Not One Dime

NOT ONE DIME….Tired of wimpy proposals for cleaning up the corruption mess in Congress? In the March issue of the Washington Monthly, James Carville and Paul Begala offer up their red-meat version of campaign finance reform:

First, we raise congressional pay big time. Pay ’em what we pay the president: $400,000….In return, we get a simple piece of legislation that says members of Congress cannot take anything of value from anyone other than a family member. No lunches, no taxi rides. No charter flights. No golf games. No ski trips. No nothing.

And when it is campaign time, incumbents would be under a complete ban on raising money. You read that right. No president or member of Congress could accept a single red cent from individuals, corporations, or special interests. Period.

Challengers, on the other hand, would be allowed to raise money in any amount from any individual American citizen or political action committee. No limits, just as the free-market conservatives have always wanted….The day after you disclose [a contribution], the U.S. Treasury would credit the incumbent’s campaign account with a comparable sum ? say 80 percent of the contribution to the challenger to take into account the cost of all the canap?s and Chardonnay the challenger had to buy to raise his funds as well as the incumbent’s advantage.

There are more details, so read the whole thing before you raise technical objections ? of which there are plenty. However, Carville and Begala think that it may be possible to bulldoze through these problems simply because modern fundraising is such a degrading, soul-destroying pursuit for members of Congress. “You should never underestimate how much these folks hate spending half their time ? or more ? sniveling for money.”

I don’t know if their plan would work, but I’d sure like to see congressional Dems put something like this on the table. It’s going to be hard to get any serious attention from anything less, and practical or not, at least it gets us talking about the core issue instead of arguing over minutiae like toothless travel bans and meaningless extensions of “cooling down” periods.

So let’s talk. What do you think?

POSTSCRIPT: This proposal is from Taking It Back, Carville and Begala’s new book. You can order it here.