The Vote Low Cost concept was developed by Paul McWilliams. He started this website to give out information about VLC. Our goal is to have the VLC approach tried out in some close elections.
Build a Connection With Other Groups
A number of organizations have been involved in political reform projects for years. It would be great to have them hear of VLC and become interested in trying out this approach. How will that happen? Through word of mouth, by persons such as you telling more people about VLC.
About Paul McWilliams
We need your help in spreading the word about Vote Low Cost. We thank you for whatever you can do.
Paul McWilliams is a counselor and writer. He received a Masters Degree in Social Work at San Francisco State University and a Masters Degree in Divinity at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
In his politics, Mr. McWilliams is a moderate Democrat disillusioned with the failure of Democrats to bring about reform at the state and federal levels. He believes campaign reform and political reform are more immediately important than other issues. He is committed to voting low cost, whether for Democrats or Republicans, because he believes the VLC approach will bring about real reform.
Paul and his cat live in the Southern Sierras above Bakersfield, California.
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Special Interest Campaign Financing and Campaign Corruption: The Vote Low Cost Answer
What is Special Interest Campaign Corruption?
Special interests can be any group or individual that give campaign finances or gifts to politicians in exchange for political favors. The favors take the form of legislation or votes: E.g. "Vote against that legislation that restricts what we can do." "Sponsor this legislation to support our cause." "Vote for this tax break for our group." Special interests include corporations, unions, clubs, associations, wealthy individuals, religious groups, tribes, foreign companies, and even foreign governments.
Special interest campaign corruption occurs when politicians do what is best for the special interests who finance their campaigns instead of what is best for our country.
For example, campaign corruption adds to our country's huge health care problem, with medical costs rising at incredible, unaffordable rates. Numerous special interests, including medical insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospitals, doctors, lawyers, and other insurers and providers, provide campaign financing to politicians. When politicians try to do something about the health care crisis, their hands are tied because of the conflicting desires of these special interests. So they end up doing nothing at all!
This campaign corruption will end and our health care crisis will be resolved only when special interest campaign contributions no longer control politicians.
Special Interest Campaign Corruption is High Because Candidates Spend More and More
Candidates who spend more money than their opponents are more likely to win election. So campaign financing keeps rising, more special interest contributions go to campaign financing, and campaign corruption increases. Special interests also pay for politicians' meals, rounds of golf, vacations, cars, and just about anything. But super-high special interest campaign financing is the biggest contributor to political corruption.
The increasing costs of Presidential campaigns are a good example of how campaign costs are ballooning. In their primary campaigns, the two main Presidential candidates together spent $87 million in 1996, $144 million in 2000, and $504 million in 2004. That's a 480% increase in 8 short years!
In election campaigns, the last messages voters hear have the strongest impact. That's why we are swamped with expensive political TV and radio ads just before the vote. Most campaign finances are spent in this way, and the majority of ads are paid by special interests. That's the main way special interest campaign financing contributes to campaign corruption.
||Candidates who spend more win more.
So they accept more special interest campaign contributions.
They then do what's best for special interests.
Campaign corruption increases.
We want politicians to do what's best for America. Only campaign finance reform will limit special interest campaign financing and decrease campaign corruption.
Special Interest Independent Campaign Spending Also Increases Campaign Corruption.
To get around campaign finance reforms and limitations, many special interest campaign contributions go to Political Action Committees (PACs) that run ads and spend money independently of candidate's campaigns.
Special interest independent campaign spending skyrocketed in the last 10 years. Independent campaign spending related to the Presidential races totaled $1.4 million in 1996, $14.7 million in 2000, and $192.4 million in 2004. That's an amazing 136-fold increase in eight years! Independent campaign spending for the 2008 Presidential race may even exceed what the 2 leading Presidential candidates spend.
If special interest independent campaign spending contributes to a candidate's election, that candidate will owe those special interests favors, even thought their spending isn't under the candidate's direct control. So independent campaign spending adds significantly to campaign corruption.
||Independent campaign spending may get as big as candidates' campaign spending.
When special interest independent campaign spending helps a candidate win, he owe favors to those special interests.
So more independent campaign spending means more campaign corruption.
Special Interest Campaign Financing is VLC's First, Quickest, and Easiest Target
Campaign corruption would be the first VLC target because we could make a quick, big impact with relatively little effort, supported by just 10% of voters, and independently of political parties. Campaign corruption may not be more important than other forms of political corruption, but it's the best place to start. People like winning and quick results, and voting low cost could win quickly. When voting low cost (our Step 1) has some success, we could build on that success to address other reform issues.
The first goal would be to get 10% of voters to vote for whichever major-party candidate spends less on their campaign. If the high spender is a Democrat, VLC would vote Republican. And vice versa.
Close races are those with less than a 10-point spread, where the two main candidates are separated by less than 10% of the vote. Let's say 47% of voters support Candidate Adams of Party A, and 41% support Candidate Brown of Party B; 47% - 41% = a 6% difference. The two candidates are separated by a 6-point spread; this is a close race.
Together, 47% + 41% = 88% of voters. That leaves 12% of voters undecided. Let's assume Adams and his special interest supporters spend more than Brown. If 10% of the undecided voters were to vote low cost, they would support Brown, who would win with at least 51% of the vote (41% + 10% = 51%). When the low-cost candidate wins, special interest campaign financing becomes less important.
In this way VLC could become a decisive swing vote, able to go either way. Democrats and Republicans in close races would then be competing to spend less. Special interests would be forced to cut campaign spending, because the more they spend, the less likely their candidates is to win.
Presidential races have been close for 20 years. Presidential campaign financing is much higher than for other races, with huge amounts of special interest campaign financing and independent campaign spending. If 10% of voters voted low cost, the presidential candidates and their special interest supporters must spend less and less to win those votes. Then campaign corruption could be greatly reduced.
In Senate and House elections, the number of close races is typically greater than the majority party's advantage in number of seats. So those close races determine the majority party. With just 10 percent of the vote, VLC could determine which party is in power in the Presidency, in the Senate, and in the House!
||The first VLC goal: 10% of voters vote for the lower-spending major-party candidate.
In close races, Republican and Democratic candidates would soon compete with each other to spend less.
Nationally, VLC could determine which party is in power in the Presidency and in both houses of Congress.
When candidates spend less, special interests lose, and campaign corruption decreases.
VLC benefits would be immediate and independent of party politics.
VLC benefits would be immediate and independent of party politics. It doesn't matter which party the low-cost candidate belong to. When the low-cost candidate wins, special interests lose. In future races, both candidates would likely discourage special interest campaign spending. Then VLC supporters could vote for whichever candidate they prefer!
Success in elections combined with educational efforts would gradually increase VLC support, state by state and election by election, possibly to 20% or 30% of voters. The bigger the VLC swing vote, the easier it would be to end campaign corruption and turn our efforts from campaign finance reform to other political reform efforts.