As I speak, the highest court in the land has been considering the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. All 456 pages of it.
In the aftermath of the McCain-Feingold law incumbent congressmen are raising more money than ever, out-raising challengers nine to one by last report. Has the law done anything about the countless shady dealings between congressmen and special interests? Ha! We can hope that McCain-Feingold is struck down entirely by the courts as a congressional massacre of the First Amendment. But how can we find a way to make public policy without the corruption of special interests?
I do have an idea. A process where campaign spending is largely unlimited but which has again and again allowed people to overcome big spending. It’s called Initiative & Referendum. You can spend big money on initiatives, but if the public isn’t with you, ain’t gonna pass, buddy. Big spenders don’t always get big votes.
Direct democracy simply cannot be corrupted the way our representatives can be. Initiatives are written in black and white and, as conservative Grover Norquist notes, “One big difference between initiatives and elected representatives is that initiatives do not change their minds once you vote them in.” Liberal Ralph Nader calls initiatives our “ace in the hole.”
Perhaps someday we’ll discover a way to keep politicians honest. But until that miracle cure is invented, citizens must have a way to keep our government under control. That way is the citizen initiative: citizens in charge.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.