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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 29, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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forgotten and he was as warm and supportive as you could possibly be. jimmy carter, during his
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it is simply exercising freedom of speech. i live in a deep fear of violent campaign finance laws. theresa amato is the author of the "grand illusion," our next book. "grand illusion: the myth of voter choice in a two-party tyranny."
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she was the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for ralph nader in 2,002,004. ms. amato graduated from harvard university and new york university law school. she founded advocacy center in urban chicago with many nonprofit organizations. she has been a fellow also at harvard institute of politics at the jfk school and on public interest laws at the harvard law school, a very fine speaker on this topic, theresa amato. [applause] >> good afternoon and thank you, john singles and thank you cato institute for hosting this. thank you all of you for coming because this is quite a turnout to hear about systemic barriers to entry for third parties and independents in the political process.
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it's not the kind of thing mimics the front page of the major newspapers every day and it's very nice of you to share in this and for this to be covered. so i'd like to encourage other think tanks and the media to host these kinds of discussions because this is one of those topics you don't hear quite often enough. and let me say congratulations to jim bennett for producing an excellent book. you have a copy here and i'm going to hold it up again because i read jim bennett's book and the first thing i noticed was in the first paragraph or so he said he'd check a swipe at lawyers, as you heard here. and i thought, -- later on he makes a crack about harvard trained people and i thought zero no. and then of course throughout the book he kind of pooh-poohs
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goo goos or people who work for government and i. i g. i spent my whole life doing that. and so when i read jim's book i thought g., i am jim bennett's perfect nightmare. except for two things. one, i agree with the major premise of his book and that is that the system is rigged. it is rigged against the two parties or rather it is rigged in favor of the two parties to keep out challengers and competition from minor parties and independent candidates. and second, unlike most academicians i have the experience of being in the arena twice. once for a minor party presidential candidates when ralph nader chose to run on the green party ticket in 2000. and once as a presidential national campaign manager for independent and that's when ralph nader chose to run again in 2004, despite all of the
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outcry against his right to present his views to the american people. and so i really, unlike most people on the planet because once you've run on national presidential campaign you'll never do it again. if you are saying have had this place. i have the battle scars and i know how difficult it is, first-hand, in order to be able to present alternative choices, more voices to the american people every four years when we host a national presidential election. so, i would've probably agreed with 90% of what jim bennett said up until the last five minutes. and that's where we may diverge and i'm sure we do and solutions. but he has laid out really part of the problem. so what i think i will do instead is to tell you some of
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the firsthand experiences we had. and they'll start in february of 2000. ralph nader called me up and decide, well, would you like to run my presidential campaign lacks and i said well, ralph, i was in the middle of illinois working for a nonprofit and i said ralph, the last campaign i ran was for student council. and he said, that's all right because this is going to be a very different kind of campaign. this is going to be a citizen campaign. we're going to run with the people and we're going to put all the issues that are not talked about by the two major parties on the table so that people have a chance to communicate and talk about the things that are routinely shut out from a national debate every time we have an election. and i thought about it and that somebody was trying to do because he has been for decades in washington and he knew what the score was and how difficult it was for citizens to make
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concrete change in washington d.c. he had seen the government over run by lobbyists and be marinated in corporate campaign cash. and he had also a personal history of being able to open the process up. and i thought, well, if there were every time this would be the time to do it. so i get to washington and, you know, i consider myself fairly well read. i read the newspapers every day. i majored in government and economics. i went to law school. i thought, how hard can this be? and then, reality sets in. you know, we all grow up under the smith that anyone can run and be president of the united states, right? this is the national lower. but if you try to beat anyone and you are not the party favorite of one of the two major
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parties, wrote to you. it is nearly impossible to run an effect did national presidential campaign out side of the two parties this time and that's because we have systemic barriers, and even if you have a supremely qualified candidates, even if you have popular support. we have systemic barriers that have made it difficult to compete. and there is no level playing field. so when jim bennett writes in his book, the system is rigged and nobody cares, i know what do he speaks. let's start with ballot access. well, actually let's start with the regulatory system. if you haven't had the pleasure of reading 11 cfr, the code of federal regulations for campaign finance, i suggest you do so. as one person i interviewed at the campaign election it was i
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said i am a lawyer, i'll be able to figure this out. and he said well know, it's really like asking a general practitioner or talk to her to perform brain surgery and you have to learn all this while you're doing your other job 24/7. it is extremely difficult to navigate the regulatory curlicues and even though -- even the people who work at the federal election commission don't agree on what is in the federal election commission code. i'm sure we're going to hear about that from our next speaker. worse, if you call up for information, you find out the standard pack answer and that is really a supremely competent and talented information division. it's not their fault. it's just that regulations are written for third parties and independent candidates. and oftentimes they have no idea what the answer is as applied to third parties and independent candidates. so they will say, as a model of
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the code, is silent. you have to go unasked for you advisory commission. that could take months when he needed the answer yesterday. that's one problem. the other problem is that people don't agree on what the code says. and of course the third problem is really the code is not were ten for a grassroots campaign. someone at the commission told me these laws aren't written for a grassroots campaign. and i thought, there's a big problem right there. so it's extremely difficult if you don't come with a cottage industry of lawyers, people who are savvy and how these laws have been applied and fundamental background and a standing mechanism or vehicle like a major party in order to navigate the regulatory framework. that's having said, that needs to be improved. i would not agree to get rid of
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it, but will talk about that in a minute. the major hurdle every third-party and independent campaign races is 51 different ballot access laws. jim and painted some of the picture but the reality and the nightmare is unbelievable because every single third-party candidates and independents will target the majority of their resources, all the blood, sweat, and tears burst to getting on the ballot. it has if you're not on the ballot, you're not a choice. this is a system set on this battle laws is to know they are written by you, the democrats and the republicans who occupy the general assemblies in the state legislatures and every one of the states. and so we do know some of the states are quite reasonable, other states are off the charts and they make it intentionally difficult, not only an official application, but if you actually try to follow through and submit these kind of signatures. let's just start with the regulatory initiatives. i don't know why they continue to do this, but they have
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irrationally 13,000 election jurisdictions overseeing our federal elections. and so, you have a problem with you have all these different jurisdictions, the knowledge varies widely, and even if you call the state secretary of state or the attorney general's office or the office at the board of elections, whichever. frequently you got something like they're not going to tell you what their law means. first of all, some of them don't know what their law says. second, they are embarrassed that their laws on their books are patently unconstitutional and have been held to such by the court that they can't get their general assemblies to actually change the law so that it comports with what the current legal status is. and so you have to divine all of this. and third, oftentimes they are very afraid that they might be sued and so they don't want to tell you anything. now of course this is very helpful if you want to run to office. the second reality is that these
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laws, we aggregate them across the 51 -- 50 states in the district of columbia, as an aggregate who makes it virtually impossible for individuals who are outside the two parties to be able to compete because you spent two thirds of the campaign just getting to the starting point with the major two parties are. so you spend all your resources doing this. and of course there's all kinds of side effects in terms of whether or not you are considered -- whether you've considered fraud because jim instead of james signed and all of those kinds of little barriers that add up into the collect did that with it is very rare you get a candidate to have you been able to put his or her name on all 50 ballots. in addition to that, you have a hostile media confronting you. in the case of ralph campaign in 2000, there were three or four "new york times" editorials that basically said he and pat buchanan should not even be in the picture.
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they were quote, cluttering up the field. just think about that. since when is political competition cluttering the field? that is the disdain with which the mainstream media looks upon independent and third-party candidates. it's very difficult to get a story when you do get a story comments generally about the horserace. how would you affect the chances and one of the two major parties? not why is it that you're taking on this incredible burden and you want to talk to the american people and have a dialogue. and what is it that you are proposing? it's very where to get a sensitive story on the issues. it's more, you know, how are you going to affect so once those chances. well, they never asked a republican at it, how are you going to affect the democrats chances? that's a ridiculous question. why suppose all the time as the starting opening question for third-party and independent candidates? the media is incredibly hostile and we grew up in a culture of thinking that we have enshrined a two-party system, when the
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third parties not even in the constitution. and then of course, the media is a big racket and so a lot of campaign money actually goes because we don't provide free airtime even though the airwaves line to the commonwealth to candidates. a lot of the campaign money has to go to buying spots. and some of those spots would cost as much as the salary of people i work with for a few minutes. just because it is so expensive to break into the media market. and then finally, if you want to produce your own media like we did in 2000, then you had the pleasure of being sued because we exercise our free speech rights to parody mastercard for copywriting trademark infringement and then had to battle that does well. so in addition to the media, the ballot access, the realtor is in, there's also as jim alluded to the commission on presidential debates. it's a very official sounding name, but it's really a private
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corporation that's on new hampshire avenue and acts as a cartel in terms of who, which candidates get to reach tens of millions of people each year in order to be able to put their points to tens of millions of people watching in -- in any chronological faction. they take an average of -- you have to reach 15% in the average of five polls in order to be considered qualified because they made a very bad mistake in 1992. they actually let ross perot in the debates. so they never wanted to repeat that. and as a consequence, you haven't seen a third-party or independent candidate in the presidential debates. and so, ralph nader could've gone to any stadium like he did like the fleetcenter or madison square garden and fell 27,000 people and never reach even a fraction of the proportion that you would reach television of course that the premature of
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these are the serious candidates that should be allowed to have a voice and the election. finally, i want to point out that there is -- these are the practical problems, but these are really the answer and solution to these are fundamentally structural. we have a lot of band-aid discussion is what i would call what's going on now about election protection. and there's a reason for that. so in 2000, people perceived, i believe wrongly, that because ralph nader received 97,000 votes in florida and the margin of difference between al gore and george bush was 537 votes, that it was somehow all mr. nader's fault that we ended up with george w. bush. i'd like to point out that there were other minor party candidates in fact on the ballot and all of them received more than 537 votes. that's not difficult. of course, there were a number of other fat earthlike katherine
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harris, the florida supreme court, the invention of the supreme court. but what happened at the end of the day as they became some kind of a national media that a third-party or independent are quote, unquote spoilers. but it's really, really hard to spoil and already spoils system. and these are -- and it spoiled because of the structural problems. but what engendered was that one of the two major parties you can guess one, the democratic party in 2004 made it its mission to make sure that ralph nader would not get on the ballot and brought 24 lawsuits in the period of 12 weeks to try to stifle competition. the democratic party or its allies on the ground in a number of states. and so i don't know how many people here have been sued? anyone here ever been sued? yeah, okay, very, very rare. imagine getting 24 lawsuits in the period of 12 weeks before you had a cup of coffee.
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they would say this is what democracy looks like. now that kind of systemic oppression to try to exclude third-party independent candidates is something we just should never tolerate in this country. i think fundamentally, all of the talk that it was created from the 537 vote differences in florida. a lot of people -- it's a good thing when people started paying attention to what was going on in their boards of elections. they started thinking about, how do we register people to vote? why is it that we have an opt-in system? way that the local voter will still match the ones in the state capitals? why is it that there is chaos and everything is done at the last minute to enter new registered voters? why don't we have same-day registration? what is this system into his being attention? why do we have uniform standards of what counts as a vote? is in a ridiculous we have to be holding up punchcards delight in seeing if it has two hanging
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chad or three dimple or pregnant or whatever? and it was really almost a mockery of our system of governance that people looked at all around the world, say what are they doing there in the united states? how come they can't determine what the vote? alchemy can determine who is registered to vote? how come they can't determine what grounds count as proper grounds for an audit or recount backtalk on the machines don't work? what is this? where we just asking these questions in the 21st century here in our country? but all that election protection still want to give you an open and equal competition if you don't have some reform to the systemic barriers to third-party and independent candidates. i'm going to stop now so that we can save more time for questions, but i hope you'll ask them. thank you.
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[applause] >> now that you've heard her, remember it's "grand illusion: the myth of voter choice in a two-party tyranny" available at your bookstore or online. and "not invited to the party" by james bennett. which is also available in both places. our final speaker today is the hans von spakovsky who is speaker at the legal judicial studies where he manages the justice reform initiative. in addition, von spakovsky studies the legal aspects including campaign fraud and voter laws and issues arising from registration and equipment. before joining heritage, and 2008, hans served for two years as a member of the federal election commission. previously he worked at the justice department as the council to the assistant attorney general for civil rights. he provided expertise and advice for enforcing voting rape and the help america vote act of 2002. his articles have a part in "the wall street journal."
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he has testified before stating congressional committees and has been presentation to organizations as the national, the federalist society, national council for state legislatures and the american legislative exchange council. hans took a lot agree at vanderbilt university. he received his bachelor's in political science from mit. he is welcome hans von spakovsky. [applause] >> so i am a lawyer, but i didn't go to harvard. as i can make some points? we used to refer to harvard when i was at mit as the little red schoolhouse down the road. last [laughter] i have to agree with a lot of things said here this morning particularly when teresa was talking about how horrible the federal campaign act is and how
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confusing it is and how difficult it is for an ordinary person to run for office. in his new book, the professor outlines many of these problems. he also talks about many of the restrictions on third parties caused by very difficult ballot access laws implemented by the states. he also complains about the federal public funding program which has most of you know is put in place about 30 years ago and points out the problems with those states like wisconsin that if put in state version of public funding for state legislative candidates. those funding programs have not achieved any of these supposed it purchasers of campaign reformers have used to push them. in fact, even under public funding laws, challengers have a harder time knocking off incumbents than i think under a private system. i want to skip to the professor's books by saying and agree with many of his
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conclusions. for example, i agree that ballot access laws should be relaxed as a matter of fundamental fairness at the interest of democracy or in our case republicanism since we are republic and not a democracy in the strictest sense of the word. i believe in competition, something john talked about and i particularly believe in competition in the political arena. i also think the same thing about anti-fusion log and also that the campaign finance by that we have on the federal level also needs to be radically changed. however, i would have -- i have arguments with some of the things that he says in the book. for example, you know, the idea that doing all this is going to lead to some sort of renaissance in the american policy or provide a surge of new ideas or policies that are discussed or debated throughout the political world is i think an overly optimistic assumption.
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i also fundamentally disagree with the constant theme expressed throughout the book amah that there's no difference between the two major parties, that they are simply two sides of the same coin. that would come as quite a surprise to many of the legislators in congress on the republican side of the political aisle who right now and for the last couple of months have been raging wi-fi to stop the nationalization of our health care system and the destruction of our economy or the cap and tax the system of environmental extremism is being vigorously pushed by the president and his political party. i think those two issues alone illustrates some very stark differences in the public policy viewpoint of the republican and democratic parties. and i find it difficult to agree with the claim that two parties over the ideas are simply vehicles for individuals used to get political power. there's no doubt there are people in both parties that are like that, but i think that's true of all political parties. there are also many individual
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members and candidates in those two parties and in the other independent parties who have fundamentally different outlooks on our constitution, our government in our social and economic policies. and i think it's a denial of reality to claim otherwise. now critics of my point of view are going to point to some members of the republican party like two senators from maine who far too often vote with the other major party. but there's no party anywhere and that includes the independent parties. talked about professor bennett's book like the green party in the libertarian party whose members agree 100% of the time on all issues or who never agree with the views on a certain issue of members of the other two major political parties. as i said, i also agree with professor bennett's description of the federal election campaign act and the amendments to it embodied in the bipartisan campaign reform act of 2002, also known as mccain-feingold
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which i had the misfortune to try to enforce when i was on the fec. now i've expressed my opinion on this on more than one occasion. i got into big trouble at one of my first hearings that we had when i was on the fec when i said to a number or a lawyer who was there from democracy 21, one of the big campaign reform organization, when i compared the passage of the mccain-feingold law to the passage of the alien and sedition acts of 1798. in fact, the fact that i had said that today hearing but decided against a publicly in the nomination fight i had trying to get onto the fec. as dr. bennett has pointed out, i think the supreme court made a fundamental error when it has held the main part of the fight the law in the buckley versus malay zero version. having been a commissioner for two years of the fec, i think it's a terrible idea to have a federal bureaucracy, making
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decisions on what kind of political activity and what kind of political speech is acceptable or not acceptable under the forest of federal law. i think the seek a law has protected and comments and made it very difficult for ordinary systems to run for office because it is a design team and confusing and even the six commissioners who run it often disagree doing their best as lawyers to figure out what the law prohibits and what it doesn't. i also think that the mccain-feingold law is directly responsible for the huge growth of 527 and other organizations like that because what it did in 2002 is an imposed a lot of restrictions on the political parties, the money they can get, and the activities they can engage in. and while you may not like particular political parties,
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there's a lot more responsibility -- you know, if you don't like the particular ads of the political party is running, well there's things you can do. you cannot give money to the political party. you can work against its candidates. it's hard to do that with the 527 organization. i do think, however, that dr. bennett makes a mistake in his book because he makes some sweeping generalizations about the area of the law to do a disservice to a lot of very principle things i have worked with in washington. he refers to all the commissioners who served on the fec as political hacks who only vote the way they are political party wants them to. i feel that is false. i know most of the republican commissioners who served on the fec including bradley smith y. replaced and in fact dr. bennett quotes mr. smith and his book. feca is a bad law. they did their best to try to
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enforce that law because they had taken a note when they became commissioners to uphold the law. the claim that all of the votes that they make on the commission or partyline votes is also demonstrably false. if you take a look at the history of voting on the fec since the agency first came in 30 years ago, you will find that enforcement cases, cases where they are deciding whether someone has violated a law, the number of split votes and remembers a six member commission, three republicans three democrats on there, the number of split votes where they can't make a decision is less than 1% of all cases. in fact, most of the cases are unanimous. so in terms of enforcing the law on a nonpartisan basis, whether the% of them is a democrat or republican, libertarian, they don't vote on a partyline basis and the history of pc shows that. now where the split those have
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occurred, and there were split those when i was there, it is invariably been in areas of policy, new regulations, in areas where the law is ambiguous and unclear. and i can tell you that i and the other republican commissioners that i knew, whenever there was a place where we could actually vote a less restrictive view of the law, that was the boat we took. and what you saw, what i saw was there wasn't so much a party breakdown based on party lines of party loyalty, but just the fact that most of the republican commissioners were less regulatory minded in the political area and most of the democratic commissioners were more regulatory minded in that area. i'll give you one more fact that i think demonstrates that the republican commissioners don't like the feca ma and are not part of some conspiracy to keep
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this law in place to try to keep the independent parties and other parties outdoes. i recently, along with seven other former republican commissioners who represent almost every republican commissioner that third time. we recently cited unanimous case, which many of you know it's a case trying to get parts of the mccain-feingold law declared and constitutional as they. we didn't decide on the side of the fcc. we decided on commissions united back with our long experience, 75 years were combined of enforcing this law, we said to the courts, this is an unenforceable, confusing law. it's unconstitutional. you should overturn it. also, the idea that again republicans are perfectly happy with the thought and are part of some kind of democratic conspiracy to keep it in, i think, again is demonstrably not true.
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it's very true, senator mccain is the poster child for this law, but he's almost alone on his side of the political aisle in supporting this law. when the vote came down in 2002, the majority of democrats voted for this law in the house and senate, only a small minority of republicans voted for it. and almost all of the major lawsuits that have been brought to try to get this law overturned, republicans have filed them, including two pending lawsuits right now, which are going up against the restrictions on the parties, which frankly if they win the case will help the independent parties also because these laws are arguing, for example, about the restrictions placed on the parties for engaging in activity and state elections like the elections going on in virginia and new jersey. two other points. just briefly.
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because i think we're running out of time here. first of all, the idea that having multiple parties instead of just who will somehow result in our solving the many problems we face today i think is an optimistic assumption. it doesn't really have a basis. don't get me wrong, i think third parties in their candidates should be able to get on their ballots. i think they should be able to field candidates and i'm hopeful that doing so well and live in the political debate and discussions that go on in this country. and i don't think any of the parties should be getting public funding of any kind. in fact, i recently wrote an article in politico win against the latest proposal in proposed by senator durbin that would not only have funding for presidential campaigns, but he's proposing funding for congressional campaigns. that, look, there are numerous countries in europe such as
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italy that has multiple parties that put the reins of power. they often find themselves unable to take any action of government policy that are at all controversial because they find it impossible to put together a geordie coalition. the more parties you have sharing control of the government, the more difficult it is to have an effective governance. i also don't like proportional representation and voting and i disagree with the idea that requiring candidates in districts to win a majority of the vote is somehow a bad requirement for the democrat process. i think it's a good idea. candidates have to field ideas and solutions to problems that a majority of voters think is a good idea. the majority forces them to build coalitions and deal with multiple interest groups which i think reads better overall representation. frankly, it also resents individuals with radical ideas and only a small minority of voters agree with from getting
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elected to positions where they may have considerable power to implement their particular views and the majorities of americans don't agree with. that is, it can potentially event changes in economic, social, and government policy that go against the consent of the government. and the consent of the government is the most basic philosophical and political belief that this country is based on. overall, i think this is a very informative book. it points out inequities in our lives that govern our election process that i think should be fixed. i would not agree with some of the characterizations contained in it, but i agree with many of the proposed solutions, such as simplifying ballot access and maybe do a much less restrictive campaign finance system. thanks. [applause] >> thank you very much, hans. i'm sure the speech is weaver today has given everyone food
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for thought and also prompted some questions. so we're going to have questions now. please raise your hands and wait for the microphone to come and then would you get it, identify yourself, organization, or your affiliation and also please direct a question to one of the people up here so that they can respond to it. let's go with the gentleman down here. microphone please. >> i'm robert steele, is this working? from virginia's 11 district. my question and i regret that jackie salett and cynthia mckinney are not here. it's an honor to be in a room with ralph nader with all of you. why can't we get everybody to play well together? and take the ideas in ralph nader's book. their eight fundamental electoral principles. why can't we get the greens, libertarians, and independence to basically demand of obama, as a price of anything in 2010.t.
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pass the electoral reform act of 2009? >> i'll assume everyone -- >> go-ahead. >> well, i have no problem with that. i think it's a wonderful idea. we just need to, you know, we need the choices, new places. and actually, you know, third parties can anybody candidates to just write cato is trying to do. they're trying to increase the range of political debate. >> good to meet you in person, mr. steele. thank you for coming. i'd like to say it's really -- the minor parties and third parties and independents don't all have obviously the same platform, so they can get together and should get together on removing the systemic barriers to entry, but after that, they will compete for the votes of the american people on their own and from their own ideological perspectives and their various platforms. it's really not their job to fix
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the entire electoral process. it's all of our jobs as citizens. and i want to make something clear so that we can percolate some questions here. i don't agree with most of what mr. von spakovsky said, yet the solutions that have been proposed by either of these two gentlemen. i am for public financing of campaigns. i am for proportional representation and instant runoff voting. i am poor choice maximizing systems of how we are able to select our candidates and i'm not for corporations being able to divebomb into people's districts and the other to finance any particular candidates. i do believe they hold the same rights that we do as individuals and i certainly don't have the right to vote at least not yet. so i hope that will help inspire some questions and we'll talk about because we certainly all don't agree on what the solutions are, even though some of us to agree on what the problems are. well, that's why at people of
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all political stripes have to not just talk to people in their own cultural cul-de-sac and come out and come talk at cato or come talk at the other organizations that should host these kinds of events. they're a number of organizations in this room, not only christina tobin with free and equal elections, but also representatives hear from fair vote.org and citizens in charge foundation. there are a lot of organizations who are starting to work on the systemic problems and they hope they will pipe up to. >> do you want to say something to that? >> my only response to that proposal is good but trying to convince the president to do anything that might diminish his reelection prospects. >> this gentleman right here. we'll go to the right side of the room now. >> mr. von spakovsky.
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he said too many parties might make it impossible to govern. and i want to know is what is magic about to, why not go for one? >> arguably we have that. >> epidermis i think you're mischaracterizing what he said. i'm saying is i think the ballot access laws should be relaxed so that third and fourth and fifth parties can get on there. but the idea that that will somehow magically solve many of the problems we have, i think is belied by the fact that you can look at plenty of other democracies that have multiple parties and they face many of the same problems we do and don't seem to be any better in finding solutions. >> let me use the privilege of the moderator to ask a question here. is it the experts here, do you believe that third parties on a larger role for 30 parties involved for representation either changing the system or
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also some voting procedure that would give you that? what can you do it in a single member district tax >> well, first of all, i want to go back to put this in context. you know, in the last 30 years, there's been a wave of democratization in the world where we've had a lot of countries who weren't democratic republics or whatnot to a chosen to become more democratic. and in that wave, not one has chosen to adopt the united states system. and we should ask why. because it doesn't provide the same kind of representation. i do believe we should have proportional representation and if we don't get there yet, joyce maximizing voting systems or in combination thereof it has him up for example, how many saw the front page of "the new york times" article wednesday october 7 when attacked about
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the runoff election in a city of 8 million people almost nobody showed up to vote. 3 million registered democrats and some districts are actually nobody, nobody came to vote. we can do better than this. and so maybe -- and i would start with the constitution because i believe we shouldn't start looking at things like electoral college, which are acronyms that now and i think those might be fighting words here, and i'm happy to engage now. and how we want to improve our system. our system was great maybe for the 18 centuries, but we are now the 21st century and we have kinds of systems devised that can be applied that can do things that can make the electoral system more reflective of the will of the people. at the end of the day, if you want content to come from the governed, we have to look at how we vote and the systems in place that offered choices for who we can vote for, in order to be
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able to maximize consent of the governed. >> i'll second that. >> anything on that? thanks very much. now let's go down to the frontier with christina and the gentleman behind. >> hi my name is christina tobin. the former national ballot access ordinary for ralph nader 2008 and also the libertarian candidate. i started seeking for secretary of state. currently an initiative in support of the top two primary is on the ballot in california for june 2010. top two primary is in which the top two vote getters in the primary domain names to appear on the november ballot. even if that means only one political party is represented. the top two primary is the biggest threat to the existence of minor parties in over 50 years according to richard
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winger that is. my question is, and also i want to refer to the washington state of almost 200 racers. there were only eight candidates that did not advance the general election. i'm sorry there are only eight candidate that did advance the general election because they ran an unopposed races and washington state they pass the top two primary in 2006. my question is, what is your position on the top two primary and how do you think this will impact third-party and independent candidates races nationwide? thank you very much. >> any -- >> i don't like that idea because i frankly think any of the political parties should have whoever their nominee is on the ballot during the general election. and, you know, like i said the ballot access rules ought to be relaxed that you can do that. that's just kind of an extension
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that is open primary system that some states have tried to put in, that can end up with two candidates for the same party being on the general election ballot prevails excluded. and i don't think that's a good idea. and i don't think that's the way we should be doing races. i have to say that for all of the criticism given up parties and, you know, as factions and so forth, parties are simply an expression of a very fundamental right contained in the first amendment, which is the right to associate with people who have the same beliefs and views that you do. and, you know, i don't have a problem with political parties. in fact, i think they're not that much different from other organizations like the sierra club or the national rifle association because they represent issues that the people that are members agree with. and political parties are like that. i do think we ought to have a system where people can form political parties easily i might get them on the ballot, and run
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their nominees for election. you know, if nobody votes for them, then you know they don't have the idea is the majority of voters like. but let voters make that decision. the act in a comment? >> guest, following up i think it was you that put out a study that said we are at our highest point in 70 years for people self identify as independents in this country. i'm not for the top two ideas. i think we ought to get away from the number two all together here because is happening is that it is a funneling process and what it does it is very unlikely that an independent or third-party candidate would emerge and not talk to. that kind of winnowing is exactly the opposite of what we should be trying to do, which is expanded choice in the general election. and people should, you know, learn more about the system, but i don't want the media reducing choice. i don't want to pay commissions or the parties, for example, how they kicked out dennis kucinich
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and mike ravel in the two major parties. i want to make it possible that more people and more choices are offered to the american people and are able to participate. and that's i think the federal election commission will go back. we need to view campaign-finance laws, which i'm in favor of, more like tax policy. and we have to say we don't want to just not to have a corruptive effect, but we want to also look at how can government facilitate the participation of people and how can good tax policy reward leaders we want to see and discourage behaviors we don't want to see. and that we should use that mindset when we are lucky not constructing the campaign-finance levels. >> just a moment. we're going to run a little bit late because we got started a little bit late and because there's lots of interest out there and i want to get to as many people as possible. >> with all due respect to
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teresa, the whole problem with having the expensive tax policy we have is because of u.s. government bureaucrats deciding what social policy should be encouraged and what shouldn't. and i have to agree completely with what james bennett said when he said the biggest problem in washington is that the government is too big, too powerful, and that's why so many people spend so much time trying to influence to benefit them. and what is true for tax policy is very true of federal campaign-finance laws. okay, look, the commissioners i served on the fec were all very well-meaning people, but they were six people over a federal bureaucracy of almost 400 individuals. and you do not want government bureaucrats making decisions on what kind of political activity should be encouraged or discouraged in the political arena. people should be freed to act as they want to and to speak as
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they want to. and i would say to you, compared the federal system with two states, virginia, utah, that have no restrictions on contributions and do require disclosure and governing magazine rates utah and virginia as having two of the best run government in the united states. and you tell me whether you think virginia government or at utah state government, are they somehow much more correct than the federal government? the federal system? most people in those states would say they have a cleaner government and the federal system. >> i promised the gentleman behind christina. >> thank you. my name is aaron rose. i live in seattle washington and my question that was just asked. i want to go back to the question then, and i voted for ralph nader and i'm still recanting for that sin. >> that is

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