General Question

cynema's avatar

How hard is it to regulate funding for NFPs?

Asked by cynema (118 points ) October 15th, 2011

I can’t stand behind a mass protest, without a goal. I can however, stand behind the historical representation of a mass social consciousness. Which, a protest like Occupy Wall St., clearly is.
I’ve been considering some potential goals that seem fitting for these protests, that I would like to see them ask for.
Whether they would all agree, is another thing.
One goal I could stand behind, involves getting rid of Corporate Lobbying altogether. This seems to be in line with what I believe Occupy Wall St. is all about, so, I’m trying to think this through.
I would not think it democratic to stop Not-For-Profit Lobbyist groups, like Human Rights Campaign, AARP, or PETA (whether I agree with them or not) from lobbying, but I do think we should stop these groups from accepting corporate funding. I also think we should outlaw any Corporate funding/financing of campaigns and lobbying outside of NFPs, altogether.
So, why can’t we make it illegal for NFPs to accept corporate funding, and then make lobbying illegal, for all but NFPs?
Of course, this would require regulation of whatever funding there is for NFPs, and I realize that would be somewhat complicated/difficult. It would also create some jobs and
it would also likely mean that the government would have to be allowed to keep track of Corporate money, once a particular Corp. reaches some prefixed net worth; or so I’d imagine.
This is tricky. Of course, the Tea Party and much of the right hate it…I get all that. I just don’t agree. I’m not posting this so that we can argue over whether we should call a duck, a duck, or not.
Please use restraint, and agree to disagree. In a way, I’m asking this on behalf of a general consciousness in the world, that is acknowledging that Capitalism, in its current state, has trumped Democracy. This might sound great to you, if you believe that people should be allowed to use wealth to accumulate and exercise power, but many, including myself, do not. If you don’t agree that this is so, please refrain from discussing that here.
So, I’m not asking for the expression of the opposition to this idea. I think it is clear from these protests that more than enough people want this to be seriously considered. Yes, I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
I’m more so looking for the iconoclasts in the room to consider and discuss the potential trouble with legislating these proposed regulations upon Lobbying, and corporate funding. That is, assuming it would pass.

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8 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

If you think that the two can’t exist, then I would much much prefer to see capitalism trump democracy. Voters are stupid, as a general rule. Republican democracy, if we ever chose to return to that mode of government, might work.

The only reason that government works at all today is… corporate lobbying. Without some kind of expertise behind the silly laws that are made, every law conceived would make everyone a lawbreaker, starting with anyone who ever intended to make and produce anything for profit. And profit is not a dirty word.

I agree that the big-government / big-business cabal that we’ve created isn’t working. I believe that the solution to that is to make government much smaller.

cynema's avatar

Im not sure I can get behind this as an answer to this question. In fact I think it may be headed promptly in precisely the direction I didn’t want it to head.
However, Capitalism cannot be encouraged to trump democracy because it is not a full fledged system of government. Its policy but it is not government. Also, you mention that Corporate expertise is running things, but also admit its not working. I’m also not sure I can even remotely understand how you could consider Corporations to be represented by experts.
It seems to me that the experts are the ones enslaved to the need for revenue, by corporations, and thus Corporations are basically halting any and all expert decision making or research until it can be justifiable as a means to make money. Forget about it if an expert-run research study should prove that something lucrative, is bad for us.
This is the very definition of something NOT functioning.
How can that possibly be a good thing for any populous?
If we’re going there I would recommend studying the usefulness of Reciprocal Altruism and how it is employed by most species as a means for survival. Capitalism doesn’t leave room for altruism, whatsoever.

wundayatta's avatar

One step would be to get Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that removes corporations from the ranks of human beings. Corporations are not people and do not have human rights, such as the right to free speech. Only human beings can have rights. No longer can a corporations engage in political speech; only an individual could.

However, could an individual accept pay to speak for the corporation? If not, how do you know when the individual is speaking for herself or when she is speaking for the corporation? Can you write rules that can distinguish between the two?

And what about NFP groups? Say a group believes in human rights. They want to urge congress to pass laws that protect human rights. If you don’t allow them to talk to a member of congress, then how can they influence policy? Lobbying is talking. If you outlaw lobbying, then how are members of congress supposed to get information about what their constituents want? How can you have government where lobbying is illegal?

If you outlaw corporate funding, then what is left? Individual funding? Then do we outlaw any individual that belongs to a corporation from contributing to an NFP? If you think we have corruption now, just you wait until everyone is forced to be corrupt just to have a say in politics. Either that, or business will go out of business because people want to work on their own in order to maintain their right to free speech.

Hmmm. Maybe we’d see the rise of contracting. No one would be an employee any more. They’d all be independent contractors. Except people who didn’t care about voting (about half the population). Do you think corporations could stay intact if they only hired know-nothing people?

Look. There is only one way to counteract the power of a large organization and that is with a large organization that counters the other corporations. For people, that means organizing. Organizing is hard if you don’t have a direct reward for people, like a paycheck. For people to join an organization and work for free, they have to believe in the goals of the organization with complete conviction.

If they do, they can build an organization that can counter corporate greed or corruption or whatever they are against. Of course, as soon as the economy got better, the impetus for the organization would disappear and people would be happy to accept jobs in the place of pup tents in the rain of the plaza outside of city hall. Hey, guess what people want, anyway? Jobs, of course! Guess who is going to give them the jobs?

zenvelo's avatar

I have long thought that there should not be a prohibition on lobbying as much as there should be a prohibition from voting on anything that benefits a campaign donor of more than $500, or a donor to a PAC that comments on your campaign. Such donations should be considered bribes.

Kato's avatar

This may sound odd, but many conservatives hate lobbing! And are for the kind of goals you are talking about, but here is the thing, No Liberal wants to get ride of their unions, (which are lobby groups). Special Interest Groups joining together to get more influence is a natural part of life. Occupy Wall St is it’s own lobbiest.

Greed has done a lot of damage, no one is arguing that! As a small business owner I would appreciate having big business trimmed a bit (or a lot) to give more opportunity to more people, But there is the other side of that coin, more people with one voice, means more effective results… what ever your goal is. If they do it right, then their doing what needs to be done, creating another voice that can and will be heard.

With that said, I don’t agree with all their points. business and capitalism is not the root of all evil, it’s just another method to get to hell, like all the others.

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dabbler's avatar

Yowza, the question covers a lot of ground.
First the OccupyWallStreet movement certainly has a goal, correcting the systemic inequities that have facilitated the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of very few people, and continue to do so. Hence the “99%” part of many of their slogans.

I’d say No Way should corporate money be restricted from NotForProfits at least until they are also prohibited from making political campaign contributions of any and all kinds.
Prohibiting corporate money from politics is supremely important to democracy and campaign finance reform is a sorely neglected topic.

I’m with @wundayatta that corporate NON personhood must be clearly determined/stated/ruled/legislated. Corporate personhood is more anti-democratic than just about anything but dictatorship or monarchy.
All of the natural-born persons involved in a corporation already have votes and they can use them as they see fit. Pretending corporations are persons just allows folks who already have disproportionate wealth and influence to buy/manufacture more.

As @cynema notes, capitalism is not a political system – whether or not capitalist entities (corporations) would like to control everything. You may mean Fascism where the interests of government are aligned with the interests of big business. That is certainly undemocratic and the whole lobbying system is shoving us in this direction with every buck they lavish around.
Lobbying should certainly be more controlled than it is, and restrictions should be clearly defined against cross-over from public office to lobbying and/or industry representation.
We also seriously lack restrictions folks stepping into appointed positions straight from industry representation, and from appointed persons stepping into industry roles.

cynema's avatar

@wundayatta I see all the potential problems you have noted. I agree its tricky, but I believe it needs to be done. It seems the Republicans lash out at Regulation specifically because they see this coming. At least to me, that what it appears to be. I would never blame someone for accepting corporate funding within an established system, but I can not defend someone who would do so to the fault of what is better for the greater population. Meaning that, I see it as evident that these politicians are more concerned about what finds it way into their pockets, and then mend the prospect of taking a potential hit, but claiming Free Market is the American Way. The American People elect officials to govern everyone, not a select few and as long as those who govern can benefit from a select few, and the select few can use money as a means for power…
The Psychologist in me sees another side of this problem. That is, people high in a NEED FOR POWER, are often drawn to Politics and or Corporate climbing. Therefore without regulation of Corporate influence on government we have in a sense designed a giant problem for Democracy in this country. We need to find a way to discourage people with a high motivation for Power positions from being able to use money to gain it and enforce it. To say that these people, if not most people, don’t think of money as a means for gaining power over others, is just not being honest.
The obvious course of action is to regulate the ability of Corporations to influence politics and yes, I think we should and would HAVE TO do all the things you’ve mentioned. Of course, it wouldn’t be fool proof. I imagine that a soon as we begun, these Corporations would start branching out to find ways around it.
As a side note, when I think about this country’s history, I think of people who were tired of being bullied, revolting. To deny that Corporate funding is being used to bully the American people for profit is just that denial, I think. I’m not suggesting that you do so, personally, but there are too many who are doing so. To me, America is about not allowing others to control you, and only using force, to make sure that doesn’t occur and hopefully only as a last resort.

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