After reviewing what the Alliance Party seeks to accomplish in general terms, the next area we’ll consider is how it would reform our elections to ensure they can’t easily be corrupted by wealthy interests. This comes through making our election systems more accessible and more transparent, a proposed direction that is based on a four-part mindset.
- To be a representative democracy, anyone should be able to run for office on the strength of their ideas – not external factors like money or political connections.
- Elections are an important process, and as such should be as accessible as possible to the voting public.
- All election campaigns for public office must be funded only by public money. Third party promotion/advocacy of a campaign or candidate can still be funded by private money, but would come with more stringent transparency requirements that we'll get into shortly.
- Once elected, the leadership of the Alliance Party within legislatures should be determined by democratic vote, as opposed to seniority or political connections.
The Alliance Party proposes to build a better electoral system in deference of these requirements through six core measures:
Measure One: An Official Election Exam
In our society today, you need to take and pass an exam for a good deal of things. You need to pass an exam to enter college or graduate school, and thereafter, an exam to earn a license to become a doctor, lawyer, electrician, plumber or even a hairstylist.
However, you don’t presently need to take an exam to run for office.
That is something the Alliance Party would change through a proposed Official Election Exam, which would be a test that every prospective candidate would take before running for office, with the results posted for public review.
Each question within this test would have definitively correct answers, and would cover material from government structure, the Constitution, history, geography and general knowledge on science, technology and the humanities. If you’re seeking to run our government and society, I think you ought to demonstrate your knowledge about government and society to the people who will be impacted most by your job performance.
In this model, the Official Election Exam would serve two primary functions:
First: Inform the public of how knowledgeable candidates are on the subjects they will be passing laws on – a question that should carry far more weight than it does presently. Voters should have unbiased data to assess a candidate’s aptitude to represent their interests in government – they shouldn’t be forced to rely solely on PR spin, flashy television ads and sound bites.
Second: Determine the order of presentation in debates and election ballots, as opposed to alphabetical order by last name – the way candidates usually appear today. In this model, candidates that scored highest on the exam would appear first, and would descend based on score. This way, voters would initially see and consider the best and brightest first.
This test wouldn't be mandatory, but it doesn’t need to be, either. If a candidate wants to explain to the public (most of whom must take tests to get hired for work) why the same is somehow beneath them, they’re free to do so. But as poor leadership is perhaps shown clearest through hypocrisy, we're content to let that action speak for itself.
Measure Two: Extend & Expand Voting
Today, Election Day is just that – one day. You usually don’t get the day off from work, you must go to polling places and wait in lines that are often hours long to vote, and if you can’t make it on that day, you don’t vote. This discourages and excludes many people from our election processes, diluting the quality of our democracy.
There are varied reasons as to why as this is the case, but one among them is that our political establishment does not necessarily want it to be easy for you to vote, especially if you are poor or a minority. This is unacceptable. The Alliance Party proposes the following measures to solve this problem:
- Make Presidential and midterm election periods one week long, allowing the most people possible to vote. We’ll refer to this period as “voting week.”
- Expand early and mail-in voting to three weeks before voting week. Vote counting would not begin until voting week ends.
- Make the last day of voting week a national holiday, so the most Americans possible have the day off from work to vote.
- Establish a tax penalty for most companies larger than 100 employees for staying open on the last day of voting week.
- To encourage voting, the Alliance Party would propose a small income tax reduction to anyone who voted in a Presidential or federal midterm election.
- Through act of Congress, the Alliance Party would seek that all states register eligible voters automatically upon the issuance of any state ID.
Additionally, for future elections the Alliance Party would propose that feasibility studies be conducted to research online voting, which with modern encryption and two-factor authentication, can meet the toughest security standards available. If implementation proves viable, this is an approach the party would consider promoting.
Measure Three: Publicly Funded Elections
If there were a single cause as to why our government and society have been corrupted to the degree we see presently, it’s the fact that wealthy interests have the ability to legally bribe our elected representatives through “campaign contributions.” These interests can spend billions of dollars to fund election campaigns, we can’t, thus they purchase influence over our interests at will.
To change this, the Alliance Party would institute a legal framework that would mandate that all election campaigns for public office be funded exclusively from public money, prohibiting candidates from accepting third-party funds.
Third-parties would be free to spend their own money to promote a candidate or cause as they desired by their own volition, but they must do so under an honor rule. That means all political speech promoted by a third party (or donations to that effort) must be fluidly transparent. In short, anyone promoting a third-party message must sign their name to it - and do so conspicuously.
If Mark Cuban wants to buy a few million dollars worth of airtime advertisements promoting a candidate, he has a sacrosanct First Amendment right to do that. But in exercise of that right, Mr. Cuban must sign his name to any advertisements he pays for so that the public knows that he is the solicitor of the message they are seeing. He wouldn't be able to, for example, pay his secretary to run the advertisement under her name - in this model, that would be a crime.
This model places no limits on the amount of money individuals can spend on advertisements they personally sign their name to. However, this model would limit the amount of money individuals could donate to Political Action Committees to $2,500. If they wish to spend private money promoting a candidate or initiative beyond that, they must pay for personally solicited advertisements.
Corporations would have higher restrictions. If Pfizer wants to run an ad promoting a candidate with pro-pharma leanings, their opinions shouldn't be muzzled. But without exception, in our model every political advertisement they buy in every form must have “A message from the Pfizer corporation” conspicuously posted. Moreover, corporations would be limited in the amount of money they could spend during an election cycle. Corporations would be prohibited from donating to Political Action Committees. They could spend up to $1 million for advertisements that they sign their name to.
For Political Action Committees, any donor over $500 must be conspicuously listed on the committee website. All advertisements must provide clear notifications directing people to where this list can be found (such as a URL).
Laws would remain that prohibit interactions between election campaigns and Political Action Committees or third party promotions. Indeed, they'd be strengthened. The Alliance Party supports the First Amendment right of Americans to voice their opinions, and is not in the business of preventing corporations from speaking their mind either. We all benefit from more voices in the room, and if a voice is louder by way of financial means, so long as the public knows exactly who or what is behind that voice - we're OK with that.
But as all elections are funded by public money in this model, should a candidate collude with a third-party promotion effort, that would be a felony offense. Cheating the American public is never acceptable, and we would seek criminal penalties that hammer home that message.
With this said, the framework the Alliance Party proposes to publicly fund elections is as follows:
Estimated election cost and spending cap: When we go over the Alliance Party’s proposed overhaul of bureaucratic structure (Chapter 16), we’ll see mention of an entity called the Federal Elections Service, which is the consolidation of all election-related agencies at the federal level. One of its primary duties would be to estimate the costs of elections for a given level of government in a given region, and issue public money to pay for them (cutting the present defense budget by 1% would more than cover the total expense of this effort).
This would work coming through something we’ll call a “maximum estimated cost” – which is a cap of how much public money would be available to finance the election.
This cap would be determined by a few factors:
First, it would take the average amount of money each candidate of each major political party spent the previous three election cycles (which includes primary elections). Taking the highest average, it would multiply it by one and a half times (150%) to create the cap. That’s not how much public money would be issued for the election, but the maximum amount that could go to each candidate.
To help explain how this would work with the two main political parties today, take a look at the following table detailing expenditures for a sample election to Congress:
|Republican Candidate||Democratic Candidate|
Taking the higher average ($85,000) and multiplying it by 150% comes to $127,500 which would stand as the spending cap for that election. Now, let’s apply this same scenario to a sample Senate election:
|Republican Candidate||Democratic Candidate|
Average: $1.01 million
Taking the higher average ($1.01 million) and multiplying it by 150% comes to $1.51 million which would stand as the capped amount of public money made available to run for Senator in that state.
Once again, this isn’t how much money will be made available; it’s the total amount that could possibly be made available. This difference is important, and we’ll get to why shortly within other proposals to campaign finance.
Ballot qualification standards. Today, candidates for election require a set number of signatures in order to qualify for ballot placement. While states vary in their own requirements, the Alliance Party would propose a national standard to qualify for ballot placement for national elections.
To run for a House seat, a campaign would be required to collect a number of signatures equal to 2% of the registered voters in their district. For a Senate seat, the campaign would be required to collect a number of signatures equal to 2% of the state. For the Presidency, the campaign would be required to collect a total of 100,000 signatures from voters in at least 4 states.
It's important to note that in this model, public funds are not issued for the purpose of gaining signatures; this process must be self-funded and is the only aspect of the election campaign that would involve private funds. The reasoning behind setting the bar this high is to exclude non-serious individuals from running. It also ensures that public funds are only issued to candidates who have demonstrated both that seriousness, and enough support from the public that their candidacy can be considered viable.
Yet the bar is not set so high that it excludes the non-wealthy, allowing anyone who has demonstrated the seriousness of intent on running to do so.
Stages of election and release of funds. Once a candidate has qualified for an election, their campaign would be eligible to receive public money to fund their campaign. And it’s essential to note that this isn’t a government employee who shows up with a check. Rather, the money goes into a bank account that is provided and funded by the Federal Election Service, which we’ll call the Candidate Election Account.
By law, this account would be the only funding source a candidate’s campaign could use for any election-related expenditure: paying salaries, buying ads, transportation, etc. This will become important in the context of public accounting for election funds, which we’ll get to momentarily.
Upon qualification, a candidate would be able to receive public money to run for nomination by their own party. This would be no more than ½ of the maximum estimated cost of the election as determined above. Any funds not spent during the primary election can be saved for use in the general election, should the candidate win.
Once a candidate wins their primary, the remaining 50% of the maximum estimated cost of their election would be made available to spend in their campaign in accordance with all applicable laws.
Public accounting for funds. A founding principle of the Alliance Party is transparency and accountability for public service. That mindset is at the core of its proposed mechanisms for campaign finance reform.
Because each candidate could only use one bank account by law, the Federal Election Service would compile all financial activity surrounding Candidate Election Accounts on a weekly basis, and make all reports publicly available. This data would include what was spent, where it was spent, how it was spent and who received the expenditure.
This provides the public with a detailed insight toward how a candidate approaches fiscal responsibility, giving no small indication on what their financial mindset would be if elected. Actions speak louder than words, and forcing transparency in this regard gives the public more truth about the people running to represent them than empty talk ever could.
It also shows vision into the spending priorities of campaigns. Are you spending money to travel to meet voters? Or on attack ads and meetings with power brokers? Are you showing up for photo opportunities? Or to actually have a discussion with the electorate? Eric Cantor’s campaign spent $168,000 at steakhouses. Think he’d get elected if that expenditure were on his Candidate Election Account balance sheet? Exactly. Which is exactly why this measure is needed.
But it’s also worth calling out that controversy will abound at this, due primarily for “privacy” of the candidate. Simply stated: not good enough. When one runs for office they run to be public servants – servants and stewards of the common good. We have every right to transparently assess their competence and leadership qualities apart from spin or rhetoric. If you want to work to serve society and manage our future interests, society should have the ability to assess your qualities transparently.
Measure Four: Reform Committee Placement
Today, the true meat of Congressional legislation comes from legislative committees that have jurisdiction over specific areas. The Budget Committee determines the federal budget. The Ways and Means Committee determines tax rates. The Intelligence Committee conducts oversight of America’s intelligence establishment (in theory). Placement in these committees is the true source of a legislator’s power, and placement is presently determined by their political party leadership, who are generally the most senior and/or most politically connected members.
So if you’re a sitting legislator and want to maximize your visibility or ability to pass high-profile legislation, you need to toe the party line and abide by the wishes of your party’s leadership. If you don’t, you get delegated to some insignificant committee, or worse, have party funding withheld from you should another candidate seek to challenge you for your seat in a primary election.
This is a major reason why special interests and lobbyists are so effective at passing their agenda: they don’t need to buy off every congressman. Instead, they just need to buy off a party leader or committee chairman, as they have the ability to direct subordinates to vote accordingly. That should not be acceptable to a healthy democracy, and the Alliance Party would seek to prevent this occurrence through fluidly democratic committee appointments.
Here’s how that would work: at the start of every Congress (every two years), legislators (whether in House or Senate), would announce candidacy for placement on a given committee. They would make a pitch to their colleagues, who would then vote. The most votes for the committee seat wins. In the event of a tie, the winner goes to the highest score on the Official Election Exam (if identical scores, leader of the chamber would decide).
Once on the committee, internal committee leadership would also be determined by democratic vote. The chair of the committee would be selected by the committee members, with the legislator winning the most votes becoming committee chair for the remainder of the congressional session.
After this structure is in place, any issues the committee takes up would be determined democratically as well – if the members of a committee vote to consider an issue for the passage of law, the committee does so. If not, then the issue is not considered.
For congressional inquiries and testimony, the order in which legislators ask questions would also no longer be determined on seniority, but rather score on Official Election Exam, with the highest-scoring members having the privilege of asking the first questions.
This restructuring of congressional committees helps force transparency and democracy within Congress. As committees are extremely important – yet very rarely focused on, they have become a lounge for the corrupting influences in our society to wield undue influence. Seniority and stature are not as important as democracy based on the quality of ideas and the effectiveness of our elected leaders to promote them. People, not politics, needs to be the focus of our government, and that focus is what this measure intends to drive.
Measure Five: Democratic Party Leadership
Rather than have an individual leader of the party, or have the party direction be run by the currently elected representatives in Congress, the Alliance Party would be run by a council of individuals that are referred to within this model as the Roundtable Council.
This council would be comprised of nine individuals who are elected by party members. The purpose of this council is to ensure that the party stays both transparent and true to its mandate. It would have the authority to make changes to the official party platform, adopt new positions to the platform, or make any decision warranting of party leadership.
Any party member would be eligible to run for a council seat, and the nine members would be chosen from the top nine individuals with the most votes (with one exception, mentioned shortly below). Each of these members would serve four-year terms, and would be elected every presidential election cycle. As the council’s power is limited, there are no term limits on council seats.
As a council of equal votes, issues are decided by simple majority, requiring a two-thirds majority if the vote involves a change in party platform. Quorum would be maintained by the council chairman, an individual council member who is elected by other council members to serve that role for a four-year term, minus one caveat that’s explained shortly below.
The powers of the chairman are only to apply internal council rules and set the direction and procedure of council debates, and can be overruled by other council members by a majority vote. This is the party’s defense mechanism against corrupting influences, and by favoring a consular structure over an individual leader, it reduces the possibility of power going to someone’s head.
In effect, this works to ensure that the party platform and its responsibility to the people to operate effectively and transparently are sufficiently respected. In that mention, the Roundtable Council will have one permanent seat, and that is where my role in this equation comes in.
My role in the Alliance Party will be to serve in the Roundtable Council as the lone permanent member. As the party launches, I will serve as council chairman and appoint eight other individuals to sit on the council and help the party achieve its intended goals. The time period before the council opens up to general elections from party members will be 10 years from the date the first candidate runs in a national election. From there, council members would be seated by popular vote, and council chairmanship would be determined by council members as described above.
The reasoning for this is rooted in the recognition of the realities of our political dynamic today. In architecting the Alliance Party, I am sitting on the council in an initial leadership role, and thereafter as a permanent member, because it allows me to ensure that the party stays true to its mandate without wielding power or political office. I have patently zero interest in running for office, and even less interest in harnessing power over people.
Power and political office are corrupting influences. They cloud your vision and they induce one to act out of selfishness as opposed to altruism. History is littered with graveyards of good intentions killed by the pursuit of power, and I will never let the Alliance Party or Universal Energy share that fate. I would be a special kind of stupid to think I am somehow immune from the corrupting effects of power, so as I see it, the only way to avoid its negative influences is to never seek it in the first place.
But I’m also aware that many past movements (Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street) started off with good intentions but were quickly either co-opted or corrupted by outside interests. Not only is the Alliance Party arriving to pick a fight with two of the largest, most seasoned and well-connected dirty fighters in existence, it’s picking a fight with both of them at the same time. Recognizing that financial influence will dominate politics until our goals are accomplished, it should be expected that outside interests will try to undermine us.
To prevent this from happening, that is why the initial council will be appointed by me and their positions will last for 10 years before council seats are determined by general election. If we haven’t gotten strong enough by that time to rebuff dirty tricks from the establishment, we likely never will. It is also why my seat on the council will be permanent. Retaining a voice on the council gives me influence without power, allowing me to speak honestly without being able to direct authoritatively. And while my seat is guaranteed, I myself can be overruled by the party through democratic vote – which is the way it should be. All good things are built off teamwork, so thus is the American Alliance Party.
Measure Six: Iterative Platform Development
Over time, the Alliance Party platform may need to shift to incorporate new ideas or respond to unforeseen events. Obviously no plan is without its setbacks, and as Mike Tyson once said “everyone’s got a plan ‘till you get punched in the face,” I’d say all the more true with what we intend to do.
But the solution we're proposing can’t be changed into a bait and switch, as it can only be adopted based on people’s willingness to adopt it. That’s why it’s critical that what we’re selling remains what we’re selling, so people know exactly what to expect when they vote for us. That’s what transparency looks like. In deference of this, the Roundtable Council works to ensure that the party doesn’t shift the platform unless the people make it clear they want it shifted.
After the 10-year period has passed, on an annual basis thereafter, the Roundtable Council will issue an open-submission forum to have party members submit issues they would like to see the platform incorporate. The top issues by vote will be selected for consideration by the party, and the party members would debate these issues and discuss solutions to them in an open forum.
From there, the Roundtable Council would aggregate the points of this discussion and research the feasibility of any suggested solutions, and would compile a public outline on how it proposes to address these problems. Each proposed solution would list specific deliverables, functions and goals so that the public has a clear idea of what we intend to do. Once proposed, the party members would vote on adopting these measures, and if the majority votes affirmatively, these goals would be incorporated on the party platform.
This allows the party platform to develop iteratively. The current 12-point platform is version 1.0. Should the party be adopted slightly, it would be version 1.1, then 1.2, etc. If significantly, 2.0, and so on. This allows us to keep track of any changes to the party platform, and ensure changes to it are not made hastily, but prudently.