Political Observers Report Symptoms But Miss Larger Problem

Political observers report that the Florida Senate President raised $1 million at a single campaign event, but the real problem, a two-party plutocracy, is overlooked.
Feb. 11, 2011 - PRLog -- Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ collection of some $1 million in campaign contributions at a single event has the press reporting about his U.S. Senate prospects. However, the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform says that many observers miss the bigger problem and the bigger picture. “These contributions are really investments and in a stagnant, non-competitive electoral system the return is extremely safe,” said FLIER President Yury Konnikov. FLIER believes that this is clearly evident in the few kinds of legislation that make it onto the agenda for debate or a vote.

In the “The Buzz”, a St. Petersburg Times blog, Haridopolos stated that after 11 years in state politics he’s “got a lot of friends” when explaining the haul of contributions. In the same article it was reported that lobbyists arrived to shower the Senate President with $10,000 checks. In fact, it is equally interesting that during his 11 years in state politics, Haridopolos has been the beneficiary of the stagnant, non-competitive system Konnikov refers to, winning two of four elections completely unopposed in gerrymandered districts. Ironically, this also explains the Senate President’s opposition to the recently passed Fair Districts amendments to the Florida Constitution.

However, the root of the problem, according to FLIER, is not Haridopolos or his contributors, but the system that encourages and fosters such behavior. FLIER identifies the root as the narrow two-party system that monopolizes all “mainstream” political expression by acting as a funnel of special interest money to those seeking “viability”. The natural stagnation of a two-party system, combined with non-competition measures that produce an over 97% incumbent re-election rate in Florida, creates a very safe and tempting investment environment for moneyed interests. The predictability of the system and the willingness to invest in it facilitate the dominance of private money. With fundraising records broken in every election cycle, candidates and incumbents seeking to look “viable” and “competitive” cannot refuse such offers nor cease seeking them out. After all, Haridopolos did set the press abuzz about the amount he’d raised, making him seem like a serious contender. In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, overturning 100 years of precedent of even flimsy campaign finance regulation, this problem has become particularly severe. FLIER says that without the necessary reforms to make the electoral system pluralistic, competitive, and accessible to average people, neither Florida nor the nation will have a representative democracy.

Konnikov says that “a seesaw of two parties that pivots on the investments of a small group of moneyed interests is not a representative democracy.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics only half of one percent of the population gave 82% of all the money raised by all federal candidates in 2008. In the much hallowed 2010 midterm elections, only 0.36% of the population gave 83% of all the federal campaign contributions. FLIER believes these lopsided proportions illustrating the symptoms of a “two-party plutocracy” are similar, if not worse, in Florida.

FLIER details a set of concrete and comprehensive policy reforms towards a representative democracy in a pamphlet titled “Resuscitating Democracy” available for free on its website www.floridaelectoralreform.org.

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The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform is a non-partisan coalition of groups and individuals recognizing the need for electoral reforms to enrich and expand democracy in our state and its localities. In addition to advocacy, we seek to provide education on electoral reform and the policy solutions necessary to realize it. We are working towards a vibrant democracy with accessibility for the average person, a competitive political environment, and pluralism in policy and decision making. For more information please visit http://www.floridaelectoralreform.org or e-mail info@floridaelectoralreform.org.
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Tags:Campaign Finance, Haridopolos, Politics, Florida, Contributions, Senate, Elections, Gerrymandering, Electoral Reform
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Page Updated Last on: Jun 29, 2011
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