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This forum focuses on the general pros & cons of enlarging representation in the U.S. House of Representatives which are not related to the topics covered in Sections one through ten. No incivility or partisan advocacy allowed.
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Paul Taylor
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First Name: Paul
Location: Bouncing between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, MI

Campaign Financing and Constituent Communal Bonds

Post by Paul Taylor »

I often come across internet posts complaining about the need to 'take back the government,' often from elected representatives who are in-the-hip-pocket and/or wholly-owned-subsidiaries of deep-pocketed campaign donors. They are often fairly stunned when I mention that, by reducing district size and increasing the number of representatives, the campaign finance beast would effectively be killed, or at least severely hobbled. Most don't even realize that the limit of 435 seats in the House is artificially set, and that such an artificial limitation flies in the face of the founders' intent!

Thus, it would seem, to me, that the largest and most immediate benefit of increasing the size of the House, while decreasing the size of individual districts, would be the enabling effect this move would have on the average citizen who cannot, at present, AFFORD to mount a viable run for office. Large districts require immense canvassing efforts, which require massive funding, the hunt for which in turn drives the campaign finance beast. Thus, from the outset, it is incumbent on any candidate to create financial bonds with, and thus become more or less beholden to, those who finance their outreach/campaign, rather than with the larger mass of their intended constituents.

Once elected, incumbents are then required to spend a considerable amount of time away from representing his or her district, and more time on the hunt for campaign funds.

Moreover, a person would hope to be elected based on communal ties, but, by virtue of the insane size of districts, would have to reach outside what would be considered the traditional definition of 'community' in order to appeal to constituencies with which he or she really has no ties whatsoever. Thus, from the outset, current districts, by virtue of their sheer size, demand a disconnect between the candidate/representative and their natural, communal constituency. Campaigning becomes more a matter of marketing than of reputation and argument.

Also, any elected representative is likely to have had to water down his campaign effort, in order to reach beyond local constituent issues and appeal more to regional partisan political practicalities. Smaller districts would seem to make campaigning a more communal rite to be celebrated by the electorate than a practical hurdle to be overcome by the candidate.

Discussion?
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JEQuidam
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Re: Campaign Financing and Constituent Communal Bonds

Post by JEQuidam »

Related to your point: in the 2008 federal election, 95% of the Congressmen were re-elected. (No CHANGE there!) Why are the reelection rates so high? Because of the cost of waging a political campaign in massively-sized congressional districts. In the two year period leading of to the 2008 elections, the average amount of money raised by the Representatives who ran for reelections was over $1.4 million!

Who can raise $1.4 million in campaign donations in two years?

Anybody who has ever tried to help their children sell $50 worth of merchandise (in support of school fundraising efforts) can appreciate how difficult it would be to raise over a million dollars. If the districts were no larger than 50,000 people, virtually any citizen could afford to campaign for election. No sitting incumbent would ever be assured of reelection unless they were doing an excellent job of serving their constituents.
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Paul
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Re: Campaign Financing and Constituent Communal Bonds

Post by Paul »

I like to explain it like this, which, believe it or not, is how the local GOP chairman explained it to me:

There are three ways to get elected to congress:

1. Be the appointed candidate of either the Republican or Democratic party.

2. Have $5-10 milloin of your own cash to blow.

3. Already be famous, as in rock star or movie star famous.

The $1.4 million figure only works if you are a candidate for one of the parties. There are a ridiculous number of people who vote party lines, so it requires MUCH more money to win as an independent.

Ron Paul created a non-partison, non-profit organization called Campaign for Liberty that has a goal of taking over the local jurisdictions of the parties - something that requires far fewer people and accomplishes the same thing as convinving the majority of voters to vote some specific way. I'm working on lobbying them to add representation to their list.

I believe that 50,000 people per district would be yet another crime against the poor people of this nation. They would be the only ones left out of the option to take control of the votes cast on their behalf, as well as their chance to be heard directly on the house floor instead of being a political tool.

The increase in cost to run a an election in a district of 30,000 vs 50,000 is substantial - think about it, that is a 67% increase in the population, and likely more than a 100% increase in campaign finance requirements.. Worse, we would all feel that the issue of representation was permanently resolved, and the complaints from the small minority of people in this nation that are poor would sound like sniveling.
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JEQuidam
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Re: Campaign Financing and Constituent Communal Bonds

Post by JEQuidam »

Paul wrote:I believe that 50,000 people per district would be yet another crime against the poor people of this nation. They would be the only ones left out of the option to take control of the votes cast on their behalf, as well as their chance to be heard directly on the house floor instead of being a political tool.
You want districts smaller than 50,000? I certainly don't object to that. If we ratified "Article the first" as originally worded (not as it was ultimately misworded), Congress would be explicitly required to select a number of House Representatives such that the average district size is between 30,000 and 50,000. I believe that any district size within that range would restore political power to the people and, as a result, we could then rely on democratic forces to find the appropriate size (within that range).

I also believe that advocating the historic (but forgotten) would be first amendment — Article the first — is a more credible approach than fashioning an entirely new amendment.
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