One of the nice things about living in a Blue State is that most of the time, I don’t have to worry about my Representative or Senator. To be sure, Dianne Feinstein can often be a moral cretin, but it could be worse: I could live in Connecticut and have to deal with Holy Joe. Thank heaven for small favors. My Congressmember, Howard Berman, is one of the best in the business.
But that puts me in a tough position on the eve of the historic health care vote: how do I influence a congressmember who does not represent my district? Calls won’t work.
So here’s an idea. Someone — probably Act Blue — should set up escrow campaign accounts, payable if the members on it vote the right way on a particular bill. Note that there need be no direct contact with the Representative at all: somehow I get the impression that if these things were set up, members’ finance chairs would know how to check them. Each member could have an escrow account that would pay off if certain conditions were satisfied.
Would the right try to hijack this? Maybe, but I doubt it, because it would involve “centrist” Dems whom they want to knock off anyway (which is why these Dems shouldn’t vote their way, but that’s another story).
Most corporate lobbyists do this anyway, although with language that gets them out of the bribery trap. This could be the way that small donors, who don’t stand to get legislative favors anyway, could influence congressmembers — and the congressmembers would have the transparency of knowing what they will get upon a particular vote.
What if the Congressmember votes the wrong way anyway? The money could be stored in an escrow account with ActBlue, available for any other candidates on the ActBlue list.
And no — I have no idea if it’s legal, but I think it would be. It’s no different that major lobbies promising to run ads under certain contingencies (either positive or negative).
In the wake of Citizens United and the corporate sloshing of money through the Hill, there has to be some way in which small donors can actually influence Congress. This is a place to start.