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Below is an article I wrote for the Stanford Daily which
regards the relation between the First Amendment and the 
Presidential Debate-commission, campaign finance reform and 
re-election of House incumbents.

-- peer

Campaign Finance Reform and Freedom of Speech

In a country where it's possible to choose between dozens of detergents and hundreds of car models, one would think there should be more alternatives in politics than "Bore and Gush" -- especially in a country which claims to be a democracy.  It seems, though, that all initiatives to build up new political channels are suppressed, both by the Presidential Debate Commission and by the House incumbents.

The Presidential Commission which organizes the debates argues that third-party candidate Ralph Nader must do better in the polls before they'll lift their ban on him to debate Gore and Bush.  Fine.  But it's tempting to put such an argument on its head by asking:  Would it be appropriate to exclude blacks or Jews, because they only make a few percent in the polls?  Of course no politician would agree on such notion, at least not when those minorities are a significant factor in the election.

Naturally, most House incumbents will resent any change in the political climate which can cost them a reelection, including a ban on "soft-money."  The Congress is a cozy place to be.  However, it shouldn't be up to them to legislate exclusion of any opposing direction in politics.

In many districts around the country there's only one candidate on the ballot for Congress, making the 2000-election look more like a Soviet style election than one of a democracy.  This year 364 of 399 House incumbents seeking reelection face no opposition, virtually guaranteeing them reelection.  It's a fact that the incumbents start out with a huge leg up, making it almost impossible for an outsider to be elected unless he is a multi-millionaire.  Hence, it's expected that 99% of the incumbents seeking reelection this year will win their race -- that's a return rate higher even than the Soviet era legislator Duma, or the British House of Lords, where until last year about the only way to lose your seat was to die.

Money in politics will always be a threat for a democracy; "he who pays the fiddler calls the tune."  The much talked about campaign finance reform could be one solution, at least if such reform-bill statuses that it's allowed to collect campaign money ONLY a limited time before the election, (not during the entire tenue in office).  Term limits for the seats would also be a step in the right direction.

Still yet, the most important and fundamental part of a democracy is its Freedom of Speech.  When the First Amendment is infringed to the extent that the political opposition is excluded, whether it's from debate forums or news coverage, it's time to take a long and deep look into the true meaning of a Democracy.

Peer Landa
Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics