Thursday, May 06, 2004

Missing the Boat Down on the Bayou (or Making More Room on the Flag Anyway)

A feeble campaign finance reform bill got stalled in the Lousiana Senate yesterday. (You can do a bill search here for House Bill 1015 for text of the bill.) The bill essentially would prohibit state legislators and other statewide officials from receiving campaign contributions while in legislative session, extending that period for an additional thirty days for the governor. Proponents of the bill say it is designed to ensure that the citizens of Louisiana have confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the legislative process.

This is a typical brand of campaign finance reform which serves more as smokescreen than solution. Legislators and policymakers throw around big words like democracy and impartiality in touting tepid reforms, all the while avoiding any real steps to ensure that folks with lots of money don't have a greater say in government than folks with not so much money. What the Louisiana bill does is pretty much the same as telling legislators they can't take money on weekends, and asking the citizens of Louisiana to believe that this will prevent any weekday contributions from having undue influence on the political process.

Give me a break. The way to keep the influence of big money out of our political system is to keep big money out of our political system, regardless of when it's given. And the best way to do that is to ensure the amount of money anybody can give to politicians is an amount that everybody can give. The Louisiana flag lists the state motto as "Union, Justice, and Confidence." As long as the Louisiana legislature tries to pass off bogus reforms as giving the average citizen his or her rightful voice in government, the folks in the Pelican state will have to be content with "Union."

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