OUR NATIONS FOUNDERS strove to create a democracy that would guarantee fundamental human rights and hold the government accountable to the people. The Natural Law Party is committed to restoring this vision to the American political process and overcoming the bipartisan conflict and special interest control that has paralyzed and subverted our government.
The Natural Law Party supports long-overdue election and campaign reforms to ensure (a) equal access to the ballot, the media, and the public for all qualified candidates, (b) the elimination of PAC and soft-money funding of campaigns, and (c) a shift toward public sponsorship of campaigns in order to reduce the undue influence of special interest money on election outcomes. Such reforms will fulfill every Americans right to complete information about all candidates and their platforms while freeing elected officials to focus on serving their country rather than seeking campaign contributions.
The Natural Law Party envisions a future in which elections are a time of national celebration, free of negative campaigning -- a time when the nation takes pride in its achievements and plans collectively for the future.
There is no Constitutional basis for Americas current two-party system. In fact, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson specifically warned against political parties, which they feared would become entrenched as elitists and servers of special interests, unresponsive to the needs and desires of the people.
Today we find ourselves in this very situation. Frustrated by political gridlock, many Americans feel that government has grown into a self-serving, self-perpetuating partisan body that neither reflects nor recognizes their desires. Recent polls indicate that 86% of Americans feel that their elected officials will never solve the nations problems, partly because political infighting has frozen the machinery of government. Consequently, the U.S. has the lowest voter turnout of any country in the world.
Over 60% of Americans favor the formation of a new, major political party. Americans want change and are deeply frustrated with both Republican and Democratic candidates. Traditionally, third parties have introduced important new ideas, such as womens suffrage and the abolition of slavery, into our national political debate. As former Chief Justice Earl Warren commented:
All political ideas cannot and should not be channeled into the programs of our two major parties. History has amply proved the virtue of political activity by minority, dissident groups, which innumerable times have been in the vanguard of democratic thought and whose programs were ultimately accepted. The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society .
Yet the Republican and Democratic parties continue to exert an effective stranglehold on the political process, preventing crucial new ideas from emerging via third parties and their candidates.
Current campaign laws unfairly discriminate against independent and third-party candidates. In 1996, Republicans and Democrats received $148 million taxpayer dollars to run their general election campaigns -- including $25 million to hold meaningless presidential nominating conventions -- while independent and new-party candidates typically receive nothing. In most cases, access to the ballot is automatic for Republicans and Democrats, but independent and third-party candidates face the most rigid, discriminative, and unwieldy procedures in the world. For example, until 1998, it was more difficult for a new party to get on the ballot in Florida than in all the countries of Europe combined .
The present ballot-access barriers for third parties blatantly violate the 1990 international Helsinki accords that guarantee universal and equal suffrage to all adult citizens without discrimination, including equal access to the ballot and the media. Ironically, the United States is the worlds foremost proponent of these accords .
The Natural Law Party supports election reform that returns American democracy to the high ideals envisioned by our nations founders -- a democracy that fairly represent the views of all its citizens and candidates. To achieve this, the Natural Law Party supports the following initiatives:
Ensure ballot access fairness. Every political party and candidate should have the same requirements in every election for getting on the ballot. Incumbents should no longer have privileges over challengers with new ideas.
Promote campaign fairness. It is the right of the American people to hear the views of every candidate on the ballot. All candidates who meet ballot access requirements should have the same access to their constituencies, including equal media access through a series of publicly sponsored televised forums, debates, and infomercials, as well as publicly sponsored mailings of voter education materials. To qualify for these privileges, candidates would be required to comply with voluntary spending limits. This structure would favor voter education over privately funded media advertising and would thereby help eliminate special interest influence on the election process.
Encourage all Americans to vote. Election day should be made a mandatory national holiday, as in most other nations, so that everyone has time to vote. Voter registration should be facilitated by creating uniform laws that allow same-day registration or even automatic registration.
Shorten the campaign season. The campaign season should be reduced to four months -- two months for parties to choose their candidates and two months for the general election.
Abolish the Electoral College. Under the current system, a presidential candidate can receive a majority of the votes and still lose the election. The President should be elected by the people through direct popular vote.
Allow national initiatives. The public initiative process, already enacted and in operation in 23 states, should be expanded to the national level. This process allows the collective will of our citizens to initiate legislative reform and thereby shape governmental policy more directly.
Reconsider proportional representation. This political system has been effective in countries around the world and more fairly represents the true will of the people than our current winner-take-all process.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
The election process is far too long and expensive. Elected representatives spend too much of their terms fundraising and campaigning for re-election. The United States has the longest campaign season -- yet the lowest voter turnout -- of any country in the world. The exorbitant cost of campaigns favors the wealthy candidates and those who receive large contributions from political action committees (PACs) and other special interest groups. Research has shown that over 90% of all campaigns are won by the candidate who spends the most. Consequently, government has become a hostage to wealthy special interests rather than responsive to the people.
In 1994, the Republicans supported campaign finance reform and won a landslide victory. However, once they became the majority party, the Republicans became the majority beneficiaries of PAC funds. Now they are the biggest recipients of special interest money in history , and the recent Republican filibuster ensured that no campaign finance reform will take place during the current Congress.
The savings and loan crisis is a prime example of what happens when government is financed and controlled by special interest groups. The savings and loan deregulation was brought about by the influence of the powerful savings and loan lobby, which furnished large campaign contributions to the President and to Congress. The effects of this S&L deregulation and the consequent irresponsible handling of depositors funds have cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars -- thousands of dollars for every taxpayer.
Campaign finances have usurped the focus of our elected leaders by forcing them to attend to fundraising rather than doing their jobs and solving the nations problems. For example, it can take $10 million or more to run an effective Senate campaign; consequently, incumbents must raise $5,000 every day they are in office. Hence the lure of PAC funding becomes too compelling to resist.
Unlike the major-party candidates with PAC funding, independent and third-party candidates encounter formidable financial obstacles to media access in this electronic age. In addition, the frequent exclusion of these candidates from participation in televised debates, due to the stranglehold of the two major parties on the democratic process, prevents new ideas and new solutions from entering the political process.
The Natural Law Party will promote fairness in campaign financing through public sponsorship of election campaigns and will support legislation to correct injustices through the following campaign finance reforms:
Eliminate PACs. When candidates run for Congress, they turn to lobbyists and PACs for contributions. Consequently, when drafting legislation, they often feel more accountable to special interests than to the people they were elected to serve. This system amounts to legalized bribery. The elimination of PACs and special interest control of the political process would make our elected representatives responsive to the people once again.
Eliminate soft money.
This loophole circumvents the legal limits on what individuals or corporations can donate to campaigns -- limits which are flagrantly violated today. Since current donation limits apply mainly to the election of federal officials, unlimited funds can be donated to nonfederal party accounts, whose administrators can then apply the money as they choose -- including channeling money, indirectly, to federal campaigns. Special interest groups often use such soft money to buy support for their cause, thus sacrificing the best interest of the American people 
Restrict lobbying. Strictly limit the ability of former public servants to lobby on behalf of domestic and foreign interests.
Limit congressional privileges.Public servants should abide by the same laws as every American citizen. Free mailings and other special privileges should be limited.
- U.S. Supreme Court, Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 1957.
- In 1992 the number of signatures required to get a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia was 25,500 for Democrats, 49,250 for Republicans, and 770,000 for a new party candidate. In addition, to run a full slate of candidates in 1994, a new party would have had to gather 5.1 million signatures. Such discriminatory practices create an enormous financial obstacle for third parties trying to participate in our democratic process.
- See the 1990 Document of Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).
- House incumbents raised $45.5 million during the first six months of 1995, compared with $34 million in the first six months of 1993. The bulk of this money comes from about 10% of the population and from political action committees (PACs) of corporations and trade groups like the American Bar Association (U.S. News & World Report, February 12, 1996, p. 34).
- Both corporations and individuals can give soft money. Tobacco companies like Philip Morris ($787,000) and Brown & Williamson ($260,000) were among the top soft-money givers to the Republicans in the first half of 1995 (ibid)