Picture an industry in which two corporations share 99% of the market. Now imagine that the federal government had created an commission to regulate the industry, and limited membership on the commission to equal numbers of representatives from those two corporations, and to their members alone. Next imagine that the federal government were to invite taxpayers to earmark a portion of their taxes for the benefit of those two corporations, to defray their expenses. Finally, imagine that those same two corporations were allowed to decide who could control the House and the Senate, which candidates for office could receive federal matching funds, and which presidential candidates could receive free advertising by participating in highly watched debates.
Would that not be a more striking example of a “trust” in need of busting than anything than any cabal of bankers, oil companies, software companies, or telephone companies ever devised? Yet, that is our current elections system.
If you’ll check out the Federal Elections Commission’s official website, and look up their explanation about where your $3.00 go, if you check that box on your income tax return, you see that it refers to the Democratic and Republican parties, and to subsidizing the conventions of “the national parties,” but that there is no reference to independent candidates or to third parties…even though some have appeared on enough state ballots to have (technically) allowed for a majority of Electoral votes.
The commission that regulates presidential debates is not a government agency (though it might as well be, given its near total control). It is a 501(c)(3), i.e. tax exempt, corporation was a joint creation of the Democratic and Republican Parties (themselves private, non-governmental agencies), and continues to be their joint property. 501(c)(3) corporations cannot retain their tax exempt status if they become involve in partisan political activities, but there are allowed to sponsor voter education and to host public forums, which is how the Debate Commission supposedly qualifies.
Why “supposedly”? Because the Debate Commission has established criteria designed to guarantee that only the candidates nominated by its two corporate owners will be allowed to receive the critically important free publicity that presidential debates provide. For any other candidate to be allowed to participate, that candidate must poll at 15% or greater is national polls conduced by the five polling organizations specified by the commission, which means, if effect, the five polling organizations selected by the two corporations that do not want any additional competition. Moreover, the Commission (i.e. the two corporations/parties) do not even pressure, let alone require, that any of the polling organizations EVEN INCLUDE the names of any additional parties or candidates (in 2012, only 10% of the relevant polls included a name other than those of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama).
Of course, without the exposure that debates provide, without the opportunity for matching funds or subsidies for their conventions, etc., third party candidates have almost no chance or scoring 15% in five national polls…assuming all five polling organizations even deign to include them. Does anyone think that result, i.e. being left with virtually no chance in Hell, is just a coincidence?
Here’s a scary thought- what if we had public campaign financing and large contributions were completely banned? Wouldn’t that, in effect, result in paid advertising for anyone but a Democrat or Republican becoming a criminal offense? No WONDER there is so much support for the idea!
There currently is a pending anti-trust lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission, filed by the Libertarian Party and the Green Party (an example of a very different type of “bipartisanship” than usually is discussed). Their argument is that a “national party” should be any party that qualifies for enough state (and D.C.) ballots to represent a majority of Electoral votes. The also argue that the same criterion should apply to participation in the presidential debates.
Please note that the Libertarian will be on far more state ballots (as many as all 50, plus the District) than the Green Party, and has received more votes in past elections. Nevertheless, the are advocating rules that might benefit the Greens as much or more than their own party. Why would they do that? Apparently, because they regard it as a fair, reasonable, and principled position, rather than one that would give them a special advantage. Please compare and contrast to the approaches of the Republican and Democratic Parties.
“Too big to fail” is bad enough. “So big that no one else will be allowed a chance” is even worse.