What does the Clean Elections Amendment say?

We the peopleThere are two sections to the Clean Elections Amendment.  Section One deals with Campaign Financing, and Section Two with Redistricting.   Section One mandates that the financing for all federal elections comes exclusively from the federal treasury, and excludes all other sources of money.  The Federal Election Commission is the agency tasked with deciding the amounts and dispensing it to the various candidates, auditing the usage of the funds, and collecting any unused funds.  All candidates for any given race will be given an equal amount of money, which the campaigns can spend as they see fit.

The primary benefit of this is keeping our elected officials free from the undue influence of campaign donors in deciding the laws that govern us.  But another benefit is that our lawmakers can give 100% of their time and attention to their job and their constituents, instead of spending valuable time and energy in raising campaign funds.

The 3 sub-points are intended to close potential loopholes and give teeth to the amendment.    The first answers the question – what happens if a candidate, intentionally or unintentionally, over-spends the amount they were given by the FEC?  If there is no penalty, or if the penalty is simply re-paying the overage amount, then wealthy candidates could simply spend to their hearts content, and pay back the overage amount after the campaign.  This amendment says if a candidate wins but overspent, they forfeit the office to which they were elected.  And since no one can gauge intent, this will apply even if the overspending was unintentional.

The second sub-point addresses the acceptance of prohibited funds by a candidate.  In that case, a candidate has to pay back the amount of the prohibited donation, plus forfeit the office if they won the election, and they are barred from running for any other Federal office for the next 10 years.  It goes on to specifically list all sources of illegal funding.  The most important may be the prohibition from self-funding.  If this loophole is not closed, and the very wealthy can add their own personal wealth to their campaigns, then it won’t take long before only millionaires can run for any office. The CEA is designed to level the playing field, so that any person from any economic background can run for office.

In the third sub-point, Super PACs and all other entities that wish to run paid advertising for or against any candidate are specifically prohibited from doing so.  The precedent for this is the prohibition of tobacco products from being advertised.  No one’s free speech is being abridged here.  It’s just taking the megaphone of paid advertising away from them.  A potential loophole could be a “donation” of air time on TV or radio or billboard space by sympathetic owners of these media, to get around the word “paid”.  This too is explicitly prohibited.

The final point in Section One deals with states who might wish to implement the same rules regarding campaign financing to state races.  Under current laws, some states have been prohibited from setting up state-funded elections for governorships and state legislative seats.  This point guarantees that if voters decide they want this kind of campaign finance reform at the state level, they are allowed to do so.

Section Two of the CEA addresses once and for all the scourge of “gerrymandering”.  Politicians have for centuries redrawn the districts in their states to benefit their own party.  The “one person, one vote” ideal has been trashed by devious politicians who cluster voters in such as way as to minimize the ability of the out-of-power party to ever regain control of that seat.  This is wrong, it has always been wrong, and it’s time someone stood up and stopped it.  That someone can be YOU!  You can be the person who rights this wrong, by insisting that the only way any candidate can earn your vote is to promise to vote in favor of this reform amendment!  Again, this will require unusual strength of will on your part to refrain from voting for familiar incumbents, but unless YOU display this strength, nothing will change – the unfair contortions of gerrymandering will continue to plague us all.

But who will do the reapportionment required after each national Census?  The CEA takes this out of the hands of politicians, and puts it under the Judicial Branch.  A temporary Redistricting Commission is established with members appointed by the Supreme Court.  They are charged with dividing each state into its respective number of districts, and the only factor outside of the population itself that they are allowed to even consider are county lines.  All other factors are specifically prohibited.

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