"Real reform will require changing the way campaigns are funded — moving from large-dollar private funding to small-dollar public funding," writes professor Lawrence Lessig in a New York Times op-ed today. Basically, what if elections relied more on lots of little contributions from lots of different regular working people, instead of relying on a small number of huge donations from the rich and powerful, or the big and powerful institutions that serve their interests.
Democrats, for example, have pushed for small-dollar public funding through matching systems, like New York City's. Under a plan by Representative John Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, contributions could be matched up to nine to one, for candidates who agree to accept only small donations.
Republicans, too, are increasingly calling for small-dollar funding systems. The legal scholar Richard W. Painter, a former "ethics czar" for President George W. Bush, has proposed a $200 tax rebate to fund small-dollar campaigns. Likewise, Jim Rubens, a candidate in the Republican primary for Senate in New Hampshire last year, proposed a $50 tax rebate to fund congressional campaigns.
Either approach would radically increase the number of funders in campaigns, in that way reducing the concentration of large funders that especially typifies congressional and senatorial campaigns right now.
The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance [nytimes.com]