Ten outside-the-box campaign reform ideas

President-elect Trump is outside the box in just about every thing he does. Good, bad, or horrendous, the fact is, we’re living in unprecedented times. It’s time we all get out of our respective boxes and think very differently. With a mis-leader who campaigned on breaking rules, we need lots of brainstorms to find outside-the-box responses and solutions. I’d like to start with campaign reform ideas. Not just campaign finance reform– but the entire campaign process.
First, the costs. It’s not just global temperatures setting record highs in 2016. As of two weeks post election, the 2016 presidential campaign season is estimated to have cost in the neighborhood of  $6.6 billion.  Since corporations were symbolically gifted with personhood by our Supreme Court, campaign spending has skyrocketed faster and higher than the cost of healthcare, GDP, and income, as Time Magazine reported. Unprecedented in American history.


Courtesy, Time Magazine.

From the letter to the Spirit of the Law

Inside the box, for years conventional wisdom has been to focus has been on the letter of the law. For a change, let’s look instead at the spirit of the law—it’s overall purpose and intent.
The founders of the United States designed a system to prevent corruption specifically by preventing consolidation of power. Lots of people today are saying we should eliminate the electoral college. But actually, what happened this year is the result of decades of elimination of checks and balances on power, moving us closer to a true democracy, and a direct election. A hundred years ago, there were no primaries. If we eliminate the electoral college now, that will truly be the end of our democracy and morph straight into tyranny, just as Plato predicted. If its not already too late. But that’s another discussion.

The intention–the spirit of our U.S. election process–was to serve as a means of sourcing, vetting, and then electing good, qualified candidates for leadership. That’s what an election in a representative democracy is supposed to do. I’m certainly not saying it’s doing that now. Nor has it in years. But would you not agree – that is supposed to be the function and purpose of our democratic process? In non-Democratic societies, led by dictators, oligarchs, or Communists, where the voice of the people is suppressed, elections are purely a sham, just for show. And certainly that’s what the box we’re in these days is looking more and more like.
But it certainly is not what the Founders intended for us. The founders intended to unite the people, and keep us united, for generations.

Thinking now through the lens of the spirit of finding good, qualified candidates, and unity, as in the UNITED States of America, let’s superimpose a new paradigm onto our country. Just for this brainstorming session, let’s replace divisive terms like politics and politicians Instead of “with or against,” and “us versus them,” let’s use the “with” and the “us.” Let’s imagine we’re all one big family. Family members fight. Brothers and sisters argue. Sometimes there might be a feud, that maybe lasts a few years. But families always stick together in the end. Unless they are super dysfunctional. But since we’re trying to get outside of one dysfunctional box, let’s not imagine another. Let’s picture our nation, for a change, as a family that’s more on the functional side.

And believe it or not, there are such families out there, lots of them.

So how about, in this new paradigm, we the taxpaying voters are the Wise Elderly Grandparents. And our representatives in government—because of how they’ve been collectively behaving lately –they get the roll of our just-come-of-age teenage grandson, Sonny.
Why might the Grandparents say?

“What’s Sonny spendin’ all that cash on?”
“Good Lord, where’d he get all that money?”
“Where did it all go!? “
“Anything good coming out of it?”
“Did he make us proud? Or did he do some dang fool thing that’s gonna cost us more?”
“Where are his parents? What were they thinking??”

So those are the first questions to ask in brainstorming. $6.6 BILLION dollars? Good grief, is that really necessary? Particularly today, given easy access to low-cost, nearly free promotion spaces websites–couldn’t we source and vet good candidates better –with YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn? How many videos went viral in the past year — without spending a dime?

Did $6.6B put people to work, and strategically help grow our economy? Did it invest in our future—our children? Did it care for our veterans and elderly? Did it help repair our crumbling national park facilities, clean up lead in our pipes or Superfund sites, or rebuild our ailing bridges, electrical grid, or wifi infrastructure?  How about hiring a tutor to help us with our infrastracture grades —  we currently score as a dismal D+.


Or did $6.6B help out the growing number of states struggling with budget crises of their own?

What if, next time, we rewarded the guy or gal who spends the LEAST amount of money on a campaign–and without terrifying half the country with threats of bodily harm and to their families? What might that leader look like?

So, the question next is, how can we improve two things: the sourcing and vetting process of new candidates for elections, plus reduce the amount of money spent. Or use the money spent more wisely, more fairly, and more equitably? Something that doesn’t get the monkeys all riled.

An aside:  Want to stop all the protests? Treat the monkeys fairly. Really. Even monkeys will tell you that, as this 2:36 TED Talk excerpt shows.

In light of all these ideas questions in our brainstorming session, here are some election reform ideas I’ve come up with, for 2020.
Let me know if you come up with any more ideas.

Ten Outside-the-Box Election Reform Ideas

1) Election Spending Tax (EST). Every candidate and PAC gets charged a tax, dollar-for-dollar, equal to what they spend on producing and buying space in the media. (Sorry mass corporate media, after this year’s election, you deserve to lose ad revenue.)  We earmark that EST money for the states, reinstating that back-in-the-good-old-days idea from President Nixon called revenue sharing, to reduce local property taxes.

That $6.6 billion would provide $132M to each state. In Wisconsin, that would amount to $284,483 to each of our 464 school districts. Households in my district of 1,135 students would receive a property tax credit of between $150 to $250 per student.

If corporations really are people, and money equals political speech, then is it not fair that corporations should pay a tax on that privilege? I think a $250 stipend to every student in the country, for the privilege of “speaking” out to influence our elections, would be fair.

2) Set up Sister Districts. Years ago there used to be an organization called Wisconsin-Nicaragua Partners, which instituted this idea. Communities in Wisconsin “adopted” communities in Nicaragua. There were cultural exchanges and charitable giving. So why not do the same for our schools? Here in Wisconsin, there are a number of very wealthy suburbs. How about each of the wealthy school districts “adopt” a Sister District that’s not so wealthy. There could be cultural exchanges with potluck joint PTA meetings, fundraisers, mentor programs, and charitable giving. Let the wealthy district lend a helping hand to give the poorer district’s kids a hand up–not a hand out. Take them under the wing, lovingly, and teach them how to fly.

OK. This wasn’t a campaign reform idea. See what happens when you get outside the box? Other ideas happen.

3) Waive the tax for any low-budget videos featuring talking heads only–the candidate just speaking to voters, on camera, without high-priced, slick ad agencies. Prior to the 1960s, for nearly 200 years, that’s how all our candidates spoke–just facing the audience. Use technology to level the playing field for all challengers.

4) Shorten the election season to 6 months–90 days each for primary and general.
5) Limit terms of office by leveling the playing field for challengers. Establish a dedicated public broadcasting station, mirrored on cable, online, and published to YouTube, and give all candidates free equal airtime on that channel. (I don’t support arbitrarily term limits without including a clear method of recruiting new qualified candidates chosen by the people. Think we’ve had puppet candidates now?  Who will feed the mill of new candidates if we arbitrarily set term limits on members of Congress?)
6) Here’s an idea aimed at getting better quality leaders, who are more responsive to the people, and happier voters. For any federal election to be valid, require there to be at least 66% voter turnout in the general election. If there’s lackluster candidates and less than that turn out to vote, the encumbent admin goes into overtime, and a new primary election in 3 months followed by new general election 3 months after that–all new candidates required.
All salaries in Congress are frozen 2x the length of the overtime.
Maximum 2 overtime election attempts. After 3 strikes, if no worthy candidates can be drafted, the country reverts back to being a British colony, and all federal politicians are immediately subject to forfeiture of all worldy possessions including their homes and cars, requiring them to live homeless and start over from scratch–the penalty for dereliction of duty.
7)  Change the constitution to make our election days fall on a Saturday instead of a weekday. It would be a really simple, 1-word edit. Change second Thursday to second Saturday. Thanks to Bernie for this idea.
8) Automatically register all voters whenever people turn 18, and when they relocate. Another idea inspired by Bernie.
9) Hello. This is the 21st century. Create an online voting system.
10) Require all candidates to have a public LinkedIn profile. Let them compete on their actual qualifications for office, and let them make the case publicly, on LinkedIn. That’s what all the recruiters are using these days.

So there’s my brainstorm of an idea. What do you think?


Laurel Kashinn is a certified ghostwriter, resume writer, Orthodox Christian, student of A Course In Miracles, and mom living and writing in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
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