Thursday, November 22, 2012

Corporations and Money Defining Features of American Democracy

Jesse Ventura discusses American democracy and his plans for running as a presidential candidate in the 2016 presidential election. The interview is underscored by the promotion of his new book. Ventura makes an interesting point that American democracy is undermined by the prevailing views that corporations are the same as citizens and money is the same as free speech. Reform of these two concepts, currently embedded in the U.S. Constitution, would require constitutional amendments. It is unclear how this would ever occur when the Republicans and Democrats control political power in the United States, and the current political process, created by the Democrats and Republicans, ensures that there are no viable third-parties.

In addition, it is unclear how Ventura or anyone else could successfully run as independent presidential candidates under the current electoral system. Even if Ventura got on the ballot in all 50 American states, he would still lack the resources and media exposure, ground games etc. of the Republicans and Democrats (in which the Romney and Obama campaigns raised over one billion each not including Super PACs). The four national presidential debates are determined by media corporations and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), so it unclear how Ventura or any other independent candidate could get into those debates. Current American legislation states clearly that there is no legal requirement that the presidential debates include more than two candidates, and the media has no legal requirement for equal airtime and equal opportunities when it comes to debates:

From the 2012 FDA Audit Report on the United States:

Broadcast stations must provide equal airtime and equal opportunities to all registered federal candidates. The only exception to equal airtime and equal opportunities is during bona fide news programming, such as the appearance of a candidate on bona fide newscast, interview, documentary, or on the spot news event (including debates, political conventions and related incidental activities) (The Media Bureau, 2008 and U.S. Code, Title 47, Article 315).

Any corporation or labor organization may donate funds to support a debate conducted by a nonprofit organization. The debate must not support or oppose any candidate or party, be sponsored by a broadcaster, newspaper, magazine, other circulation periodical publication, and include at least two candidates who meet face to face, does not promote one candidate over the other. In a primary election, organizations staging a debate may restrict candidates to those seeking nomination of one party, and in a general election may not use nomination of a particular party as the sole criterion for debate participants. Staging organizations must use preestablished objective criteria to determine participants (Code of Federal Regulations, Section 114.4(f)).

In 2008, Nader will all his popularity received a mere 0.5 percent of the popular vote, and in 2012, all third-party presidential candidates combined received a mere 1.65 percent of the popular vote (without considering non-voters).

The FDA supports a ban on corporations and trade unions from making political contributions and third-party expenditures, and the FDA supports caps on contributions which are reflective of per capita income levels, and campaign expenditure limits which are reasonably attainable by all registered candidates and parties.

The 2012 FDA audit report on the United States measured systematic bias to special and minority interests over the interests of the American electorate:

FDA Media Advisory on the American Electoral System

Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director

Question to Readers:

What will it take to progress American democracy from a two-party system to a competitive multi-party system?


  1. Ross Perot, as a third candidate, managed to get included in at least one debate in 1992. Granted, he never had a chance of actually winning that election, but apparently he split the vote enough to get Clinton elected.

    1. Good point about Perot; I wonder why he was only allowed into one national debate? He demonstrates that third-parties can impact the election outcome. But the outcome still revolves between the Republicans and Democrats.

    2. Ross Perot participated in all three debates that year. This is noteworty, since Mr. Perot had actually dropped out of the race for a period of time, and then rejoined it.

      However, Mr. Perot never won any electoral votes.

    3. It is certainly positive that Ross Perot was allowed to participate in all three debates.

      Have any other third-party candidates participated in the U.S. Presidential debates?

      The Debate Commission, a non-profit corporation which oversees the debates, has a 15 percent support (based on an average of 5 national polls) as a threshold for participation.

      15 percent is fairly excessive for new presidential candidates and candidates from small parties.

  2. There is a serious need for reform in the US system, and everyone knows it, including the politicians that sit in office. It is their DUTY to improve the system; every citizen pays 1/3 of their hard earned time and money into allowing this to happen... But does it? I pray that there is someone at some time that can stand up and make a REAL difference...

    1. Good point about the people's tax dollars. It is unclear to me what would cause serious democracy reform in the current two-party system. Serious reform would weaken the Republican and Democrat political control, and therefore the Republicans and Democrats will continue to ignore the issue. For examples, the 2012 Republican and Democrat platforms have no democracy reform, and democracy reform or the equivalent was not mentioned once in the four national debates.

      An individual appears powerless in the current US system. Take Obama in 2008 and his pledge to change Washington politics; it amounted to very little change.


Thank you for sharing your perspective.