Thursday, January 21

Real Campaign Reform: Make Political TV Ads Free!

I can see that many people are up in arms at the Rightwing Judicial Activism of the Supreme Court Today that essential took all the reins and limits away from Corporate Influence in our Elections.

Money is now official Speech, and if you have more of it - you have more speech than others.

Although I commend Rep Grayson and his rapid counter response to this decision with 5 bills designed to undue this dreadful and potentially disastrous decision, I think continuing to try and choke off the money supply is going the wrong direction.

It's not the supply that needs to be attacked, it's the demand.

Way back in the days of the 2004 Bush v Kerry election I wrote about this subject. The idea then and now is that instead of telling corporations how much they can and can't contribute to campaigns we use the FCC to address the primary place where all that money is being spent - On TV.

Within it's powers the FCC has the ability to regulate our airwaves, including the content. The reason that lcoal TV stations have News programs is because the FCC mandated that those stations provide News as a public service as a requirement for their license. If the FCC were to apply that power and require that equal and free airtime be given to all qualified candidates for public office - the need for our politicians to go hat-in-hand to corporate donors would dry up immensely.

Remember the Half=Hour of Prime-Time Programming that Barack Obama bought during his campaign? The was probably the single most expensive TV ad-buy in History. $2 Million Dollars for 30 Minutes on 7 Networks. There's a damn good reason he did that. It worked.

Barack Obama has purchased a half-hour of primetime television on CBS and NBC, sources confirm.

The Obama campaign is producing a nationwide pitch to voters that will air on at least two broadcast networks. The ad will run Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. -- less than a week before the general election.

The direct purchase of such a large block of national airtime right before an election used to be more commonplace before campaigns began to focus their endgame strategies exclusively on battleground states. Such a move is not without precedent in modern presidential politics, however -- Ross Perot did a similar purchase in 1992.

The special is a smart move for the Obama campaign, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst and director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia.

"Obama's theme is not just change but unity, so he's appealing to the whole nation rather than a handful of tossup states," Sabato said. "He wants to win the popular vote by a good margin, which will enable him to govern."

And he's got the cash for it.

If politicians no longer need to spend so much money on TV advertising, they don't need to BEG for the money from corporate donors. Consequently the power that corporations, such as Insurance Companies or Wall Street or Banks, have to influence the direction of legislation would dramatically decrease. You wonder why Barack Obama seems to be completely under the thrall of Big Business and Insurance Companies? Go back and watch that Infomercial again and check the price tag for it.

Now I don't think the FCC should do this alone, I do think that the TV stations should be compensated for their air time, particularly since so many of them depend on this revenue - this is where I think the IRS and/or congress can step in and allow the cost of this free airtime to be considered a tax deductible campaign donation.

Since the SCOTUS now says there are no limits to the size of these donations, we could see Free Political Ads of this type in prime-time where the ad-buy cost are fairly substantial.

This would be a way to create public financing for political campaigns without necessarily taxing the public to do it.

Exactly how much time would be up to the stations, the only restriction I think is absolutely necessary would be to require that all viable candidates be given equal time within this framework to each put forth their own case in a manner similar to the original Fairness Doctrine. It only seems fair that if you give free time to one candidate, you have to give the same amount of free time to all the other candidates, whether they from the Democrats, Republicans, Green, Libertarian or Tea Bag Party.

When I originally wrote about this I called these the Blue Curtain Ads, as presumably these would be shot within the local studios themselves with minimal production values.

This is part of what I wrote Six years Ago.

Few who take any real time to view the modern political landscape and the quality of public information these days would fail to lament it's sad sorry state.

Even after the passage of the McCain/Fiengold Campaign Finance Bill the problem seems worse than ever, more soft-money is flowing and the ability to get un-spun legitimate facts about our candidates and the choices we face becomes more and more difficult.

At the rate we're going it won't be long before Senator John Kerry will be accused of being a pot-head draft dodger, while President George Bush will be hailed as a battle-tested medal carrying war hero who bravely charged into a hail of bullets to save a drowning Vietnamese boy using nothing more than his teeth.

Or we might soon be hearing claims of how Bush has secretly been working in cohoots with the Bin Laden family to ensure that the events of 9/11 would not be impeded by the U.S. Government in exchange for al Qaeda guaranteeing that Bush, as an incumbent President during a War, would be certain to win a second term unlike his father.

Politicians spend a significant portion of the time that they're supposedly working for us raising funds and smoozing donors for their next campaign. Maybe instead of jet-setting from one fundraiser to the next - they might actually be able to sit down and read some of the legislation they're supposed to be voting on?

The "Blue Curtain" suggestion wouldn't eliminate political donations. There would still be paid political advertising by candidates (when the free time is exhausted, or through non-broadcast outlets such as cable), but wouldn't it be nice to put just a little dent in the swirling cesspoll of legalized bribery that currently passes for our political process?

It seems to me we are now neck deep in the nightmare scenario of ridiculously fantasy laden claims flying back and forth that I predicted years ago. Death Panels and Fascistic ACORN Concentration Camps all promoted and funded by Corporate Astro-turfers like FreedomWorks.

It's time we solved this problem at it's source, on TV.

The idea itself is fairly simple and could be implemented initially by the FCC and later codified with legislation to allow for the tax deductions and offset the revenue lost by making this air-time free. As soon as I'm done typing this I plan to call Alan Graysons office and offer that he consider this suggestion and if he's so inclined - spearhead it.


Update Called Grayson's Washington Office and put forth the suggestion, didn't get much response other than "Got it" as he was overloaded with incoming phone calls. At least i gave it a shot.

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