Udall says we should consider radical changes to campaign finance laws

Senator Mark Udall, in an interview published today, reiterated a theme recently brought up by Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams, and suggested the country might consider removing the limits of how much someone can give to a political campaign, but requiring all donations to be made immediately public.

If Udall and Wadhams agree on something, does that make it a good idea?

Here is an excert from the interview, published at Colorado Pols:

He next talked at depth about transparency so any donation was up on the web within 24 hours. So we would know who was pouring money into what. I asked if that included 3rd parties and he said yes 3rd party groups too. He also said ads funded by corporations should require the CEO at the end of the ad to say they approved the message (I love this idea!).

Mark then discussed removing all limits. He brought up the example of Eugene McCarthy ran for president and what made that possible as a 1 million dollar donation from one person. That donation, being from a single person, allowed McCarthy to concentrate on campaigning instead of fundraising.

Talking about the level of discourse in the country today and why it sometimes seems so divisive, Udall said it’s because people only get involved in issues they are passionate about, and that leads to extreme discourse.

He also discussed the evils if earmarks with Colorado Pols:

He then discussed the line item bill he was a sponsor of back when he was in the house. How the President could use that to reduce spending and say no to the lobbyists that were able to get their piece protected in Congress. This segued into a discussion about earmarks. He discussed how the true cost of earmarks is much greater than the actual dollars allocated. First is the immense amount of time required to wade through all the requests, research them, talk to everyone asking for one, etc. And all that is time that is not spent on oversight, on discussing legislation, on all the other parts of the job that are much more important.

It also skews priorities based on political effort instead of dispassionate ordering. In some cases it moves items to the head of the line, which then teaches everyone else they should also lobby for an earmark to boost their priority. Even worse, in some cases it pulls money where it is legitimately needed to use it on something much less important. He brought up the example of money needed by NIST to upgrade some decades old parts of their facilities, and that instead was sent to an aquarium.

And then once the earmarks are in the spending bill, then there is a ton of pressure on each Congressperson to vote for the bill, because voting against it means voting against their earmarks.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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