As we conclude this bitterly contested Presidential election, campaign finance reports show staggering amounts of money that have been raised and spent this year. Most of this money has been spent on negative political advertising which further divides our nation and undermines the very institutions we need to govern ourselves. If there is one issue that produces nearly universal agreement, we all seem to agree that there is too much money in today’s political process.
Over a decade ago, I organized a series of roundtable discussions on this very topic for the National Issues Forums Institute. At the time, we were sharing the results from community forums on this issue that took place in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Doble Research Associates, a public interest consulting firm, produced a research report that analyzed what happened in National Issues Forums that took place in 44 states on “Money and Politics – Who Owns Democracy?”. Doble also included the results of questionnaire responses from 1,457 participants. The full report is still available on the NIF Website .
The best discussion guides for public deliberation create timeless frameworks that provide citizens with opportunities to examine multiple approaches to resolve public policy problems. Each choice reflects underlying values whereby friends and neighbors in communities can talk with one another in a civil town hall format. The goal is to find common ground so that the problem can be resolved with productive public input.
In this case, it is remarkable how well this particular guide has stood the test of time. The three approaches are as follows: 1. Reform the campaign finance system. 2. Rein in lobbyists and politicians. 3. Publicize all political donations, but do not regulate them.
This campaign season may be thankfully over, but we clearly have much more work to do with respect to perfecting our political process so that everyone can feel good about participating. It is high time we dusted off the NIF “Money & Politics” discussion guides so that we can figure out together a better way to enhance our democracy and improve our governance.
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