John Hood of the Carolina Journal has been away for a few days, and from the smarmy quality of today's column, he's probably been out groveling at the knee of Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope. Why else would he devote 600 words to the issue of fair and honest elections, without once mentioning how the Puppetmaster is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the North Carolina Legislature? It's Dishonest John at his best and worst - misdirecting and double-talking all the way home. First off, of course, Hood hits us with a red herring about the issue of public financing for elections . . .
For one thing, voters and taxpayers are not synonymous. Many taxpayers don’t vote. Some voters have essentially no net tax liability, when you compare what they pay to what they receive in government transfer payments. Unless the proposal is to charge people for the privilege of voting, and use the proceeds to finance campaigns, it is improperly named (and, of course, such a policy would be unconstitutional and absurd).
What clap-trap! It's often hard to take Hood seriously, but with this kind of silliness, it's hard to take him at all.
For another thing, despite the not-so-sly inference, current elections are not “owned” by private donors exercising their freedom to associate with and support the candidates and causes of their choice. Elections are complicated events, affected by a range of individual and collective actions. To suggest that their outcomes are dictated by the “well-heeled” and other groups bearing quasi-Marxist labels is to misstate reality. Money obviously plays a role in allowing some campaigns to communicate effectively with voters – remember, that’s what campaign cash is, a resource converted into political speech – but other campaigns with large amounts of cash still fall short. Beware of simplistic explanations here. News-media coverage of candidates also plays a significant role in political outcomes. Does that make them “media-owned elections”?
This is where an honest Libertarian would at least blush at the gaping hole in the discussion. By refusing to even fairly discuss his boss's (the Puppetmaster) illegal intrustion into North Carolina electoral politics, Hood reveals his true colors. Because despite all his rhetoric about freedom and liberty and fairness and integrity, he stands complicit in fostering corporate-owned elections, with the corporations in this case being the retail empire of Art Pope.
Finally and predictably, Hood falls back on one of the never-ending stream of John Locke Foundation "reports" to back his lame arguments. If you've paid any attention at all, you've noticed that these JLF "reports" are little more than ideological screeds backed up by a few data points cherry-picked to support whatever the Puppetmaster wishes.
As my JLF colleague Daren Bakst put it in a recent report on the subject, to force North Carolinians to finance the candidacies of individuals with whom they disagree, or perhaps even find abhorrent, is “constitutionally problematic and at a minimum unethical.” Yet some cite the 2002 legislation as a precedent for a new plan to import “voter-owned elections” into other races, including the state legislature itself.
Constitutionally problematic and unethical? Yep, that's the brilliant conclusion of the "report," which has fewer legs to stand on that the Pope Puppet who wrote it in the first place.
To take the "report" to it's logical and ridiculous conclusion, government could never spend taxes on anything whatsover. For example, I genuinely abhor the fact that my taxes to the federal government are going to fund Bush's War in Iraq. I despise the fact that Art Pope is getting a tax break (which my taxes are making up for) for giving money to a 527 organization that is illegally involved in electioneering. And I am appalled that my taxes are going to support 'abstinence only' education, which has been proven worse than useless when it comes to the sexual health of adolescents.
Follow Hood's so-called logic and you'll end up with a government that can do nothing. Which is exactly what the Republicans he shills for would like to see happen.
PS For more on Voter Owned Elections, check out this thread, with lots of links and discussion.