Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, todissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.- Theodore Roosevelt –
Most of us acknowledge the problems with our election process, and our governance. Piecemealing reforms seems to go nowhere, because the problems defy a single tweak so reforms such as Mark Frohnmayers approval voting petition are deemed unworthy of effort. Even if it would make matters incrementally better.
True reform will require the adoption of an anti-corruption package of reforms. Here is one package of reforms.
- 1. The Legislature: Get rid of the Oregon Senate. Redistrict by non partisan commission: There is no reason to two houses of our legislature that represent the same people. Two houses for our national government may make some sense. The federal House of Representatives represents the people, based on population. The Senate represents the States and the power they represent as independent sovereigns. There is no similar rationale for a state. It would be one thing of each Senator represented a county. But it makes no real sense to just say, two house districts equal one senate district. In the last budget, the cost of administration for our legislatures was 38 million dollars. Elimating the Seante would mean we eliminate 30 of our 90 representatives, and their staffs, and will result in significant savings. Some small part of that savings should be allocated to Legislative Salaries. Lets pay our legislators a wage that will attract more quality people. Someone working for a living simply can’t give up their hours on the job to serve the public and the small salaries discourage a cross section of working Oregonians from running for office. And importantly, by having a single house, you get rid of conference committees and place more of the debate and the voting back onto the house floor where it belongs. Non partisan redistricting is a no brainer. Why in heavens name would we let the Democratic and Republican Party leaders get together and create as many safe seats for their candidates as possible. Competition of ideas is vital to a Democracy. This electin year, 29 of the 60 house seats will have a candidate from only one major party. Almost half of Oregon’s House of Representatives is “owned” by one party.
- 2. Change our Primary Voting System: There are various reforms that would be a vast improvement over what we have now, where a third of voters don’t even get to participate in the primary election. Frohnmayers’ appproval voting. A top 4 primary, or even having the State agree to offer a May Primary election support to minor parties. Any would be a change for the better and would stop the madness of giving more and more power to a smaller and smaller group of voters who belong to private clubs.
- 3. Publicly financed elections for the Legislature. Ever wonder why even though a majority of people support publicly financed elections that the financiers of the Democratic and Republican Party come out against it? It’s because they know that if the politicians don’t have to beg them for money, that they will lose their influence. Publicly financed elections will allow our elected officials time to work for us. And not be as concerned about what a public union official, or CEO of the publicly traded company desires. Special interests give special money and demand special treatment. I believe that most politicians secretly would be relieved to be able to count on publicly financed races and not have to dial for dollars four hours a day.
Challanges? Effective anti corruption measures are the arch enemy of the powerful. Why change a good thing? But a package of reforms, each addressing a particularly difficult issue, could find support across a broad spectrum of voters and be more effective than any single reform. And the US Supreme Court hasn’t made things any easier. But each of the proposed reforms above avoid any federal constitutional issues. Though the first reform would require a change in the Oregon Constitution.
Establishing a better process, will result in a better product (a more representative government). That better product can then move on to even more anti corruption reforms.
What are your best anti corruption ideas?