Given my last post lamenting on the costs of running a campaign, I’m really happy to read that Edwards is accepting public financing [NYTimes.com] for the primaries, in return for a spending cap around $50 million.
Now, I HATE reporting that fails to put numbers in perspective. Is $50 million a lot or a little? The article linked above should have reported the usual amount of campaign spending that goes on today. Looking at the fund raising for the 2004 elections on CRP, Bush and Kerry raised around $300 million for the primaries.
I was initially going to write that this is the second bad reporting of numbers in the Times this week, but then I figured I’d leave out the comment. But then I see at the bottom of the article that David Leonhardt contributed to the report– he was the reporter behind the other article I had in mind, Heâ€™s Happier, Sheâ€™s Less So, which reported that women are less happy than men. Sadly, that notion was basically completely made up somewhere along the road to being reported. The scientific article that that was based on reported lots of confusing things, but in that was that fact that men and women are for all practical concerns equally happy.
Last night (well, for me, the rerun just now) on the Daily Show, guest Bill Clinton claimed that sleep deprivation is rampant in Congress, due to Members running back and forth between D.C. and their home states for fund raising, and that it is responsible for some of the edginess in Congress.
Maybe this is an issue that the open knowledge / transparency community has failed to address so far. Sunlight needs to extend its campaign that urges Members to post their schedules on the web. We need to see our representatives’ sleep schedules too. Any Member sleeping fewer than 6.5 or more than 8.5 hours per day should just resign. This should be added to personal disclosure reports, along with who they are sleeping with, I suppose.
Now, more importantly, how can we use the Internet to give our elected officials more hours of sleep per day? This leads me to think that we’re not addressing political accountability in quite the right way. So long as it takes money to buy air time to get time in front of voters, basically eliminating meaningful competition, there’s an immense limit to the effect that more knowledge given to the public has. That is, in my experience, us techies have been addressing getting knowledge out and more accessible (bills, finance, CRS reports, etc.), and we’ve been doing that fairly well. But how can we use technology, in a neutral way, to decrease the need for ridiculous campaign expenditures? How can we make purchased air time less important? (For that matter, what are the major costs of campaigns anyway? I’m just guessing.)
I don’t have even the beginning of an answer to that question. Maybe someone else will…
I just stumbled on H. Res. 63, introduced back in January, whose main provision is:
no bill, joint resolution, conference report, or amendment between the Houses shall be voted on by the House unless the text of that measure has been available to all Members and their staffs in both printed and electronic format for at least 10 days
H. Res. 63, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul [R-TX] and cosponsored by Reps. Bartlett [R-MD] and McCotter [R-MI], is a lot like two other bills I’ve seen before and probably posted about. H.R. 170: Sunlight Act of 2007, introduced eight days earlier by Rep. Steve King [R-IA] (no cosponsors), proposed pre-certification of travel expenses, precise dollar-amount reporting in disclosure reports, expedited availability of FEC reports, and has a two-day version of the above:
It shall not be in order to consider any bill or joint resolution, or conference report . . . [unless] such measure is made available to Members and the general public on the Internet for at least 48 hours before its consideration
Finally, H. Res. 504, which was introduced only in June by Rep. Brian Baird [D-WA], but has 13 cosponsors on both sides of the aisle, is a three-day version of the above. It amends existing rules in non-obvious ways, so there’s no simple excerpt to give except for the title of the bill itself:
. . . to require that legislation and conference reports be available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration by the House
Summing it up, we have 18 representatives that support some form of this provision. Maybe they can get together on a single resolution?