Regulating legalized bribery

To the Editor:

Regarding your editorial comment today (June 3) about Senator Tom Udall's proposed Constitutional Amendment to supersede the Citizens United decision, you are way off the mark. Udall's amendment is a proposal to regulate the amount of private money available to politicians and the amount of funds that private entities can spend in support of or opposition to candidates, not a ban of Senator Ted Cruz's list of campaign activities. Prior to the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, there were regulations in place and while not ideal, at least there was some control. Since Citizens United there are individual billionaires who have chosen to spend in the hundreds of millions of dollars to elect the candidates of their choosing. There are also private organizations, both liberal and conservative, spending in the multi-millions. Anyone who truly believes that all speech is free and equal under these terms needs to take a serious look at the system. Seems to me that Citizens United created a double standard. There's the average wage earner writing a letter to her Congressional Representative in support of a higher minimum wage, and the billionaire writing to the same Representative opposing a higher minimum wage along with a campaign contribution in the amount of $25,000. The first communication is free speech, the second is free speech with a bribe attached, albeit legal. Whose free speech wins this battle? Money is not speech. Money in politics is a mechanism of legalized bribery.

Political campaigns today are incredibly expensive. Most politicians on the Federal level admit to spending more time raising money than doing the country's business. If they don't accept the big bucks, they will have nowhere near the amount of cash needed to compete effectively. And so they do. Let's face it, most of our elected officials have reelection as their top priority.

Ideally, elections would be paid for with public money. Each candidate who qualifies to run, likely by filing a nominating petition and meeting other requirements for public office, would be capitalized at the same level. The media would provide time for debates (the avenues of broadcast do belong to the public) and print media, as a public service would provide a specific amount of space to each candidate. No private money would be allowed. Admittedly this would be a difficult change to come by.

Realistically, a system that utilizes both public and private funds could go far in cleaning up the process. Let's limit private contributions for federal office to $1000 per candidate with an aggregate of $10,000. Public funds are then used to match the private contributions. I don't believe you can buy a politician with these amounts and all of us benefit from that. Include free TV time for debate and the green light for the very wealthy few to buy our elections rapidly turns to red.

Claudette Sortino

South Ryegate, Vt.

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