From: william friedlander <>

To: NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)

Date: 12/4/97 2:57pm

Subject: free TV and radio time

I wish to go on record as regarding free air time for candidates in

federal elections as absolutely essential to the goal of fair elections

and an end to the present shameful and corrupt system through which

wealthy special interests buy favored treatment from our government.

However, I do not believe that free air time alone can achieve those

goals since the candidates will still seek contributions enabling them to

buy additional time and to make greater use of other means of

reaching the voters. I doubt that the problem will be solved by

attaching to the offer of free time the condition that the recipient

candidates agree to a cap on their campaign expenditures. In

order for the cap to accomplish anything, it would have to be

substantially lower than the amounts which the candidates now are able to

collect. This might not deter minority party candidates with limited

ability to collect campaign contributions from accepting the free time,

but the major party candidates will not likely be willing to give up the

advantage of their ability to raise and spend very large sums in excess

of such a cap. This would leave in place the pressure on them, when

elected, to carry water for their well-heeled contributors which is the

very essence of the present unacceptable system.

What is needed is free air time coupled with some system which would

create a level playing field as between candidates and eliminate their

motivation to solicit or accept the large contributions which make them

obligated to their benefactors. There are two methods of achieving this

effectively which would require constitutional amendments which I will

not deal with here other than to say that the simplest amendatory

approach would involve taking the rules governing campaign financing out

of the coverage of the First Amendment. This would eliminate the serious

barrier to meaningful reform created by the Supreme Court in an opinion

of dubious merit (Buckley v. Valeo) that campaign contributions

constitute "speech" under that Amendment. There is, however, an approach

which could be put in place through legislation which would, without

running afoul of that holding, combine free air time with the use of

federal funds to achieve substantial elimination of the evils of the

present system. This would involve the following measures:

1. Provision for substantial amounts of free air time for

qualified candidates.

2. Establishment under the control of the Federal Election

Commission of a campaign account for each qualified candidate in federal


3. Establishment of a requirement that all campaign

contributions, which would be unrestricted as to amount, be funneled by

the donor through the FEC with a designation of the candidate or

candidates for whom intended. The designated amounts would be placed in

the accounts of the respective candidates who would be free to make

withdrawals at their unrestricted option.

4. Each candidate would be required, during the campaign, to

report at suitable intervals (preferably weekly or biweekly) all amounts

expended for campaign purposes.

5. At each of the selected intervals the FEC would determine

from the reports which candidate for each of the contested offices had

made the greatest aggregate expenditures during the campaign and, for

each opponent, the amount, if any, by which this exceeds the sum of the

amounts expended by that opponent and that opponent's then account

balance. The Commission would then pay into the opponents' accounts, out

of federal funds, the amount of such excess.

6. After the election, the amounts remaining in the accounts

would be distributed to the respective candidates.

The purpose of such procedure would be to ensure that, without limiting

the amount any candidate could spend (which the above Supreme Court case

ruled unconstitutional) each candidate would have available for

expenditure an equal amount of campaign funds. The result would be that

money would no longer be a determining factor in federal elections. At

first blush, it might appear that this would involve expenditure of a

large amount of federal funds. As to this, I say, first, that, if so, it

might well represent one of the most worthwhile expenditures in this

nation's history. However, it seems reasonable to assume that, with the

proposed system in place, it would then become apparent to the candidates

that they have nothing to gain in terms of financial advantage over their

opponents by soliciting or receiving funds from private sources.

Prospective contributors, reaching the same realization, would recognize

that their contributions would no longer have significant value to the

recipients who would thus not feel obligated to provide the donors with

legislative quid pro quo. Hence, the motivation for the candidate to

solicit, and the contributors to give, campaign funds would be

substantially, if not entirely, eliminated. This, of course, would

greatly reduce the amount of federal funds which would be required. In

any event, any necessary amounts would be well worth the achievement of

buying back our government from the well-heeled special interests.

Opponents of such a system can be expected to complain that taxpayers

should not be required to subsidize any amount of campaign costs. To

which I respond that the general public already does so. The Republicans

have made a point of the fact that labor unions use part of members'

dues for contributions to Democrats without the approval of the paying

members. The large corporations do not print the money they contribute.

It is extracted fro m the pockets of the public as part of the cost of

purchasing goods and services and the latter have no more say over that

use of the money than do union members. Since the corporations surely

regard their political contributions as part of their cost of doing

business, the prices they charge presumably reflect

that fact. In the final analysis, the public has the choice only of

funneling campaign funds through large private organizations over which

they have no control and who use it to their own advantage or, as taxes,

through the government over which they have some control and which

will use it to convert this country from the present plutocracy into the

democracy it is supposed to be.

W.A. Friedlander

6016 Bramblewood Drive

Raleigh, N.C. 27612