As I listened to yet another of the perpetual discussions about Campaign Finance Reform - what is it, Oregon Measure 47? - I came up with the following idea. It's new to me.
Instead of trying to limit campaign contributions, which has all sorts of free speech implications, how about encouraging them?
But, tax them in the following way:
If somebody contributes N dollars to a political purpose, require that a matching amount f*N dollars be placed in a fund for "equal time".
The "equal time" funds would be distributed as follows: everyone - any citizen, any voter, whatever - gets an equal share of the "equal time" fund. He or she can assign his or her share of the funds to whatever cause or organization he or she wishes.
* some might assign all of their funds to their party, Democratic or Republican or ...
* some might assign their funds to their church
* I would probably assign my share to a "Contrarian" organization, dedicated to debunking the top 10 mistruths publicized by the original donation. E.g. I would fund counter attacks against the Small Boat Veterans for Truth in the Kerry campaign, but equally fund counter attacks against Democrat mistruths.
Bottom Line: the "equal time" funds would be distributed democratically. Each person would control his share of the money.
The ratio f might be set equal to 1; it might even be larger than one. Without loss of generality, let us talk as if f=1.
In such a situation, half of the money in politics would be distributed as it is now, according to the incliniations of the wealthy; but half would be distributed on a per capita basis. A plutocrat seeking to advance his cause would have to balance his expenditure against the consideration that he is also financing his opponents.
The downside, of course, is that the "equal time" funds are distributed proportionately. But it's like Churchill said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
One might even be able to have a graduated scale for the "equal time" funds: the poor might not have to match such funding, but the rich might. If you are a progressive, though, beware of what you ask for: the Republican party has many more small contributirs than does the Democratic party, which is funded mainly by a small number of wealthy individuals (and then unions).
I think this scheme might be able to meet US Supreme Court standards: it is not restricting free speech. It is just taxing it; and taxing it in a way that is eminently neutral. All speech gets taxed; and the taxes on free speech encourage still more free speech. By the way, that is not "free as in beer" free speech, eh?
Lest it become too dificult to tell what is a political contribution ad what is not, how about making this just be a tax on ALL advertizing, commercial, politucal, or otherwise?