March 10, 2005

My Fair Lady, Senate-Style

Here's a modest proposal that's no doubt been proposed before, but whatever. During the debate over the bankruptcy bill, it seemed that at any given time, you had nearly enough Democrats to add sensible amendments (like protection for those who went bankrupt due to medical emergency; or protection for military families) or kill the bill altogether. But each time a few Democratic senators with parochial interests—like Joe Biden and his Delaware credit cartel—managed to block the action from happening.

Now obviously the Democratic leadership didn't enforce a lot of discipline on this front—Majority Leader Harry Reid probably supported the bill, after all—but the structural problem is somewhat clear. There will always be Democratic senators who need to grub for money in order to, you know, get re-elected, and those senators will inevitably find themselves among one of a handful of votes that scuttle some important amendment or allow some gruesome bill to pass, even if the other Democrats are united. Money in politics, etc. Campaign finance might help, as might a restructured Senate, but I'm not interested in wishing for a pony today.

So why not create a massive 527 that selectively fights against corporate-funded bills? Here's how it would work: Democratic senators that are voting for some horrendous piece of legislation or other because they "need" the relevant corporate money will be targeted, the senator will be convinced to vote the right and noble way, and the 527 will then pledge to raise (via the internet and other fun fundraising endeavors) however much campaign money that senator loses for voting against corporate interests.

I don't know if this would have very wide application: in theory it would mostly work for crappy bills, like the soon-to-be-passed bankruptcy bill, that are set to pass by a thin margin because of a few money-influenced votes. I don't know how common that situation is. And perhaps money is better spent on ventures that aren't quite so ad hoc, like lobbying to get real campaign finance passed. But that's my 527 idea—a sort of "My Fair Lady" for corporate whores, to give it a moderately offensive name (sorry!).
-- Brad Plumer 2:41 PM || ||