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ANOTHER VOICE: Get steroids out of U.S election campaigns

By ROD PARROTT

With the 2012 elections past, what some have called “the politico-industrial complex” grinds on. But the average American might do well to reflect on what we just experienced. The New Normal, we’re told.

I don’t know about others, but this recent election left me feeling more like a pawn in a huge table game than a truly enfranchised member of a representative democracy. It was like watching from the sidelines while “the big kids” played.

Social scientists, in describing change, sometimes talk in terms of phased movement from old rules through no rules to new rules. That description helps explain the election: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision ushered in a no-rules era, one that in 2012 was incredibly ironic.

In an interview on the halftime show of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, candidate Mitt Romney, when asked by Chris Berman what he had most learned from his involvement with the Salt Lake Olympics, said something to the effect that sports need to be rid of performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t recall particular athletes being disqualified at Salt Lake, but even as Romney spoke, Lance Armstrong was being stripped of his Tour de France wins. So it was an apt response.

The irony is that the 2012 campaigns were like elections on steroids! A handful of fat cats with money to burn poured it into the primary and general campaigns to enhance the performance of their candidates. Some of it was done quasi-openly. Much of it was done away from public view, just as doping is in athletics.

Therein lies a second irony: What the Supreme Court declared perfectly legal was practiced as though it was criminal — hidden away, laundered by front groups [501(c)4 PACs], etc. “Stealing an election” seems the appropriate phraseology!

Now I agree with Mitt Romney: Sports need to be drug-free. But elections do, too.

So here are some new rules I propose going forward:

First: Bench the “super-PACs” altogether. Let the political parties play.

Second: Cap contributions (by corporations or individuals alike) to the same amount across the board for presidential elections. (Or actually go to federally funded elections.)

Third: For candidates in representative races (House and Senate), declare that contributions are allowed only from constituents in the candidate’s respective area (state or district), and the same cap applies to individuals and corporations. It is highly unrepresentative to have outside money skewing those elections. And, besides, most of the Senate and House email systems already refuse access if you are not from the proper district or state. Why not money?

Realistically, I would expect major resistance to these rules. After all, the 2012 election was a $6 billion windfall for the media alone. Add in the rest of the politico-industrial complex, and adopting new rules would be like trying to touch the DOD budget.

But it needs to be done to preserve a truly representative democracy.

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Rod Parrott lives in Hood River.

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