Fair Elec­tions

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - Ken Her­ron

For a num­ber of years I have been pro­mot­ing term lim­its for Congress and our State Leg­is­la­tures. Mem­bers of Congress and the State Leg­is­la­ture tell me that each elec­tion is a limit on their term. They say that if we don’t want them we can elect some­one else.

The prob­lem is we can’t usu­ally elect some­one else. Po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns are very ex­pen­sive. I ran twice for the State Leg­is­la­ture and one time for a seat in Congress. With enough money, I could have won either one of the elec­tions. Pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als have a big prob­lem in rais­ing cam­paign funds that in­cum­bents do not have. Pri­vate in­di­vid­ual’s con­tri­bu­tions come from friends that know them and most of the time this does not in­clude the big po­lit­i­cal donors. The in­cum­bents have lob­by­ists that do­nate the max­i­mum level per­mit­ted by law. A Con­gress­man that earns $ 350,000 dur­ing his two year term will eas­ily have a mil­lion dol­lar cam­paign ch­est. If it does not all come from lob­by­ists, the party will ar­range for con­tri­bu­tions from their money or from other in­cum­bents that have no op­po­si­tion.

The changes that need to be made must be made by the mem­bers of Congress and the State Leg­is­la­tures who would be giv­ing up ad­van­tages that they en­joy, and it is not likely to hap­pen. If we are ever to get term lim­its, we must give all elected of­fice hold­ers on the state and fed­eral level an ex­emp­tion from be­ing af­fected by the term lim­its for their life­time. This priv­i­lege would not ap­ply to po­si­tions such as gov­er­nor that al­ready is term limited. It would be ef­fec­tive for can­di­dates elected for the first time at the next elec­tion. It might take ten or more years for this to be ef­fec­tive, but it is prob­a­bly the only way to get term lim­its.

At the state level, the term lim­its for the gov­er­nor al­lows for eight years in the of­fice and this would prob­a­bly be a good level for the State Leg­is­la­ture. This will also pre­vent a se­lect group from get­ting con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture and con­trol­ling the ac­tiv­i­ties of each house. The heads of the var­i­ous de­part­ments, such as high­ways, in­sur­ance, Sec­re­tary of State and ed­u­ca­tion, should have the same lim­its.

On the fed­eral level, the Se­nate serves six year terms and a two term limit is rea­son­able. In the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the term is two years and the limit should be the same as the state level rec­om­men­da­tion of four terms or eight years.

The sec­ond step in mak­ing elec­tions fair would be to stop po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions from cor­po­ra­tions or busi­nesses that ben­e­fit from leg­is­la­tion that af­fect their in­dus­tries. Cor­po­ra­tions or busi­nesses should not be able to con­trib­ute to can­di­dates or to Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tees, either di­rectly or through their lob­by­ists. There should be a se­vere penalty for com­pa­nies that sup­ply money to their of­fi­cers or em­ploy­ees for con­tri­bu­tions to can­di­dates in or­der to make them per­sonal con­tri­bu­tions and avoid the law. Cur­rently many of the leg­is­la­tors and mem­bers of Congress are ob­li­gated to the con­trib­u­tors to their cam­paigns. They vote the way they are told re­gard­less of how they per­son­ally feel about the sub­ject of the leg­is­la­tion.

All con­tri­bu­tions must come from in­di­vid­u­als in com­pli­ance with present lim­i­ta­tions in the cur­rent rules. Some cor­po­ra­tions in­vite politi­cians to give speeches at a meet­ing and pay an ex­or­bi­tant rate to re­ward them for a vote or a fa­vor that the politi­cians have done. All money or gifts re­ceived from busi­nesses or cor­po­ra­tions must be re­ported monthly by the politi­cian and by the com­pa­nies mak­ing the gifts. Lob­by­ist con­tacts should be re­stricted to the of­fice hours of the politi­cian. All con­tacts be­tween politi­cians and lob­by­ists should be re­ported to the Sec­re­tary of State or a re­spon­si­ble of­fi­cer. Lob­by­ists should be al­lowed to give re­ports and rec­om­men­da­tions to mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture on the same ba­sis as any other cit­i­zen.

It al­ways raises ques­tions when politi­cians run for a state leg­is­la­ture po­si­tion that pays about $ 35,000 in a term and they are will­ing to spend $ 100,000 to get elected. It is not their per­sonal funds in most cases, but it is some­times from their own money. A Con­gress­man will be paid about $ 350,000 dur­ing their two year term. Re­ports showed that my op­po­nent spent about $ 500,000 run­ning against me and I spent about $ 17,000 and re­ceived about 27 per­cent of the vote. If you look only at the salary, this is not a very good re­turn on the in­vest­ment. It is also a won­der to try to fig­ure out how a Con­gress­man can re­tire af­ter six years and $ 1,050,00 in salary and have a net worth of $ 2,000,000. Where does the ex­tra money come from? My sug­ges­tion is that po­lit­i­cal races be limited in ex­pen­di­tures to the amount of salary paid in the term of the of­fice. A can­di­date for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives could spend $ 350,000 dur­ing the cam­paign. A can­di­date for the Se­nate could spend $ 3,150,000. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the State Leg­is­la­ture could spend $ 35,000 dur­ing the cam­paign. We should re­quire the me­dia to give ad­ver­tis­ing rates of 10 per­cent less than the low­est com­mer­cial rate they have given dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year to com­mer­cial cus­tomers to politi­cians for their ad­ver­tis­ing. That would in­clude ra­dio, in­ter­net, TV and print me­dia.

We need to level the play­ing field if we ex­pect the po­si­tions in govern­ment to be held by a mov­ing se­lec­tion of can­di­dates.

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