RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., March 2, 2012 – Last week’s column (Politics won’t be a team sport when I’m President) exposed how the Parties manipulate their Presidential candidates in a manner that virtually precludes the candidates from exercising any independent judgment or having any meaningful impact (if elected). While the candidates are effectively required to “sell their souls” to their respective Parties, they are not alone. For all of their braggadocio, the Parties are not the source of power they pretend to be. They are only the cheerleaders.
The real power lies within the grasp of those who would treat our Government as if it were a marionette; pulling strings to get what they want. These are the people who receive prestigious (and often unwarranted) political appointments at taxpayer expense. These are the people whose companies (or investments) receive “inappropriate” appropriations of taxpayer money. These are the people who gain direct access to the President to try to shape policy decisions in a way that is favorable to them (again, at taxpayer expense).
This is not an indictment of our current President. It is not a problem that is limited to a particular political Party. It is an epidemic that has infected our political system and is killing a core value of our country: the one that states that “all men are created equal.”
There can be no “equality” when a small number of individuals are allowed to buy political preferences that inure to their personal benefit as opposed to the “general Welfare of the United States” as specified by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution.
The problem is predominantly driven by money, although not completely. There are exceptions that provide appointments, appropriations, and access in return for blind Party allegiance. In effect, such “perks” are offered as rewards for those who have demonstrated their willingness to serve their Party in an obedient and submissive way.
However, those who gain favor through their obsequiousness to the Party pose a relatively minor threat to our democratic Republic. They take what they are given by the Parties. They don’t demand anything. Those who pave their way with money are far more aggressive.
To be clear, this isn’t to suggest that the class-baiting tactic of the Democrats is a fair representation of the problem either. It isn’t.
It is correct to assume that those who are in a position to influence political decisions through the infusion of money are, by definition, comparatively rich. However, it is a complete and intentional misrepresentation to imply that all rich people are somehow evil. The truth is that it is a relatively small cadre of individuals who routinely trade our Nation’s best interests to achieve their own personal goals.
If either Party wants to lump these individuals into a generic category, perhaps they should be lumped with Government officials. After all, many of our elected representatives have established a personal net worth of well into the millions of dollars on a salary of $174 thousand a year. Of course, they do not have to comply with the health care or retirement programs they have prescribed for the rest of us; they travel around the world on political junkets at our expense; and, until recently, they had even granted themselves an exception to “insider trading” laws.
The real problem isn’t tied to a class of individuals but rather to the Party paradigm that has fostered this corrupt environment. Keep in mind that someone trying to buy “favor” can only be successful if someone is willing to sell it.
The Parties use money as a barrier to entry to preclude other parties and independent candidates from being able to compete on an equal playing field. Do you remember the phrase, “All men are created equal?” The Parties do everything within their power to make sure that the concept doesn’t apply to your choice of candidates.
As a result, the Parties have an insatiable appetite for maintaining and expanding their power, and it is fed by money. Since they create nothing of value themselves, they are obligated to forage for the money and barter your Liberty for it.
The only way to correct the problem is to address it directly: create a campaign that is insulated from the influence of money.
A legitimate question is: How is this even possible?
The answer is that it wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. The advancement of social media is the key.
To understand the power of the social network, you only need to reflect upon three recent phenomena: the TEA Party, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Arab Spring.
Despite traditional Party attacks designed to squelch the TEA Party movement (i.e., everything from dismissing it as “Astroturf” to characterizing its members as stupid and violent, and even calling them Nazis), the movement was able to leverage social media not only to survive but to have an overwhelming impact on the 2010 mid-term elections.
Similarly, Party attacks were launched against the Occupy Wall Street movement (i.e., everything from dismissing it as “union-controlled” to characterizing its members as lazy and violent, and even calling them Socialists). Still, the movement was able to leverage social media to continue to this day.
As an aside: are you detecting a trend yet when it comes to the Parties?
The Arab Spring was the ultimate litmus test. This movement was challenged with “sticks and stones” as opposed to “names.” People died. Yet, the first step of the movement succeeded because of social media.
So, a heavy emphasis on social media is essential.
In the case of my candidacy, I need people to visit the links at the end of this article every single day. I need them to “Like,” “Share,” “Favorite,” “Re-Tweet,” “Subscribe,” and “Comment” on a regular basis.
Then, cast a vote for me at Americans Elect by clicking on “Support” and “Track.” This is a new vehicle through which an independent candidate can be placed on every State’s Presidential ballot without having to spend tens of millions of dollars to do so.
These actions will send a strong message to the Parties. To quote the fictional news anchor, Howard Beale, in the brilliant movie Network, you’ll essentially be saying: “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
The establishment of a growing viral base will also force the media to begin to cover the story; something that Party “media buys” will otherwise preclude from happening (see last week’s column). Once that happens, you can look forward to an entirely different type of debate: one that’s based upon substantive discussion rather than character assassination.
To definitively eliminate the influence of money, I have voluntarily limited contributions to a maximum of $100 per eligible voter. While that may seem to be a simple statement, it has a complex impact.
First: I wanted to establish a level of contribution that would preclude any inference of undue monetary influence. One hundred dollars accomplishes that goal. If you contribute $100, you should not stand by your phone waiting for a call that appoints you as an Ambassador.
Second: I wanted the dollar amount to be within the grasp of every American. While $100 is an incredibly significant amount to those who are without means, it is an amount they can save over time if they feel passionate about the cause. I think that our poorest citizens deserve to have the same level of political influence as the Warren Buffets of our country.
Third: compare my $100 cap to what each Party candidate can accept. Under FEC Regulations, a candidate may accept $2,500 for the Primary Election and $2,500 for the General Election cycles, and they aggressively do so.
At this point, you might ask: “How do Party candidates regularly hold $35,800-a-plate-dinners?”
The candidate’s Campaign Committee retains $2,500 for the Primary Election cycle and another $2,500 for the General Election cycle. The remaining $30,800 is deposited with the Party’s National Campaign Committee (with $30,800 being the maximum limit permitted by law). Now, guess who benefits from the National Campaign Committee’s use of those funds?
Why do Party candidates need so much money? It’s because they believe they can buy the election.
The candidates and their Parties will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads. They will interrupt your meals with robocalls and inundate your home with unsolicited campaign literature. They will post billboards, bumper stickers, and yard signs everywhere the eye can see, and they will raffle dinners with the candidate and sell t-shirts, mugs, and pens on their websites.
They do this because we allow it. We have become conditioned to accept whatever the Parties do. Their ads offer no solutions; their robocalls and literature are all self-serving; their billboards, bumper stickers, and yard signs are devoid of any substance and are an insult to our intelligence; and their carnival and gift shop approach to the Presidency is demeaning to the Office.
It’s time to say, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Here’s my commitment to you. I’m not going to waste any time or money on the advertising gimmicks the Parties use to manipulate your vote. Instead, I will use that time and money to advance the substantive discussion of solutions to our Nation’s problems; solutions that are in the best interests of the People rather than a political Party.
Next, you may have noticed that I limited contributions to “eligible voters.” Only people can vote. Therefore, in my opinion, only people should be able to contribute to political campaigns. I do not need a Supreme Court ruling to tell me what the right thing to do is, and based on Citizens United, I wouldn’t want one.
While corporations, unions, and other special interest organizations are precluded by the FEC from contributing directly to campaigns, they are allowed to form PACs and contribute through them. This implies that an entity is able to accurately represent the positions of its members, which is clearly a fictional assertion.
More importantly, there is no need for the fiction to exist. Every member has the right to represent him or herself. They can cast their own votes, and they can pledge their own money. There is no need for an organization to “redistribute the wealth” (to use a popular phrase).
Limiting contributions to eligible voters, as I have, has an additional nuance.
There are several Party candidates who purport not to accept PAC money. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly telling you the whole story. Are you familiar with the term “money laundering?” If so, this will make perfect sense.
While it’s true that these candidates’ personal Campaign Committees don’t accept PAC money, their Party’s National Committees eagerly accept it and spend it on behalf of such candidates. The candidates’ Campaign Committees also routinely accept contributions from other campaign committees, who, you guessed it, accept money from PACs.
By limiting contributions to my campaign to those made by eligible voters, my Campaign Committee cannot directly or indirectly receive any contributions from PACs. Therefore, corporations, unions, and other special interest organizations have absolutely no way of influencing my decision-making now or in the future.
Finally, let’s discuss what happens to residual campaign funds (at least within the context of campaigns that are managed in a fiscally responsible manner rather than run into a deficit position).
The Party tradition is to save those funds to (1) launch re-election campaigns; and (2) to distribute those funds to a variety of other candidates’ campaign committees to help them pay down deficits, position themselves for re-election runs, etc. The second element has political strings attached whether stated or unstated. Endorsements, votes on bills, “taking one for the team,” etc. are the currency traded for this magnanimous sharing of the wealth.
Conversely, I will be using an obscure provision of the FEC Regulations that the Parties generally choose to ignore. I will be donating any residual campaign funds to three worthy charities: (1) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help children who are suffering from catastrophic disease; (2) The Dreyfuss Initiative, which focuses on returning civics to the curriculum of our schools and fostering an environment of civil debate and critical thought (two extremely important skills in which our educational process is currently deficient in addressing); and (3) Wounded Warrior Project because we owe them a debt we can never adequately repay.
I have structured my campaign to return the Office of President of the United States to the stature it deserves; to insulate it from Party pressure so that independent judgment can be exercised on behalf of the People; and to secure it from the corrupting influence of money that unjustly favors the few over the many.
The Presidency shouldn’t be for sale, and it shouldn’t go to the highest bidder.
If you’re ready to yell, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore,” I need your help.
Most people find the time to send political jokes and e-mails on a daily basis. If you truly care about our country, please redirect some of that time to something that can make a difference. In the time it takes to click on a few websites and share them with your friends, you can send a message to the Parties and help me begin to return America to the People.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A President for the People, in the Communities section of The Washington Times.