Thursday, April 19, 2007

Legislative Reform: Talking about Transparent PAC Accounts and the Scarlet Letter provisions

Transparent PAC accounts and the scarlet letter. Idea from Mark Rauterkus about legislative reform.
From ads - political
The talk of reform in Harrisburg is starting to buzz. Two ideas presented to lawmakers at a hearing in Pittsburgh on April 19 have roots in a business and free-market mindset.

First, show us the money. Lets abolish campaign financial disclosure deadlines in favor of transparent PAC accounts. Second, if you cheat, we'll never do business with you again. Cheaters get cut off until the ones that benefited is out of office and off the the public payroll.

In banking, 'trust funds' can be established that provide unlimited, real-time witness to every deposit and withdrawal. This real world, marketplace solution could be applied to all political action committees (PACs). This solution comes without any cost to the government. It saves money by putting all the reporting of political money transactions off of the backs of the election departments.

Let's use on-line banking to a wider degree when it comes to public money. All candidates and political action committees would have a bank account at any state-sanctioned commercial bank with a public account number so all transactions could be witnessed over the internet. Campaign disclosure forms would be a thing of the past as everything would always be out in the open.

These new TRANSPARENT PAC ACCOUNTS could be used beyond campaign efforts too. Let's plug them in for governmental line items. The Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission has a fund. How much money is in it? When was the last deposit? Where did that money come from? Where was the last payment? How much? What is the balance? How does that compare to past years? How come the donuts for staffers cost so much?

But let's not stop at shade trees. Let's consider real-time reporting for all sorts of governmental income and expense streams. Today's deposit of lottery funds, gambling incomes, dog licenses, parking tickets and everything else can be made open to anyone to anywhere with the internet and the right type of banking transactions – if there is a political will to make things transparent to citizens. That's our money. I want to shine a light on it all and watch it. Banks do this all the time.

Should campaign finance reform come to pass, the new laws may put a cap on the amount of money any one citizen can contribute to a candidate. But how do you address those that choose to not play by the rules. I think a scarlet letter sanctions on rule breakers would help. Those that break the law and are unethical in our political process should wear this scarlet letter. That designation would eliminate all eligibility for that company and individual for any government money from any governmental agency for as the duration of the tenure for the rule-breaker.

This goes to pay to play antics.

Let's say a new rule comes into being and that no citizen can give more than $1,000 to any candidate. But, a developer or a bridge contractor really wants to build a tunnel under the river for half-a-billion dollars. Buying off four or five city council members and paying a $10,000 fine for each is worth it. Even with the fines,
it is a good investment.

We should choose to not do business with the people and companies that break the rules of the political process.

The way to get rid of the scarlet letter designation is to have the person who benefited, i.e., the candidate / politician, to resign and get out of public office.

But, a rich uncle wants to spend $200,000 on a candidate's campaign, and that guy doesn't ever deal with government contracts, no problem. You can't prohibit individual wealth from entering the process. But you can block it from pay to play folly.

No comments: