A political scheme in which the taxpayer profits

November 30, 1997|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight-Ridder News Service

TODAY I WANT TO TALK about campaign finance reform which is Wait! Come back here!

Campaign finance reform is a very important issue, which is why for the past year it has been the subject of lengthy and sincere hearings by the House and Senate Joint Committee of Men Going Blah Blah Blah. Like most Americans, you probably paid no attention to these hearings, so I'm going to explain the major findings, using layperson's terms such as "pickles."

Basically, our campaign- finance system works this way: Donors give money to politicians, who use the government to do favors for the donors. It's like buying a hamburger, except that under our laws, everybody must pretend that nobody is buying anything, and nobody is selling anything. The donors must pretend that they're giving money solely because they support good government; the politicians must pretend that the favors will benefit the entire nation. If Burger King operated this way, a typical transaction would go like this:

Customer: Here's some money! But I don't want a burger! I'm just supporting quality fast food!

Counter person: Fine! We don't sell burgers here at Burger King! Although there might be a burger there that you can have, for the good of the nation!

Customer: Would it have extra pickles?

Counter person: Of course it would! The entire nation needs extra pickles!

If you think this is amusing, you would have enjoyed the campaign-finance hearings, during which the fact that the federal government is basically for sale was disregarded in favor of nit-picky discussion about how President Clinton and Vice President Gore grubbed for money, and especially whether they grubbed for money on federal property (Bad!) or off (OK!), and whether they grubbed for money from foreign sleazebags (Bad!) or domestic sleazebags (OK!).

The politicians in Congress, who have spent the majority of their adult lives grubbing for money, expressed great shock upon learning how campaign financing works. So did President Clinton and Vice President Gore. They had no idea! So now everybody in Washington is fed up. Democrats and Republicans agree: It's time for real reform. And thus it appears that, after years of stalling, this nation really and truly will have meaningful campaign-finance reform, just as soon as we establish a viable trout farm on Jupiter.

Until then, our elected leaders will continue to grub relentlessly for money. Why do they do this? Is it because they're hypocritical gasbags with the ethical standards of tapeworms?

Yes! I mean: No! In America, the only way you can get elected to high office is to hire expensive consultants, who conduct expensive polls to find out what the voters think, and then, having found out that the voters think all politicians are slime, make expensive TV commercials wherein you show a hideously unflattering photograph of your opponent and have an announcer say something like: "Harvey Hackensilt would like you to believe that he has never eaten live human babies. Who's he trying to fool?"

If you don't run this kind of campaign, you can't get elected; and then you can't realize the idealistic dream that attracted you to politics in the first place: the dream of getting re-elected.

So let's analyze the cash flow: Sleazeballs who want government favors give money to politicians, who give it to consultants, pollsters, advertising agencies and television stations, who get you to elect the politicians, who thus get more money from sleazeballs. Do you see what's morally wrong with this, voters? That's correct: Your government, the government that your Founding Fathers fought and died for, is being sold over and over like a used mobile home, and you're not getting a cut!

I say this stinks. I say we should have a fair, honest and democratic system whereby the money would go directly from the sleazeballs to the voters. I say we eliminate the politicians and put the donors directly into office. The way it would work is, you'd go into the voting booth, and there would be a list of donors competing for each office, and next to each donor there would be a number indicating how many dollars the donor was willing to pay for your vote. When you pulled that donor's lever, the dollars would immediately come out of a slot in the voting machine.

If we had a system like this, voter turnout would be way higher. Another likely result is that we'd elect people who were criminal, or incompetent, or who were being given a congressional seat as a present for their 8th birthday. In other words, it would not be any worse than it is now. So I say we adopt my plan. First we need to amend the Constitution. Assuming it has not been sold.

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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