenment gets free space on my blog, FB wall, Twitter timeline etc. It is a mutual pledge. The consumer says “I pledge my attention/space” if you the politician pledge to GetMoneyOut.

    3. ShanaC

      Radio broadcast (radio/tv) are technically regulated already when it comes to political broadcasts

  24. JLM

    .Money is not stupid and those with money are not stupid.Money is quite efficient and those with money drive this efficiency.Case in point.S Dakota is enjoying a remarkable business boom driven by the exploration for oil on what are primarily private lands. A huge boom large enough that they are contemplating eliminating all kinds of taxes.Business success is generating so much revenue that the state of S Dakota is considering getting rid of some taxes. Wow.Of course, unemployment is non-existent just now.How much would it cost to buy, rent or otherwise influence a single elected official from S Dakota — take your pick of Senators or Reps, your choice.Not too damn much, right?A political race in S Dakota costs a lot less than say funding Chuck Schumer’s re-election. Makes sense, no?So who do you think is being pursued right now? Senators and Reps from expensive states or guys from S Dakota?And who is doing the pursuing? The guys with newfound wealth and riches in S Dakota — the major oil companies.If I were the CEO of Exxon/Mobil, I would have a library full of the heads of Senators and Reps I had bought, rented, leased or otherwise controlled with my checkbook and they would be from places like Idaho, S Dakota, Kansas — because their votes are just as powerful as Sen Schumer of NY.In addition, they probably stay rented through tough winters unlike a chap like Sen Schumer who is rented like a hotel room..

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “Money is not stupid and those with money are not stupid.”I know PLENTY of stupid money.

      1. kirklove

        I second that. PLENTY.

      2. JLM

        .Hahaha, nice point. I love it. Please send me their names and I will wise them up a bit.You really know stupid people not stupid money. When stupid people invest their money with professional advisors, the money wises up and goes to work like a stevedore..

    2. ShanaC

      The state of Montana disagrees with you:…Unfortunately the state of montana has been declined by the supreme court.What happens when the shale gas and oil in the Dakotas doesn’t pan out?

      1. JLM

        .It already has panned out. We are sitting on reserves that are bigger than Saudi Arabia.I don’t get your read on the Montana case..

  25. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    “but Technology with a big T. And that T also means an unquenchable demand for transparency” I really like this quote from Parag Khana and I think a full real transparency will go a long way in repairing politics/money relationship. Here is link to the full article

  26. takingpitches

    I wrote a related essay about this a couple of months ago, drawing on my personal experiences with political fundraising. Full essay here:…Short version is:I think money is an element of speech and should stay in politics, but the Internet, like in other areas, should have been an equalizing force. Instead, fundraising has gone down a depressing road.Quoting from my post:”Using today’s terminology, [internet fundraising] was also supposed to be a Kickstarter-like movement, making it easier for candidates β€” bypassing more conventional roads up the ladder β€” who represented movements to break through when enough people thought such movements should exist. Democracy β€” according to some definitions β€” should be the ideal forum for authentic talent for the people to emerge, bypassing the traditional smaller, and more conventional (cynical?) subset of kingmakers, deep pockets, and political insiders.”I end the essay:”The Internet, utilized correctly, should make politics passionate and alive; but, instead politics is largely becoming even more stagnant, even with the occasional examples of a refreshing oasis in the desert. I know there are forceful counter-arguments revealing my naivete: money is speech, fundraising whittles down candidates, plenty of candidates with money lose, you need to have a message even with money, and on and on. Some will say, the current system may be cynical, but it’s realistic and for the greater good. It’s hard to prove that is the case, but it’s hard to disprove it either.Despite these arguments, my personal bottom-line comes down to this: it’s depressing. The power of the Internet in terms of giving people voices, disrupting middlemen and institutions, and organizing people in networks means we can do a lot better in the one area where perhaps it matters most β€” governing ourselves.”

    1. fredwilson

      i love it

    2. ShanaC

      when did we get so depressed? How do you wake someone out of the stupor of the depression, especially at a national level – a collective depression?

  27. Ciaran

    ” I advocated for a hack of the campaign finance system that starts with the internet industry contributing something like 5% of its combined ad inventory to a pool that is available to politicans who agree to certain conditions.”I’m sorry, but this is a horrible idea. Can you imagine if I was to say:” I advocated for a hack of the campaign finance system that starts with the TV industry contributing something like 5% of its combined ad inventory to a pool that is available to politicans who agree to certain conditions (set by the TV industry).”Or newspapers. Who gives them the right to set these conditions? Politics is distorted by money. We probably all agree on that. This is just distorting it with your money. The answer isn’t to add more money, it’s to take the money out.

  28. RudyC

    CHANGE! That’s what we were promised. HOPE is what inspired the people. Nothing changed and hope was trounced. Whether it is/was Obama’s fault, maybe. A really smart man I knew once told me that most reasons things are the way they are is a combination of many things. This is true with the US today. It’s many reasons, not just Obama. It’s just Obama’s fault that he lead us to believe he had the power, courage and machinery to change the system.Any democracy that costs $1B to be elected President, $200M for US Senate, $200 to $300M for Gov. (CA), and so on is broken. John McCain has been saying this for a number of years. Anyone that thinks $$ doesn’t buy votes is a fool, period.This country has is as corrupt as any country today. Much like healthcare reform the focus should be on costs, period.With that in mind, I think FACEBOOK (don’t laugh) is in a unique position to establish itself as a ‘voting’ center. I’ve always thought this. I wouldn’t even know how to begin but there is something there..

    1. John Revay

      I have often thought the same – FB ( Or Other social site, even one TBD) could play a big role.I also recall a AVC post about the year that movements go mainstream – similar thinking to me.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “Any democracy that costs $1B to be elected President, $200M for US Senate, $200 to $300M for Gov. (CA), and so on is broken.”Yes! And any country whose Congress is made up mostly of millionaires is broken.

      1. ShanaC

        yes! and where you basically need to go to law school to get anywhere. Politics is a job, not a calling. And it should be a calling!

        1. Matt Zagaja

          I just graduated from law school. The job prospects are terrible. Let me assure you, you don’t need to go to law school to get anywhere in politics. It’s just that the type of people that go to law school tend to be the type of people that get involved in politics.Also as a “job” politics is not really a good paying one. It’s much like doing a start-up. The pay on the lower runs is dismal so people either live in poverty or have to have a trust fund or other source of income to survive. This is in spite of the fact you spend months away from family/friends doing campaigning and then if you win in session as a legislator or city/town councilor. But if you don’t get your ticket punched by running for town council or state representative your chances of becoming a Congressman are low.

          1. LE

            “I just graduated from law school. The job prospects are terrible.”Have you considered working for very little for a few years and then hanging your own shingle? Did you consider or know about the job market when you decided to go to law school?

          2. Matt Zagaja

            Hanging my own shingle is something I have seriously thought about. That is something that people generally counsel against doing right away but I know people that have done it. I am not worried about making little money for a few years, especially if it opens up opportunities later, but health insurance is an important consideration. The issue is not so much that there are jobs but they don’t pay well. The issue is more that there just aren’t enough jobs for all the graduating law students. Firms don’t want to train attorneys anymore, they want attorneys ready to hit the ground running.I went straight to law school from undergrad in 2009, so I knew about the market but it was no worse than any of the others at the time. I would have gone regardless because I think law school provides lots of intrinsic value. However, my point is that people seem to hold a belief that attorneys are doing well, when in many cases their starting salaries are on par with undergrads if they find jobs but their debt loads are double, and in some cases they are taking jobs where they qualify for food stamps and medicaid.I’m not asking for pity or sympathy here, though. I have skill sets outside law I can fall back on. I also went to public law school so my debt load is not as big as others. Others aren’t as fortunate.

          3. JLM

            .Law school is great training for your mind. Your mind is now an Olympic quality athlete. Put it to work.You will never regret the work you put in and it will pay huge dividends.This is the worst job market in the last century but it too shall pass..

        2. bernardlunn

          It should certainly not be a job where you can get rich.

      2. JLM


        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I knew we agreed on the important stuff, JLM.I just spent a couple of years doing some work at a really political and extreme (lots of “fringe” ideas) website. After being horrified, terrified and depressed at what I saw there, I learned this: almost all of us agree on the important stuff. It’s a matter of finding a reasonable compromise solution to the problems that we all agree we have.This is why the parties rely almost completely on the politics of fear. They must convince us that we are very different from each other, and need to be frightened of each other, if they are going to keep their power. They want their supporters to feel they didn’t have to compromise. If we all realized how much we agree upon, and how productive compromise is, a lot of politicians would be out of a job. This is why compromises are always trashed by the parties when they do happen. Compromise must be seen as a loss.We all need to step outside of our political associations and sit down and say, “Well, folks. How are we gonna solve this problem in a way that everyone can live with?” And that takes time. Consensus is slooow.

          1. JLM

            .I suspect that most folks love our country, are fundamentally fair, wish well toward everyone and want to work hard and reap the benefit of their work.Only when we engage in polite discourse — even about difficult issues — do we begin to see the other person’s view of things.Not every difference has to be resolved the same.Take as an example the issue of health insurance.I believe that as an employer, I own my folks’ health issues either directly or indirectly. So I provide health insurance (health, dental, vision, life).In my discourse with my Republican friends, I tell them they are full of shit if they think this is something we can just ignore. We have to deal with it and for the last third of a century I have.No gov’t involvement (other than a tax deduction).So, for me, the issue of Obamacare is really just the delivery mechanism and whether it can reduce costs — it does not.We sometimes catalog things that we differ on. That is silly..

        2. bernardlunn

          Hey, JLM, glad I can totally agree with you on that point.

      3. mcbeese

        Agreed. We need term limits in the House and Senate. Representation at all levels should be a tour of duty, not a career.

  29. Pooky Amsterdam

    The FCC is a Federal agency and therefore taxpayer financed. What makes most sense to me is to allow candidates free television and radio airtime as they do in the UK, therefore diminishing the need for the TV ad spend competition madness. What would truly level the playing field would be a cap on the amount each race could spend FTW. $10 million for President, $1 Million for Senate $250K for congress etc. Plus it is impossible to have an effective Democracy and be apathetic. It is OUR fault, being a citizen means accepting responsibility for our government.

    1. ShanaC

      candidates are requires to disclose what they spent (the stations must keep records of the cost). The issue isn’t the candidates anymore – it is superpacs, who are outside of this system

  30. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Anyone interested in this should watch the documentary “The Corporation,” if they haven’t already.

  31. christopolis

    Yes, the problem is with money in politics. Specifically that the 2010 budget was 3.72 trllion. That much waste is going to attract a lot of flies and rats.

    1. JLM

      .Uhh, the real problem is that we have no budget but rather a series of appropriations bills.We are so dysfunctionally managed from a financial perspective that I would call all of our loans, cancel all of our leases and snatch all of our credit cards.Congress and the White House should not receive a paycheck until they approve a budget.They would have a budget in 3 weeks..

  32. ShanaC

    Note: I’m personally of the opinion that the 1934 communications act should be read as if it applies to the internet (and I’ve stuck my money where my mouth is on this, I applied for a Freedom of Information Act for obama’s spend for the month of may on internet ads, all details on those ads…now if only the FCC would get back to me) because of DARPA basically creating the internet. For reference, the law in question can be seen here:…Either way it needs an update. The 5% rule is a terrible one – you could just donate the worst 5% of your inventory.What we definitely need is stronger disclosures – I want to see what the exchange prices for all sorts of ads that the candidates and pacs buy. I want to see that price in the ad. Then we can talk money in politics.

  33. Steven Kane

    get rid of the 5% requirement — no one wants to have their inventory measured in public :)instead ask for a absolute number pledge — X million impressions per month, with categories (eg, its reasonable to get a much bigger commitment from google than from luckylabsand abandon any requirements for candidates to take some kind of pledge or ideological purity commitment. blecch. grover nordquist, anyone?its an understandable but huge mistake to focus all attention on the candidates and campaigns and parties. if some companies offering free media allows all media companies to eventually be weaned from their addiction to campaign spending — and don’t underestimate how addicted all media companies are to campaign spending — then that itself will be a great and essential first step to “getting money out of politics.”

    1. fredwilson

      great suggestions steve. thanks!!

      1. Steven Kane

        the far center, ftw


    Fred,.If you want to change things you don’t go to politicians. Despite what people think politicians aren’t sleeping all day long. They do work hard and you can see that they can’t fix anything..Why? Well I’m no economist, but I would have to say it’s the people not the politicians that are at fault in the U.S..What did you do today to make me money or help me get funding for any of my projects? Probably nothing. What did I do today to help you with any of your projects? Probably nothing. We as a country are divided. We are broken into small groups that all “compete” (fight) each other everything. Everyone is fighting everyone else for whatever reason..Both genders fighting for equal pay or equal treatment. Every color fighting every other color for every reason you can think of. People need to understand, for example, you aren’t fighting for equal pay because of your color or gender. You’re fighting for equal pay because everyone fights for more money..Divide and conquer! Keep people fighting with each other and they won’t get anywhere. They’ll spend all their time fighting each other instead of working together to reach their goals..Why do people fight each other? It’s because they are too stupid to realise how dumb it is!

  35. nywriter

    Err. these ideas are late to the party. the primaries are over. are you suggesting all this for 2016?

    1. fredwilson

      or possibly the midterms in 2014

  36. LIAD

    Didn’t used to like the Disqus Down-vote option.Now I want to order by it.Most down voted = most interesting.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. as long as it is not abused, it is a strong signal

  37. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I often have much to say, but this is too important – it’s a powerful notion.If it’s scary to see so much power with so few media space providers. How scary is it that they are not accountable to the people.Do it in the US – and the rest of the world will begin to demand it !Welcome to the 99.9999% (approximately) !

  38. nywriter

    folks should speak in no more than 141 characters πŸ˜‰ i’m sure there are great ideas here but i just cant read all this disorderly mish-mash!

  39. JLM

    .There has been a lot of, in my view, undeserved criticism of corporations and their prospective participation in politics — funding really — as a result of the Citizens United SCOTUS decision.First, corporations are simply a legal form in which an enterprise’s ownership is held.The enterprise could just as easily be a sole proprietorship, a partnership (LP or GP), a LLC or a C or S corporation.Each legal form has a different set of obligations, advantages and features. Some are taxed differently.The single greatest benefit of a corporate form is the limited liability of its shareholders for liabilities of the corporation. This is a stark difference versus say a sole proprietorship in which the owner is liable for all obligations of the business.In this way, a corporation can attract capital — limited liability for shareholders — and can differentiate its risk profile.If a sole proprietorship could participate in political speech — make campaign donations — it requires no great intellectual combat to suggest that the corporation should be entitled to the same consideration.The corporation is not all gravy — its owners are subject to dual taxation of dividends, as an example.I would point out that most corporations will be subject to corporate governance vested in a Board of Directors who will consider and make policies pertinent to the corporation’s involvement in political free speech or politics in general.The Board might say — no way, Jose. No politics for us.Or a Board may say, there is more money to be made dealing with statehouses or the Congress if we are skillful in playing our role with the body politic and the regulators. This is true more than not.And, thus, the Board may actually have a fiduciary duty to undertake such actions.As to corporations, also remember their existence provides for orderly markets in transferring ownership, provides for longevity and widespread ownership. These are all good things.Allowing corporations a spot at the bar is not an unreasonable thing..

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I don’t think anyone here is arguing for doing away with corporations. This is often how people seem to receive the idea of abolishing corporate personhood.It simply isn’t fair for the executives and board of a corporation to be able to construct a whole new person who gets to make contributions to campaigns.If a corporation is a person, then I’m going to start driving in the carpool lane with the GE corporate charter in my passenger seat πŸ™‚ I urge everyone here to do that.

      1. JLM

        .The notion that a corporation is a “person” under the law is not a new or novel development. It has been around for over a century.The CU case stood for the proposition that corporations could participate in the political square as funders under the notion that such funds were an exercise of free speech. And that corporations were entitled to the same free speech as an “person”.If corporations pay taxes (which in some countries they do not) why should they not be entitled to how those taxes are legislated? Seems fair, no?I don’t think you can get away with just the GE corp charter for the HOV lane, but if you owned say 100 shares?Now that would be righteous particularly for a Jersey girl.I lived in Long Branch and went to HS in Red Bank..

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I think it’s only fair that I warn you that I’m almost an expert on corporate personhood πŸ™‚ I used to run around Northern California giving talks about it. Just full disclosure, ha!The people who work at, invest in, and do business with such corporations can place their vote and contribute their money in a way that they feel is best for that business. I can’t see why the small number of leaders at the top of a corporation get to create a whole other person who can also contribute money.You’re from Red Bank!? What a small world πŸ™‚

          1. JLM

            .Then you should have a great respect for this wonderful and ancient part of the law.I don’t see any way that a corporation can be denied access to those who would tax and regulate it.I lived in NJ — Long Branch, in particular — because I was an Army brat. I went to school in Red Bank. Red Bank has become quite chic since my days there..

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            A corporation has access to those who would tax and regulate via the people who participate in that corporation. We don’t need to create a whole other fictional person.Isn’t your logic kind of like saying my house should be able to make campaign contributions because it’s taxed?I’ve never been to Austin. But I need to do that πŸ™‚

          3. JLM

            .Shareholders cannot participate in the management of the corporation as simple shareholders. They elect the Board who appoints the management.The corporate “person” is not a fiction, it has been the law of the land for over a century.If your house was an operating business and was, in fact, a corporation, then yes it should be able to vote and under current law it would be able to.Now, if you have a pool, you should get 1.5 votes..

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I don’t think using paying taxes as the threshold for participating in campaign finance is solid. Because then you’d have to tell people who get a tax refund that they can’t contribute their $10? What if my corporation ran at a loss last year and got a tax refund? Should it be barred from making campaign contributions?I think it’s hard to argue that paying taxes is the qualifier for being a person.Please keep in mind, I’m not saying that we should strip corporations of every single last protection that they’ve gained under corporate personhood. I’m a compromiser, remember? πŸ™‚ I am saying that they aren’t persons, shouldn’t be regarded as such, and shouldn’t be governed as such. And I don’t think they get to act like persons in our electoral system.

  40. CommunitySEO

    The problem isn’t money in politics, it is power over other people and their property in politics. Money will always be attracted to opportunities, and opportunities to get money from others, or control others will always have a market.Fiddling with how political finance is done is just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It may feel good to devise such plans, but it ignores everything we know about incentives, economics and power.Lobbying for special privileges (or to be protected from special privileges) is a race to the bottom, and undermines peaceful human progress. It is a misallocation of capital that could be better employed into technological growth.In my humble opinion.

  41. LaVonne Reimer

    A great post and, as usual, many thoughtful comments in response. Mine is totally left field. My oldest daughter Elise (a girl geek through and through) is transferring to Harvard Law after a great first year at Wash U. Larry Lessig and the CyberLaw focus (she wants to re-imagine the whole system) were the draws. This morning I was thinking maternally. How could she not pick an SF Bay Area school so she could be close to me? Then I watched this video and checked out the Hacking Society site. I’m just proud and excited.

    1. fredwilson

      larry is a big brain who has the guts to take on big issues. he is awesome

  42. Kirsten Lambertsen

    You guys should invite David Cobb to the next Hacking Society gathering. He would make a fabulous contribution to the discussion and is really freaking smart. I can hook you up. He’s a friend :)…I think Fred’s idea is good in principle (the details need refining). Until we can achieve disruption of the electoral system, the internet needs to act as a collective, work with what we’ve got and exert its influence. Get their attention.

    1. fredwilson

      great suggestion

  43. Randy Lariar

    Hi everyone. I am a long time reader, but here’s my first AVC comment. Thank you for taking time to focus on this particular issue!I think it is important to think about money in politics in terms of effectiveness and concentration of funds. In today’s system, the establishment thinking is that more TV money means more influence over the electorate. (There are studies that dispute this, but any good campaign manager will still plan to spend a majority of their funds on TV) Since TV is the most efficient way to win votes and TV is expensive, a politician needs to spend a lot more time raising money for his next election. This leads him to wealthy individuals and corporations which have the concentration of funds to make his effort worth while. It does not leave time for debate, discussion, and collaboration which is what the founders intended.The problem can be tackled from two directions. 1st we can decrease the influence of TV advertisements. This might be achieved with Fred’s proposal. It also involves convincing the establishment of campaign managers and consultants that a new medium is indeed more powerful than TV. That will take time and will involve successful individual campaigns piloting the way. Think about how twitter has been adopted over the past few years. Similarly 2008 was the first major election featuring text message campaigning by Obama. Over the next few election cycles if a campaign can show that a better digital strategy = more votes, that adaptation will continue. If opening up new routes to influence the electorate is possible through Twitter or web advertisements, and if those new strategies are less expensive than the old ones, then you have a net decrease in the kinds of corruption we’re concerned with here. If those methods end up being just as expensive, they don’t necessarily fix the problem. And either way, proving the strategy will take years. The 2nd option is to increase the spread of the influence. That sounds like Professor Lessig’s idea around distributing the Benjamins and Grants. If campaigns remain expensive, money needs to come from somewhere, and thus a policy that distributes it through the government would attain this objective. This is unlikely because 1) the establishment firmly rejects this model as disruptive to business as usual in politics and 2) conservative members of the electorate don’t trust the government to administer these funds. I think Fred’s proposal or something like it has the greater chance of immediate effect because we are coming to a point where digital technology will have a greater influence on elections than just broadcast TV. I don’t think that will occur in this election or possibly not even in 2016. But eventually this will happen. I think faith in the transformative power of technology is a bi-partisan belief here on AVC.One last, maybe most important point: Established political parties and influence groups will fight to constrain new campaign technologies into the established business as usual form. As these technologies develop, this community will need to fight back (unfortunately through the existing system) to preserve their true open nature so that one day the influence of traditional media can decrease without giving way to a new media that is as equally skewed. I think this involves finding ways to keep the cost of political advertising as low as possible, keeping competition in this space alive (avoiding major monopolies where ever possible), and avoiding government legislation of the “approved” method of campaign outreach. We know we’re winning when we have freed up candidates to focus on collaboration and debate once again.

    1. fredwilson

      please don’t make this your last comment. you’ve got opinions and we are listening.

    2. ShanaC

      First off, welcome. Comment more, you say interesting things :)Secondly, even though I vested interests, I’m not sure we’ve crossed the rubicon when it comes to political ads online. I think the strategies aren’t so clear in a hyper targeted environment. You’re appealing on a very custom level to what you already know about me. That isn’t going to change the middle set of voters – and that is the real question when it comes to money in politics.Frankly, the drive to dollars could make that process works – you can harvest money like crazy by appealing to the base in a hyper targeted way (it isn’t happening, a friend of mine who ids hirself as socialist has gotten Romney facebook ads) and then send said cash into some tv ad that clearly is on the attack.

      1. Randy Lariar

        Thanks Shana and Fred! Regarding targeting, you are absolutely right. It is incredible how little campaigns have changed since the days when direct mail was king. Then as now they focus on identifying what percentage of the electorate is for, against, and neutral for candidate. Then they also id which members of each group are likely, unlikely, and neutral to vote. Those numbers go in a matrix and each of these 9 categories are assigned to different strategies. Negative ads for the undecided and the unlikely to vote for the other guy. Direct mail and Facebook ads for the ones they think they can persuade. I think there’s a lot of disruptive innovation that can happen on the identification, persuasion, and communication pieces. For example using social network data tied to past voting data for quicker voter identification. Or micro targeting voters who care about internet issues with links to the candidates voting record and public statements on that topic. Maybe even neutralizing the crazy lines of attack with rebuttals and third-party testimonials. The important part for me is all campaigns should have easy access to these tools so that at the end of the day it is the content of the message, rooted in facts that win elections. Who knows if we’ll ever get there, but that’s the dream.

        1. ShanaC

          You’re welcome – I would love to talk more about this with you – shoot me an email shana dot carp at gmail.

  44. Reuben Metcalfe

    This might be a little off topic… but has anyone considered a crowdfunded lobbying group, that lobbies according as to which issues the crowd deems most important?

    1. panterosa,

      Kickstarter!!! WHere the product is government.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      That was Working Assets to a certain degree πŸ™‚



  46. Andrew

    How many US elections do you think china can afford to buy?

    1. FlavioGomes

      Elections?…none. favorable policies likely.

  47. TrevorAustin

    As Lessig says in the video, the problem with money in politics is the outsized influence it gives to the holders of that money. Let’s assume we don’t want to try radically equalizing the distribution of money, which – to put it mildly – may have unwanted side effects. We already have an old but very powerful piece of technology we use when we’re really serious about overcoming systemic bias in a political system: Sortition, or election by lottery.… Make Congress like jury duty. Call it Congress Duty.That’s the old-school, hard-core, ancient-Athenian solution. You get actually representative representative bodies because the wealthy and powerful don’t have any levers to control the process. Raise as much money as you want – the Lottery doesn’t care. The only way to get your way is to use your money to try to change the underlying distribution of policy preferences in the population – i.e. change people’s minds. That’s the kind of political spending I can get behind.We use random selection for jurors because the police power is arguably the single most dangerous power the government has, and therefore needs the strongest democratic check on it we have available. We certainly don’t pick juries at random to ensure factual accuracy – they’re notoriously terrible at finding the facts of an individual case. But we keep using them because they’re a check against antidemocratic systematic bias in criminal outcomes. That’s actually problematic when the population has other systematic biases of its own, but that’s less of an issue when selecting a legislature (or, as described below, one part of one).Obviously that doesn’t work great for selecting the President, but you could replace the House of Representatives with a randomly-selected sample of Americans and probably get markedly better policy outcomes. 100% turnover every two years is probably not optimal, you’d want to beef up things like the Congressional Research Office and the Congressional Budget Office, and you may want to increase the sample size a little more, but it shouldn’t be impossible to design supporting institutions to make the general thrush of it work. You might wind up leaning a bit more heavily on the Senate as a cooling saucer, but I’m not convinced that’s altogether bad either.

    1. ShanaC

      I think the athenian solution would work if the US was at a smaller scale. It would be totally possible if we had less people here – right now we have so many people it would be possible to never serve and as a result have people manipulate the lotto.Other than that – 100%

  48. FlavioGomes

    I got to the “fuck television!” at around the 8:00 minute mark…and just did the happy dance on my deck. Fred yer a force to be reckoned with!!! Ok back to the video

    1. fredwilson

      i looked for a tool to bleep out parts of youtube videoscouldn’t find itso i ran with it

      1. FlavioGomes

        And immediately thereafter the room seemed to come alive. I saw some heavy eyelids prior. That discussion needed your energy.

  49. andyidsinga

    I don’t think the 5% ad inventory idea would work. For candidates who can successfully raise money it seems that they will opt for $ they raise and control over $ / ad vouchers they don’t control.I wonder what would happen in the scenario where one candidate opts to be self funded and the other opts to use an allocation from the %5 inventory. Presumably there would be a limit on the amount of subsidized ads that a market could allocate to a candidate – and that limit would be the entry-point for the self funded candidate to overtake his/her competition in ad-buys.If they’re all forced to join the same system – then it might work.

  50. Greg Sugar

    I think this goes way beyond the internet. We need a new law for money in politics — probably at the level of a constitutional amendment in light of Supreme Court rulings. We need:1. $500 (or $x) per person cap on campaign contributions2. Corporations are NOT people and do NOT have a right to free speech and can NOT contribute anything to to any candidate.3. All media companies must provide 5% of ad inventory to a pool; which gets doled out in proportion to the campaign contributions gathered in (1) above.

  51. Robert Holtz

    Fred, I actually like your idea most as it was the most realistic, practicable, and quite frankly feasible.While I appreciate what the other members in the talk had to say, this is an age-old problem where people have great ideas about how democracy SHOULD work but intrinsic to the entire situation is that our system has been “gamed” as of long long ago. It is utopian to think you can just clean sheet all of democracy, hit the reset switch and expect everyone to revert to what the founding fathers intended. It is a lovely vision but it is fundamentally implausible because no one in the system has any incentive to cooperate.Further, the way the other proposals stated it, the superhero candidate they indirectly describe that was more conscientious about her campaign strategy would have to expressly and specifically deprive themselves of ALL OTHER campaign funding in order to support this cause. In my view, it just replaces one power center with another power center but with one that is unproven and singular versus proven and in-abundance. The candidate would need to care more about the new concept than about actually getting elected.Your idea was actually the most pure of any of them and the most doable. The core concept at the top of the talk was disentangling the MONEY part from the VISIBILITY part. You hit the core issue which no one else did which is NOT where does the money come from but where it is SPENT. You nailed it. It primarily goes to adverts. Mostly TV, Radio, events, robodialers, etc. The Internet and even apps HAVE become tools of the trade now so TV is not the only place this money goes. But I think you nailed it by looking at the meta-numbers. 5% of all ad buys online could be set aside voluntarily by all the major outlets with ONE STRING ATTACHED… and that is that Internet Freedom Pledge. Something specific and tangible to which someone’s compliance or non-compliance is clear and unmistakable. They either take the pledge and are entitled to the money or they don’t and won’t. If they take the pledge and don’t follow through, that can’t be hidden. The candidate is accountable.Most importantly, it takes a HUGE bite out of the money component. If a candidate who wants to win realizes she can get just as much or money ad impressions by taking the public pledge and affirming to it, she does NOT have to be beholden to these other 1% of 1% (196 people) referenced at the top of the talk.To me the rest of the ideas out there, I respect them on some level because I’m pleased they are talking and putting out ideas rather than just complaining without offering solutions… so I still tip my hat to them. But the world pivots on actionable deeds. The rest of the discussion was just too idealistic and on some level naive because they fail to take into consideration that the people in any race on either side of the aisle today already knows what it takes to get elected and they have all willingly swallowed the pill which is why we’ve ever even heard of them. And those 196 or so gatekeepers like the system exactly how it is and they are actively fighting to keep it that way. The only way you can break the cycle is with a highly-targetted disruption of the system as it has been heretofore.You can’t have the new system in one sweep. You start with the first shock to the system and let the power of awareness and information take over. I’m bummed that you had the right idea and everybody in the room thought their version was either the same or better. Not so. Your idea cuts to the core. It is actionable. We can actually do it and it WOULD make a measurable change and it even provides a well-specified upside which is acceptance of that pledge and all it entails.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks. i am pushing it.

  52. John@PGISelfDirected

    I’m off to the Hacking Society’s website now!

  53. laurie kalmanson

    an honest politician: once they’re bought, they stay boughtwe should buy some

  54. William Wagner

    just getting back from denmark / netherlands I can see how those places have a type of democratic freedom that is the epitome of American ideals *in theory* like they saw America and actually learned from it in replicating it. But we have gone another route and produced hypocritical biological behemoths. The hypocritical institutions are literally cancer on society: the money courses through them as blood does through a malignant tumor

  55. FlavioGomes

    The unvarnished truth right there my friend. However, if we lean to far to the other end of the spectrum, middle class calling all the shots, would likely create a whole new set of issues and a surge in social safety spending. Democracy is best but it’s not perfect.