Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting for fair elections

Cross-posted at DailyKos

A few weeks ago, Chris Bowers posted a diary about "the need for more sustainable funding of the progressive, political blogosphere." I couldn't agree more -- and I'm going to do my own small part by buying some blog ads, which I'll come to in just a minute.

But I think Chris' diary also teed up a broader question:  How can all of the elements of the progressive movement join together to put America back on the right track -- grassroots activists, bloggers, donors, elected officials, party leaders, and everyone in between?  Yes, funding the blogosphere is an important element -- and advertising on blogs may be one part of the solution -- but as Chris has discussed, there's certainly more to it as well.

One thing I know we have to do is communicate and coordinate more -- because only through an open exchange of ideas can we truly develop an agenda and an overall message that all of us can get behind and promote in our own ways.  What's more, by blogging and communicating and producing other forms of rich content (like web video, podcasting, and the like), we're not just mobilizing our existing community, we're bringing more people into our movement as well.  And growing the size of the progressive movement -- much of which is happening at the netroots level -- is how we're going to bring about real, lasting change for America.

That's one reason that I'm blogging here today, why I blogged my response to President Bush's State of the Union address on DailyKos in January, why I'll be attending YearlyKos in Chicago this August, and why I will be back as often as I can over the coming weeks and months to continue our dialogue.  And I know many of my Senate colleagues -- Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, Jim Webb, and many others -- are committed to continuing this dialogue with the netroots as well.

Clearly, as Chris wrote, we all need to work together to win.  So that's why I'm asking for your help today.

A few weeks ago, I introduced my "Fair Elections Now" legislation -- a bill that would break the dependence on special interest money in U.S. Senate elections once and for all by providing public funds to qualified candidates.  Here are the four major components of my "Fair Elections Now" plan:

  1. Seed Money: Allow candidates to raise a limited amount of seed money, capped at $100 per contributor, to get their campaigns up and running
  2. Qualifying for Public Funds: Candidates must raise a specified number (based on the size of the state) of $5 contributions from residents of their state in order to demonstrate that they are serious, viable candidates
  3. Allocation of Public Funds: Once a candidate qualifies for public funding, he or she is eligible to receive a minimum of $750,000, plus an additional $150,000 for every Congressional District in the state minus one
  4. "Fair Fight" Funds: If a candidate is being outspent by independent expenditures or an opponent who has refused public financing, the law would match that spending dollar-for-dollar up to 200 percent of the base allocation

My approach is simple, fair, and would free U.S. Senate candidates from depending on special interests to run their campaigns -- for good.

But I need your help to convince my colleagues to support this bill.  The current system of private financing of elections has been around a long time, and it's not going to be easy to change it.

Please visit where you can forward an email to your Members of Congress, urging them to support my legislation. And then I hope you'll invite other people you know to do the same thing.

I'm convinced that the progressive blogosphere can help us win this fight and spread the word.  That's why I'm blogging here today -- and that's why I'm going to be putting my money where my mouth is, purchasing blog ads to help us reach even more people and build support for my Fair Elections Now plan.  We're still putting the finishing touches on the ads, but we hope to launch them next week.

I know this wave of blog ads won't solve the entire funding problem, but I hope it's yet one more step in that direction.  I'll continue to push my colleagues in Washington to do what they can to help as well.

Thanks again for everything you do.  I look forward to continuing to build a progressive movement with you that will bring about real, lasting change in America for generations to come.

-- Dick Durbin

P.S.  Please do take just a second to speak out through I really need your help to convince my colleagues to support this important bill.

Tags: campaign finance, Congress, Dick Durbin, fair elections, House, Senate (all tags)



Thanks for your help

I'll be around for a few minutes to respond to some of your comments and questions, so feel free to fire away!

-- Dick Durbin

by Dick Durbin 2007-06-13 09:57AM | 0 recs

As a constituant of yours (Belleville), I am very happy about several initiatives that you are working on.  In particular, I am pleased that you and Sen Grassley are working on restricting H-1bs and ensuring that the program is running as it should. This is very important.  This program is being abused by Indian body shops who get in IT workers and pay them less than the prevailing wage.

Americans deserve good jobs just like immigrants.

by dataguy 2007-06-13 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting for fa

Sen. Durbin, I wanted to add that I hope more progressive businesses will start to buy blog ads. There are many, many such businesses that have never advertised on blogs.

by robliberal 2007-06-13 10:01AM | 0 recs
Fair Elections?

So are you going to spot Jim Edgar, Judy Topinka, or Alan Keyes 35% to make it a fair senate race in 2008?

I appreciate all of your work, and I think this is a great idea. Our elections need to be cleaned up, and this is a great first step.

by Benstrader 2007-06-13 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Fair Elections?

They'd all get a shot with this bill -- even Keyes -- and I've been in this business long enough to know that no politician is unbeatable.

Thanks for your comments.

-- Dick Durbin

by Dick Durbin 2007-06-13 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting

This is all good and I support your Fair Elections Now campaign.  But unfortunately the "blogosphere" as its now configured has nothing to do with fair elections or even fairness as a principle.  Until the owners and moderators of these sites begin to take seriously their role as part of the media and institute some strict policies to stop the proliferation of attacks based on lies and innuendos, the blogosphere will become just another venue for  "yellow journalism".

by dougdilg 2007-06-13 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting

No one is for stopping people from having opinions.  But the blogosphere has two elements, the bloggers themselves who for the most part write excellent articles, and then the people who respond.  That section is like a Letters to the Editor section in a newspaper but on steroids.  It is that area, the comments, where things fly by which would in a newpaper be dismissed by an editorial decision based on the paper's philosophy, as in the New York Times All the News that's FIT to print.  The problem is if there isn't some active moderation, what appears are comments which are very far from fit to print.

by dougdilg 2007-06-13 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting

You're exaggerating. There are arguments, and occasionally they get a little uncivil but a) massive meltdowns are rare and b) the commenters speak only for themselves - why is it necessary to remove anyone who's not trolling?

At the end of the day, active moderation would take up too much time and threaten to drain out a lot of the passion that's so vital to the blogosphere.

by Englishlefty 2007-06-14 08:37AM | 0 recs
yellow journalism blogs

Look, there are tons of online newspapers, and even dead-tree newspapers, that practice yellow journalism without comments or diaries ever entering into the matter.

Tons of right wing blogs spew lies misinformation all day long, and never have comments.

Hell the comments at Swampland are usually more informed and journalistically accurate than the posts themselves, said posts being written by actual journalists.

Finally, a lot of sites aren't journalism sites at all.

Like MyDD for instance, which I always thought was a political activism site.

(not to mention that whole off topic thing.)

by justathought 2007-06-13 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting for fa

Thanks for posting a diary Sen. Durbin. I hope you will post more in the future as well.

by robliberal 2007-06-13 10:45AM | 0 recs
Towards a new democracy architecture

Dear Sen. Durbin, our entire political system needs to be reformed, in my opinion. We're operating in a system that was designed for the 18th century, which as seen from all the problems we have witnessed in the recent years, is no longer serving its purposes well.

Here is a brief version of a longer-term vision for a new political system for the country that I'd like to paint:

Towards a new democracy architecture
  1. direct democracy, with
  2. very limited number of elected officials
  3. full public financing of elections
  4. no primaries (replaced by one general election with IRV voting)
  5. very strict restrictions on lobbying, and
  6. term limits (for future generations of elected officials)

The vision above is, of course, not exactly easy to realize in short order, but I was wondering if you're able to candidly respond to the overall perspective, at least in theory.

Thank you for your consideration, and would be pleased to read any response from you.

And, of course, as many folks here do, I much appreciate and applaud your championing of progressive causes over so many years of outstanding public life.

by NuevoLiberal 2007-06-13 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Towards a new democracy architecture

1) How would you institute direct democracy in a nation of 300 million people occupying about half a continent? Earlier attempts at direct democracy were a) not really that democratic and b) on a much smaller scale. I'm told Switzerland has a degree of direct democracy in its politics, but I just don't see how you could scale that up to a much larger and more socially mixed nation.

2) Term limits? What about the issue of this forcing out good officials in favour of a succession of mediocrities, often term-limited out before they can acquire expertise on the issues? If you've got full public financing you remove most of the advantages of incumbency?

by Englishlefty 2007-06-14 08:41AM | 0 recs
a few questions.

is this just for the Senate?

And would it be mandatory?

I ask because I could just imagine "opting out" becoming the new hip thing for Republican candidates, which would mean throwing even more "fair fight" funds out there.


by neutron 2007-06-13 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: a few questions.

My bill focuses on Senate campaigns.  But a companion bill, introduced by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), will apply the same principles to House races.  By participating in my advocacy campaign at, you can lobby your Senators and Representative to support both bills and enact real campaign finance reform in Congressional elections.

Fair Elections laws must be voluntary to comply with the Supreme Court's 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling, which specifically approved of voluntary public financing systems.  We want to come up with a strong campaign finance reform plan for Congressional elections that passes Constitutional muster.

-- Dick Durbin

by Dick Durbin 2007-06-13 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting for fa
Thank you, Sen. Durbin, for your great work at the national level. Here in Texas, where dirty money flows like the Rio Grande used to, there's a new and serious movement brewing to get Clean Elections, beginning with public funding of Texas judicial races. The place to get informed and involved is the True Courage Action Network (TCAN). It's going to take all of us demanding an end to the insanity, but it can happen, even (especially?) in Tom DeLay country.
by 53rd Street Democrat 2007-06-13 01:14PM | 0 recs
Thank You, Senator Durbin

Dear Senator Durbin,

I'm really glad to see you stopping by here, and I hope you'll post more often. As someone who has lived his entire life in either St. Louis or Chicago, I appreciate the wonderful work you have done fighting for progressive causes and representing the people of Illinois.

I think that the Fair Elections Now bill sounds like a wonderful idea (although, as a law student who suffered through it in two different classes last fall, I think Buckley is a horrible decision, but I digress.) I will make sure to tell my representatives to support it.

Thank you for all your great work.

by Paul Simon Democrat 2007-06-13 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You, Senator Durbin

Do you live in St Louis now?  I live near St Louis...

by dataguy 2007-06-13 03:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You, Senator Durbin

Well, right now I'm in Washington, DC for a summer job (the first real exception to that Chicago/St. Louis thing) but during the school year I'll be back in St. Louis.

by Paul Simon Democrat 2007-06-13 06:19PM | 0 recs
Sorry, but me of little faith

doesn't believe -you- beltway Democrats want anything more from us than an ATM machine and GOTV.  You didn't support Lamont.  You still are letting Lieberman keep his committee and chair.  You caved on the war.  Rangel is negotiating secret trade deals.  Kennedy is pushing guest workers and increases in H-1B. Obey is screaming at war moms and pushing increases in abstinence only programs. Hillary is hiring union busting consultants and taking money from Rupert Murdoch.   How dumb do you think we look. I have no intentions of donating a dime; and if Nader doesn't run, I'll probably write him in.  In 06, the Party took me for granted for the last time.

by dkmich 2007-06-13 02:54PM | 0 recs
Purity trolls

like you are not gonna get very far with this line.  I'll take 10 of Dick Durbin any day over ... just who is it that actually voted in the manner in which would make you happy?  Fact is, there's always SOMETHING to bitch about, and there's always SOMEONE bitching.

Where in IL do you live, anyway?

by dataguy 2007-06-13 03:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Purity trolls

If I'm a purity troll, you are a sell out. You can wave the flag, do or die; but I would like to see less talk and more action.  Your labels don't intimidate me one bit.

Until the Democratic Party finds some principle and some backbone, I'll keep my wallet in my pocket. If Durbin is the "good guy" you say he is, maybe he can have the Party put up something besides rhetoric.

Via mcjoan, Harry Reid says:

"I understand their disappointment," Reid said. "We raised the bar too high."

. . . He admitted to usthat it was a mistake to raise expectations and that it wouldn't happen again.

What won't happen again? Raising expectations of ending the war? Ummm, too late for that Senator Reid. That is what the 2006 elections were about. There is no lowering the bar now.

Go ahead and sop that one up, too.

by dkmich 2007-06-13 03:22PM | 0 recs
Politics is the art of the possible

and that means, almost all the time, that reprehensible, nauseatingly disgusting crap will occur.  I hope, by electing persons like Mr. Durbin (who I admire and appreciate), that I can keep the crap/good stuff ratio in the right direction.  But, unlike you, I know that crap is inevitable.

you should read the life of Henry Clay.

by dataguy 2007-06-14 05:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Politics is the art of the possible

Yes, crap is inevitable; but it still isn't good.  I expect crap from the universe and even people I don't know.  I don't expect crap from my family, friends and allies.

by dkmich 2007-06-14 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Sorry, but me of little faith

Um, so you're stating that you have no interest in anyone to the right of Nader.  Given that, why exactly do you expect anyone to care what you think given that you've made it clear you'll never vote for anyone who has a chance of getting elected?

And beyond that, you apparently have no interest in discussing anything unless someone has already cleared your dozen-item litmus test of Democratic betrayal.  What Senator Durbin's ideas about campaign finance have to do with how Obey talks about Iraq is beyond me.

Now I understand being frustrated with a number of policies, and expressing that outrage is perfectly reasonable, but this "you must adhere to my beliefs across the board on 100 unrelated issues for me to even seriously consider your ideas on this particular question" line of attack just seems pointless.

No one's saying you can't believe whatever you want, but I will say that it doesn't seem like the Democrats "lost" you, since you seem to demand far more than we have ever wanted to do.  

by Baldrick 2007-06-13 09:58PM | 0 recs
Allocation of public funds

Senator Durbin,

I fully support publically funded elections, but I have some concerns with your bill as you described it here. I believe under the terms of the bill that a candidate for senate in PA would receive around $3.5 million to run their race plus up to 200% of that ($7 million) if their opponent opted out or if there are independent groups attacking them. That makes for at best a total of $10.5 million to run a senate race in PA. Bob Casey spent close to $18 million last year to win his senate race. That's quite a bit more than $10.5 million that would be available under your system at the most and multiples more than the $3.5 million available at a base level.

It would be impossible to run much of a campaign state-wide in PA for just $3.5 million. You could barely run a decent field campaign for that much let alone go on tv. The only way I think that it can work is if the broadcast tv networks are forced to provide a certain amount of free time to candidates on their networks as they are using the public airwaves. If that is done then the money goes a lot further. What is your thinking on how a campaign could be run in today's world with quite so little money?

by Quinton 2007-06-13 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Allocation of public funds

Good news--the bill, as I understand it, includes provisions for media vouchers for qualifying Fair Elections candidates, just as you suggested.  It's a state-of-the-art public financing bill and would allow a candidate to run an effective, competitive campaign (not to mention the boost of the public knowing that a candidate is not taking private contributions).

by jzaharoff 2007-06-13 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Allocation of public funds

If so that's great news and is a move in the right direction. Would like to hear Senator Durbin talk more about that if he's still around?

by Quinton 2007-06-13 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Allocation of public funds

Yes, we do deal with the cost of TV advertising in my bill.  Participants in the Fair Elections system would receive vouchers for purchasing broadcast airtime and would receive a 20% discount below the lowest unit cost on all advertising purchased near the end of the primary and general campaigns.

-- Dick Durbin

by Dick Durbin 2007-06-14 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Allocation of public funds

Thanks for your response :)

by Quinton 2007-06-14 03:16PM | 0 recs
Much needed leadership

Sen. Durbin, thanks for using your leadership position and considerable prestige to tackle this issue.  Finding a way to stop the money chase in our political campaigns is critical to restoring faith in our democracy, and to allowing lawmakers to focus on the needs of all voters and not primarily special interests.

In other words, it's an issue that impacts every other, and a fundamental reform that we ought to push for throughout the country.  The U.S. Senate (and House) won't be easy to get to adopt Fair Elections, but it can be done... with a lot of education and hard work.  It's great to have you on our side and willing to do that work.  Keep letting us know what we can do to help.

by jzaharoff 2007-06-13 07:56PM | 0 recs


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