Daggett proposes intriguing idea: Luxury tax on self-funded campaigns

(excerpt from) PolitickerNJ
Daggett proposes luxury tax on self-funded campaigns

By Matt Friedman

TRENTON — Independent gubernatorial candidate Christopher Daggett wants to institute a “luxury tax” on wealthy self-funding political candidates, a jab at Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who spent more than $100 million of his own money to finance his political career.

Daggett suggested a 33% tax on a candidates’ who raise more than twice the amount at which publicly-financed candidates are capped (currently $10.9 million for the general election), which he said might be constitutional, as opposed to limiting how much candidates could spend. The receipts would then be distributed to the other candidates proportional to how much they raised.

The proposal is based on Major League Baseball’s policy on teams that outspend a pre-set cap…

A Quinnipiac poll from this month put Daggett’s support at 7%, but he said he was encouraged by an internal Democratic poll that showed him at 10%…

30 thoughts on “Daggett proposes intriguing idea: Luxury tax on self-funded campaigns

  1. Kimberly Wilder Post author

    LOL!!!

    If someone had applied this luxury tax to Tom Golisano, the NY State Senate could have been spared a coup!

    Great concept.

  2. mdh

    As much as I hate the obnoxious jerks who spend more money than god on their own campaigns and use their personal wealth to propel them into public office, this just seems like another measure that would make it even harder on third party and independent candidates who are at a huge disadvantage.

    Republicans and Democrats can get away with spending way less money than the rest of us because they get tons of free major media exposure that we don’t.

  3. Jeremy Young

    If we want to go down this route (which I do, though probably the Libertarians who frequent this site don’t), there is a better option: what Mark Osterloh has instituted via ballot initiative in Arizona.

    It’s a bit complicated, but basically it starts with placing a 10% surtax on parking tickets, alcohol, and tobacco, with the money going directly into a clean elections fund. (There’s also a check-box on the state income tax forms, like with the federal system.) Because people pay so much for those things anyway, that gives the clean elections fund enough money that it won’t go broke just because elections are getting more expensive.

    Candidates are then required to qualify if they want to be Clean Elections candidates. The process involves getting a large number of $5 contributions from ordinary voters, and is pretty arduous for even the major-party candidates. Once they qualify, they get a certain amount of money for starters, plus — and this is the best part — if a non-qualified candidate raises or spends more money than the starter amount Clean Elections gives, the fund mails dollar-for-dollar matching checks to the qualified candidates.

    In 2002, Republican Gubernatorial candidate decided to take one for the team and show us all how this works. He mistakenly thought it was like the federal system, where he could raise enough money to bankrupt the fund and end up with an advantage over his opponents. So he invested an enormous amount of time and money into fundraising — and his two general election opponents sat back and collected clean elections checks matching dollar-for-dollar what he was doing all that work to fundraise. He might as well have been raising money for them. The result was that Arizona elected a Democratic governor for the first time in almost two decades.

    Needless to say, statewide candidates don’t skip public financing any more in Arizona.

  4. mdh

    Although I oppose additional taxation, that system sounds a lot more fair to third party candidates than the one proposed in the original article. It’s also good to hear that it hasn’t been loopholed to death by the most corrupt the way the federal system has.

    Sadly, I think the best solution here requires more cooperation from the mass media than we can hope for right now – which is to open up as much air time as possible for opposing viewpoints that don’t come from Republicans and Democrats.

  5. Jeremy Young

    Here’s where NewFederalist and I agree: I think the Arizona system I laid out in my last comment is the absolute farthest we can go without a constitutional amendment declaring that political spending is not speech. I favor such an amendment, but I’m not for doing unconstitutional things without first changing the Constitution. For instance, I opposed the DC gun ban, not because I don’t support a gun ban — I do — but because it’s pretty clearly unconstitutional. If we think the Constitution got it wrong, let’s change it constitutionally rather than trying to nickel-and-dime it to death in the courts.

  6. Richard Winger

    It’s a myth that candidates can’t win if they are outspent. Jesse Ventura was elected on the Reform Party ticket in 1998, even though he only spent one-tenth as much as either of his major party opponents spent. Candidates need a substantial amount of money, and inclusion in debates, to win; but they don’t necessarily need to spend as much as their opponents. If their message gets out and it is a good message, that is good enough.

  7. Susan Hogarth

    Why not just whole hog? Have the government propose a few ‘acceptable’ candidates, fund their campaigns using our tax dollars, run sham ‘primary elections’ using our tax dollars, then have a fun ‘general election’ contest between two nearly-identical candidates funded by – you guessed it – our tax dollars?

    Oh, wait… we have that already. Now people just want more tax dollars for the sham.

  8. Susan Hogarth

    Kimberly, I think the word ‘intriguing’ were better left out of the headline, as it seems editorializing to me. If I had written ‘nauseating’ or ‘infuriating’ in the header, would you have objected?

  9. Donald R. Lake

    Susan Hogarth // Aug 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm:

    There you go again! You not only are entitled to your opinion, you DESERVE it! My folks escaped North Carolina as soon as they could [after WWII]! It has been folks like you whom stayed behind.

    ‘Intriguing’ is much more neutral than ‘nauseating’ and ‘infuriating’, much more!

    [Any thing to stir the pot, huh?]

  10. Jeremy Young

    Richard, I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has ever said that no candidate can win if they’re outspent. I certainly wouldn’t make that argument. What I would argue is that it makes it much more difficult to win, particularly if you are outspent by a sizable margin. The question is whether that increase in difficulty is fair or democratic. I would argue that it is not; most libertarians would argue that it is.

    Susan, I disagree with you that campaigns are funded by our tax dollars. They are primarily funded by major corporations. If campaigns were funded by out tax dollars instead, we would have much more interesting candidates, including more (and more successful) Libertarians.

  11. Michael Seebeck

    Jeremy, anytime you have an incumbent of any office campaigning for election or re-election, it’s paid for by tax dollars.

    In the case of incumbent Presidents and Vice-Presidents, they get travel on the taxpayer dime on Air Force One and Two, Secret Service Protection on the taxpayer dime, plus the logistics in that apparatus, all of which are not recordable as in-kind campaign donations.

    That’s just one example of many.

    The luxury tax is a bad idea, for the reason Matt mentions above–it tilts the playing field even further towards the duopoly.

  12. Jeremy Young

    That’s peanuts, though. Compared to the millions and millions that corporate America provides? Plus if you take out incumbent Presidents, the amount of money the taxpayers foot for campaign goes way down.

    As for the point about free media and such, I agree — but of course I see that as an opening for more regulation. If the media doesn’t give equal time to third parties, make them do so.

  13. mdh

    I think we should make them do so. We should do it by participating as educated consumers in the market, though, rather than with the iron fist of the government.

    Jeremy, I wouldn’t necessarily argue that it is fair and democratic. I don’t think it really is. I would, however, argue against democracy in this sense. Representative democracy is a system which has failed us. It’s tyranny of the minority over the majority. Even direct democracy (everyone votes on everything – no more candidates or parties) would be somewhat more fair, but it’s still tyranny of the majority over the minority.

    Direct democracy, where it’s applied, has done both good things and bad things from my perspective (medical marijuana and prop 8, respectively, are good examples of each). Representative democracy has done almost universally bad things, as it allows a small group (the ruling class) to own another small group (the political class) and to have the political class take actions and take the heat for those actions while insulating themselves (the ruling class) from such heat. Representative democracy creates a system where the true ruling class has no accountability for policies which it is largely responsible for.

  14. Susan Hogarth

    Susan, I disagree with you that campaigns are funded by our tax dollars. They are primarily funded by major corporations.

    Major federal-contracting corporations. Fascism in action. But also see Seebeck’s points re: incumbents.

    If campaigns were funded by out tax dollars instead, we would have much more interesting candidates, including more (and more successful) Libertarians.

    I disagree. Perhaps we have a different idea of what is meant by ‘interesting’.

    But I think the mistake you make is in assuming that election spending *can* be controlled by regulation. Wat regulation will do is simply increase the power of those who are big enough and ruthless enough and in-with-government enough (but I repeat myself) to control or work around the regulations. They will, I think, hamper *true* independents even more.

    The trick is to have voters that actually care about who they are voting for enough to research, and that’s difficult because voters are generally rational and know that that amount of research is not worth the 1-millionth bit of influence their vote may have on the outcome.

    As for the point about free media and such, I agree — but of course I see that as an opening for more regulation. If the media doesn’t give equal time to third parties, make them do so.

    How do you ‘make them’? Seriously, how could you make them give proportional (or equal – which is it?) time to third parties, AND ensure that the time is ‘equally positive’ or ‘equally neutral’ or what-have-you? And what of media with an political bias – will you ‘make them’ cover organizations they disagree with?

  15. Richard Winger

    Technically, corporations don’t fund federal campaigns. It has been illegal since 1907 for corporations to contribute directly to candidates, and it is also illegal for corporations to carry on independent expenditures in favor of candidates. PAC’s are organized by corporations (and others) but they get their money from the employees and officers of those corporations, not from the corporation’s bank account.

  16. Susan Hogarth

    Technically, corporations don’t fund federal campaigns.

    Just goes to show how well ‘campaign finance reform’ works, doesn’t it?

    But maybe if we make just ONE MORE LAW, things will come out right. Yes, that’s it.

  17. Jeremy Young

    What I love about third-party people is that we all agree that the system as it currently stands is fundamentally broken. We have different ways to fix it, but we can all make common cause against the status quo. I find that liberating and invigorating.

    But I think the mistake you make is in assuming that election spending *can* be controlled by regulation. Wat regulation will do is simply increase the power of those who are big enough and ruthless enough and in-with-government enough (but I repeat myself) to control or work around the regulations. They will, I think, hamper *true* independents even more.

    This is not what has happened in the Arizona test case. In fact, the only truly successful statewide independent candidacy in over two decades, Richard Mahoney’s gubernatorial campaign in 1998, was possible only because he was getting Clean Elections money that Matt Salmon was generously raising for him.

    The trick is to have voters that actually care about who they are voting for enough to research,

    That’s simply never going to happen. Most people don’t operate that way. If we are going to be political activists, we have to accept the fact that we are never going to find millions of rational people who understand and support our ideas. We are going to have to win by other means, if at all.

    True story:

    Voter: Mr. Stevenson, every thinking man in America supports you!
    Adlai Stevenson: That’s not enough. I need a majority.

  18. Susan Hogarth

    That’s simply never going to happen. Most people don’t operate that way. If we are going to be political activists, we have to accept the fact that we are never going to find millions of rational people who understand and support our ideas.

    This is one reason I am an anarchist. But oddly enough, I think I am more optimistic than you. I think people will in large numbers come to reject charlatanism in elections – but of course at the same time they’ll reject elections altogether so I’m not counting on being swept into office by rational folks 🙂

    We are going to have to win by other means, if at all.

    That sounds rather chilling to me.

  19. Kimberly Wilder

    Susan,

    I hear you on “intriguing” being more opinionated than we try to be on this site.

    But, I do think that something could be intriguing good or intriguing bad.

    Also, at the link to the article, many of the bad points are discussed, and also the fact that it will probably never work.

    So, I hope that my headline was mostly just sensationalism to get people to read the story, and not opinon!

    😉

    It was the first time I ever heard of self-funding campaigns thought about as a luxury tax item. So, I would say intriguing fits.

    Thanks for keeping us all honest.

    Peace,
    Kimberly

  20. John Famularo

    Jesse Ventura fell into a charisma vacuum. You couldn’t find two more Casper Milquetoast, dull as dish water, opponents than Norm Coleman and Hubert Humphry III. Ventura won the battle (election) but lost the war (advancing third parties).

    However, money is not the major problem for the LP or any other non D/R candidate.

  21. mdh

    “However, money is not the major problem for the LP or any other non D/R candidate.”

    Oh really? I would say that in many cases it is within the LP. Not all, but many. Fundraising as an LP state affiliate or candidate is arduous and difficult, especially when you consider the thousands of dollars required right off the bat to get onto the ballot in many states!

  22. Richard Winger

    I think Jesse Ventura advanced his own minor party. Partly because it gained so much prestige from having elected Ventura in 1998, his party also elected a State Senator in 2000, the first time a minor party had elected a state legislator in Minnesota since 1912 (Minnesota had non-partisan elections for state legislature 1914 thru 1972). Also Ventura appointed a U.S. Senator from the ranks of his own party, Dean Barkley. Barkley was the first U.S. Senator who was a member of a minor party since 1946 (James Buckley, elected in New York in 1970 as a Conservative, was a registered Republican).

    It’s not Perot’s fault that the national Reform Party recalled Jack Gargan in the middle of his term as national chair, and gave the nomination to Pat Buchanan. Those are the actions that lead Ventura to leave the Reform Party.

  23. Michael Seebeck

    It has been illegal since 1907 for corporations to contribute directly to candidates, and it is also illegal for corporations to carry on independent expenditures in favor of candidates.

    Tell that to every corporate media outlet that blacks out or deliberately omits ANY candidate in any race!–for anytime they do that, they are favoring some candidates over others, and creating through their “news” (yeah, right!) reporting an independent campaign advertisement/expenditure for those candidates. The only ways around that one is full and equal coverage, or a full blackout of all candidates (interesting idea despite the censorship, because then they’d have to campaign more instead of relying on the free media commercials called news!).

  24. Donald R. Lake

    Buchanan [and then the world famous Long Beach Spit In of the Summer of 2000] put a stink on the partisan organization that lingers to this day! I get physically ill [and I was not even a party member until 2003, when I was begged to help out by West Coast legend Jeff Rainforth after the SUCCESSFUL California Governor Grey Davis recall] when I see that thieving [$23M in federal funds] SOB on tele vision!

  25. Trent Hill

    Kimberly,

    Susan is right. “Intrigueing” is a bit more opinionated than I’d like, though I ca certainly see your point.

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