Over time, it has become clear that our government no longer works for us or our interests. It may try honestly in certain instances, but it is simply too financially compromised to work for anyone other than the players behind the billions of dollars that dominate campaign finance.
At best, this makes our government competent at great waste, and at worst, it actively undermines our future. For this reason, we cannot rely on laws alone to fix the problems we face, because laws can ultimately be bent or repealed to serve the interests of a corrupted government.
Our Constitution, however, enjoys supremacy over all other laws and thus is the most effective means of reclaiming our rights and ensuring that our governing functions work transparently for us. The Alliance Party proposes to add a series of additions to the Constitution, as amendments, that do just that. These amendments are designed to be limited in application to accomplish only the following goals:
- Prevent wealthy interests from corrupting government.
- Re-gain rights that were unjustly taken.
- Ensure mechanisms exist that can hold government accountable for its actions.
Written and reasoned in general terms, there are a total of seven:
Private money in politics is the root of all corruption and the practice of allowing it needs to stop. This addition would mandate that all elections be publicly funded and would prohibit any candidate from accepting money from outside sources. As we saw last chapter, even a 1% reduction in the annual defense budget would be more than enough to fund every election in this country. This would put an end to the continual courting of influence by wealthy donors and would force elected officials to concentrate on their constituents because there isn’t a financial incentive to do otherwise.
This addition does a few important things. First, it enforces transparency in the external promotion of political candidates. Funding elections only with public money solves just half of the problem; it does nothing to stop wealthy interests from promoting their agendas on their own behalf. Nor does it stop them from donating to Political Action Committees.
If you recall from the oft-discussed Citizens United decision, a Political Action Committee is a legal entity that pools financial contributions from its members and spends them on promotion efforts for a candidate or political agenda. There’s nothing wrong with them in principle, but what has happened today is wealthy interests can donate unlimited amounts of money to these committees to promote their agendas – which becomes a problem once they can do so in secret.
Everyone has free speech rights, including the wealthy and corporations. The right for them – yes, including corporations – to speak openly is sacrosanct. What is not sacrosanct, however, is the secret, large scale promotion of an agenda through a proxy, and that is the first problem this addition addresses.
If Exxon Mobil wants to advertise to the public why arctic drilling is such a great thing and why candidate Pinstripes SirDrillsALot is the best person to vote for, then the company should have every right to say that. But when it does – it should have to sign its name to it. It shouldn’t be able to funnel millions to a shell group that runs a Political Action Committee named, say, “The Center for Environmental Protection,” which then runs videos of nature’s majesty with soothing music and a voice-over claiming that “Arctic drilling is good for the environment – a message brought to you by the Center for Environmental Protection.” That is not an honest expression of free speech rights.
Free speech rights are sacrosanct because they are sacrosanct – but they concordantly should be treated as such. You have the right to speak, and you have the right to pay someone to promote your speech. But you do not have the right to willfully misrepresent who you are when promoting speech over a large scale in an effort to influence the election choices of millions of people. Our elections, too, are sacrosanct and just like any newspaper in the country, if you want to editorialize your opinions, you must sign your name to them.
This addition would further mandate the same transparency within Political Action Committees. While this addition prevents corporate donations to such committees (addressing the obvious vulnerability with Citizens United), the Alliance Party would seek to pass laws that place limits on how much money an individual can donate to a Political Action Committee, and mandate that any individual who donates more than $500 be publicly listed in a conspicuous manner.
Free speech is important, but speech meant to influence our democratic functions should be transparent in source, and this goes beyond individual privacy. Privacy is an internal act to hide personal matters from public scrutiny, but once you donate money to influence elections or public policy, that’s not a private act – that’s a public act, and election secrecy within the public ether is a social toxin.
Public service should be a service, not a career. This addition would institute a 12-year cap for any legislator (Senators serve 6-year terms, Representatives serve 2-year terms). Once you’ve served, it’s time for someone new. However, this limit does allow the public to make the choice to re-elect a highly effective legislator in Congress if they choose to at some time in the future, provided they have waited for 12 years after leaving office. This waiting period makes it harder for a veteran politician to lurk in the shadows while a puppet holds their seat (a la the Putin-Medvedev foxtrot).
Additionally, our political landscape is corrupted by the practice of gerrymandering, drawing legislative districts in a way that is favorable to the current political party in power. The Alliance Party proposes that congressional districts be drawn in each state based upon the recommendations of an independent and elected committee, and elections of these committee members would not list party affiliation on the ballot. This would help ensure that districts are drawn fairly and based on population, not based on what is most likely to give one party victory.
The lynchpin of the Alliance Party’s push to fight corruption is the Government Accountability Agency. Its function is to investigate government waste and wrongdoing within all areas of public service and hold it accountable. It would have the power to make classified information public, investigate any area of public service and if necessary, file charges that can bring career-ending consequences or even criminal penalties.
Every area of society faces external and impartial accountability for its actions – every last area, with the exception of government today. For too long have we been forced to live under laws that the government can simply ignore, and that’s a double standard we should stop accepting.
This agency is described in greater detail in Chapter 17, but this addition ensures its creation and funding so the people have a dedicated public service that has the resources, the mandate and most importantly the teeth to root out corruption where it occurs and hold it legally accountable.
This addition performs two critical functions:
First, it binds all legislation to a single-subject rule. This means that any law passed must concern only one main issue – not a hodgepodge of other issues that confuse a law’s application. This happens frequently today when special interests “convince” a purchased legislator to include favorable provisions in bills that are wholly unrelated to what the bill is proposing to do.
For example, a corporate casino company might pay off a politician to include a provision allowing the construction of a casino in an education bill. If a right-minded legislator opposed this bill because of the casino provision, the special interests behind it would paint the dissenters as “anti-education,” which arm-twists them into submission.
This kind of deception has no purpose in our public functions, and thus this addition would mandate that any laws passed deal with only one main issue at a time. If some interest would like to have a law passed, a law specific to that issue can be drafted and transparently voted on.
Additionally, this enforces transparency of intent – and also the scope of the law. This is critically important. It might not be feasible to easily translate the complicated nature of legalese, but it is absolutely feasible to explain what a proposed law does in plain English.
Does removing “provision 1, subchapter D, section 8(f)” allow manufacturers to withhold important safety information from consumers? Grant fossil fuel or green energy credits? Declare illegal a previously non-prohibited action? Yes or no? Clarity is not difficult to provide within law, and if it can’t be provided, it’s fundamentally bad law. Law works for society – so let it actually work for it.
The same is also true for law that is justified in bad faith.
We’re often told that we need laws to stop something really bad, like terrorism, but often these laws are not used for their intended justification.
For example: we were willing to give up some rights to help police fight terrorists after 9/11; that’s what the Department of Homeland Security, TSA and Patriot Act were for. But since 9/11, the TSA is flagging passengers carrying bags of cash, and of the cases the Patriot Act was used, 99% were for drug crimes.
I’ll say that again: we sacrificed civil liberties to pass the Patriot Act, and we agreed to do so because it helped police fight terrorism. Yet the TSA routinely harasses passengers for things that have absolutely nothing to do with transportation security, and 99% of the cases the Patriot Act was used involved drug crimes - absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
Simply stated, that goes beyond wrong. Worse, it is fraudulent. If the government needs a power to do something in emergency cases, that power should be limited only to cases where that emergency actually applies. If that emergency does not apply, then neither should that power. Otherwise, we’ll have cops using the Patriot Act to chase down traffic scofflaws with the military hardware they already have under programs also ostensibly created to fight terrorism. Since that example is more reality than hyperbole, government overreach needs to be prohibited by a measure strong enough to do so.
Once again: nobody should be above the law, and our rights are not suggestions or guidelines. If the government violates them, the government should not be able to avoid paying damages. It doesn’t matter if the violation happened under a secret program and was critical to national security or any other excuse – because there is no excuse. If a right is violated, that act should be held accountable and the victim must be made whole.
Additionally, in cases where citizens had their rights violated, this addition would permit any person to petition a judge or the Government Accountability Agency to strip a government employee of qualified immunity. If they agrees, the government employee can be sued directly. So if, for example, a rogue cop beats someone half to death for no reason, that cop himself can be sued, not just their department.
Licensing, fees, fines and asset seizures are a booming business for government today. You pay money to get a driver’s license or register your car. It can cost thousands of dollars to become licensed in many occupations, obtain a permit to build on your property or open a business. Fines and asset seizures bring in billions of dollars nationwide to the agencies behind them. And of those who find themselves on the wrong end of these proceedings, they find that the burden of proof is on them, not the government.
This addition would change that. In a speeding ticket or asset forfeiture hearing, the officer’s word, alone, is not good enough – they will need actual, hard proof in order for the fine or asset seizure to be declared valid by a court of law.
Additionally, funds raised by asset seizures and fines today don't go to a general fund that's spent transparently. Most of the time it goes to the agency that collected the money in the first place and they spend it on effectively whatever they choose. Fun fact: a Police Chief in Missouri supported asset seizures as “pennies from heaven” in case the scope of this problem wasn't clear enough. Because in effect, this creates a massive conflict of interest as agencies are induced to charge exorbitant fees for licenses, issue fines under flimsy reasoning and seize assets to pad their budgets to pay overtime, buy new equipment and cover the waste of public funds elsewhere.
The Alliance Party holds that public agencies should be funded only through the budgets they are allotted every year by the legislature, and that is the budget they should be forced to work within. If they need more money, they can justify it to a budget committee, and if they waste the money they have been allotted, the Government Accountability Agency can determine why.
That is what accountability looks like. It is the same thing the rest of us live under, and there’s no reason why government should be immune from it.
In this model, any punitive/licensing money collected by government would go into a fund held at the level in question (local fund for local, state fund for state, federal fund for federal). Before an election cycle, each level of government would solicit input from the people on how best to spend this money, with the top suggestions being put on the ballot. The suggestions with the most votes would receive funding thereafter, implemented by the appropriate public authority.
In effect, this ensures that fees and punitive fines are approached justly, and that the state only charges what it needs to fulfill its function, not line its pockets at the expense of social justice.
The addition of these seven amendments are straightforward. They provide only the following, no more or less:
- Taking private money out of politics.
- Preventing dark money from dishonorably influencing the public.
- Establishing term limits for Congress.
- Make elections more expansive and more democratic.
- Mandating the enactment and funding of an internal affairs agency that forces transparency and holds government wrongdoing accountable.
- Forcing transparency and equality under law, removing the ability for corrupt elements to hide behind it.
- And finally, establishing that punitive/licensing revenue generated by government be in the command of the people to spend, not for a government agency to profit from at its leisure.
These amendments give back to us the rights and freedoms that we have lost due to the encroachment of corrupt government. They work to ensure that we can actually force change through our elections, as candidates would be selected by the people based upon their ideas of service to our country, not who will toe the right line or raise the most money from special interests.
And as their objective intent is clear, they would also shield against detractors arguing against their passing, for the only reason to oppose them is to oppose what they provide – demonstrating a desire to keep the interests of the many bound subordinate to the interests of the few.
Special interests have been heard for long enough in the halls of power, and it is time for our voices and our interests to be the focus of public servants. That is the mindset on which the Alliance Party operates, and that is the mindset it seeks to gain support of the public. It is also the mindset it employs to overhaul our economy, which is the next focus we’ll consider from here.