The Bus Theory of Campaign Finance Reform

Democratic and Republication strategists are estimating that each candidate could spend $500 million dollars on the 2008 presidential election. This is obscene. Here is my proposal for campaign finance reform.

Anyone who wants to run for President and meets the eligibility requirements registers with the government. A number of months before the election, they would board one or more buses, holding town hall style debates across the country. The current sitting President could join them at any of the debates he/she saw fit. A token fee from each candidate, along with government money, would pay for the buses, lodging, etc. This would be the extent of campaigning the candidates are allowed.

The hole in this scheme is that political action groups and private citizens can fund ads on their own, completely independently from the candidates. The first amendment allows them to say what they want. However, given that the public owns the airways, the FCC could prevent broadcast stations from accepting and playing these ads. Further, one would hope that the tremendous quantity of public debates would drown out the ads.

The important points of this scheme:

  1. Anyone with the interest and ability to raise a couple thousand dollars can run. This would encourage third parties and promote political diversity.
  2. The candidates always appear together in a debate setting, giving citizens the opportunity to interact with all of the candidates in a fully dynamic setting. No more carefully staged events.
  3. The common transport on the buses would allow constant interaction between the candidates. Hopefully, this would result in idea exchange, particularly from the minor parties to the major parties.
  4. Anyone who did not drop out during the campaign would appear on the ballots in all states.
  5. The equal time laws should be enforced for all candidates and all print or broadcast media.
  6. This idea could be extended to apply to other national or state elections as well.
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