Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

3 simple rules to reform political campaign finance

Today, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my parents' longstanding customers, who has become a family friend. Let's call him Jack. Jack is in his eighties and without fail, we always end up talking about politics when we get together. He's staunchly conservative and his view on most issues is starkly different from mine.

Despite our differences, we always see eye-to-eye on governance issues. In a nutshell, we both believe it's better to have a government which makes decisions in the public's interest, rather than in the best interests of private political actors.

Today, he shared a few simple rules to improve elections and campaign finance schemes. I've added and modded a little bit to round out the spirit of our conversation. I think they're good rules, and rather elegant.

  1. You must be a registered voter to make a contribution to a candidate or party organization
  2. Registered voters are only allowed to donate to candidates / party organizations for races in which they will be able to vote (e.g., someone voting in Ann Arbor wouldn't be able to donate to a candidate representing Omaha, if you live in  Michigan you can only donate to the party organization in your state or to a national party organization)
  3. Any individual donor or donating organization to any organization engaging in political activity (whether to a candidate, party, issue group, etc.) must be disclosed weekly in a machine-readable format with the donor's name / unique voter ID, donation amount, donor's company Tax ID, and date of their donation

This proposal would presumably need constitutional amendment to be legal. Is there any reason this wouldn't work well?

In any case, I re-learned something important today. There are people who care about politics because of their private interests and others who care about politics because they care about the public's interest and future of this country. Liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, it doesn't matter - people of all political stripes fall into both camps.

Jack and I are a great example of this. Because we both care about the public interest over our private interests, we are able to engage in respectful discussion even though we wildly disagree on most issues. More importantly, because we both prioritize the public's interest, we are able to find clever nuances on specific policies which allow for compromise.