Has anything like this ever been tried before?

A:

Structurally speaking, no. But even though the Neighborhood Legislature is a new system, it is securely based on real-world data and has its roots deeply planted in the political philosophy of our Founding Fathers.

 

In states with small electoral districts, campaigns cost very little. In fact, they cost just over $600 dollars in New Hampshire, which has only about 3,000 constituents per State Assemblyman. In state with such small districts, money has been shown to be irrelevant in political races. Furthermore, voter turnout is higher in these states, ideological diversity is greater, partisanship is reduced, and legislative productivity is increased.

 

Consider some of these quotes by America’s Founding Fathers. The Neighborhood Legislature was created in the spirit of words such as these: 


“This representative assembly… should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. Equal interests among the people should have an equal interests in it.” – John Adams


 “(The people consent) to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act, were they present.” – Thomas Paine


 “If the colony continues increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to”  – Thomas Paine 


 “Those who are placed instead of the people, should possess their sentiments and feelings, and be governed by their interests.” – Robert Yates


 

You want to create 12,000 more politicians? Aren’t 120 bad enough!? How will anything ever get done?

A:

A couple of points here:

  1. The 12,000 Neighborhood Reps won’t be anything like the politicians we have now. Rather than career politicians, they’ll be community leaders, small-business owners, school board members, and folks who care enough about their community to sacrifice their time and energy serving their neighbors (remember, Reps are only paid $1,000/year).

  2. Not all 12,000 are involved in the day-to-day work of the legislature. Only 120 Neighborhood Reps at a time serve on the Working Committee (the same number of legislators as we have now), and they take care of the brunt of the work.  The remaining 11,880 Neighborhood Reps mostly just act as a communication conduit and accountability check between their constituents and the Working Committee, and they also get a yes-or-no vote on every bill that comes through. This way, we maintain the efficiency of a small legislature while introducing local accountability.

The Working Committee members are selected by the Neighborhood Reps, not by the people themselves. Isn’t this undemocratic?

A:

Nope. Today’s legislature delegates their authority out to committees and subcommittees – small parts of the whole. But the legislature ultimately maintains its power because it has the final vote over the legislation. Similarly, under the Neighborhood Legislature, the 12,000 Neighborhood Reps delegate their authority to the Working Committee, but retain ultimate power through their vote.

Who is funding the Neighborhood Legislature?

A:

Right now, our efforts are funded by John Cox, our Founder and Chairman. John has a background in real estate, law, business, and politics, so he’s seen firsthand the problems caused by exorbitant money and lack of representation in our government. He came up with the Neighborhood Legislature because he believes that California’s citizens deserve a thriving Golden State whose leaders are responsive and accountable to her people.

Does a particular political party endorse the Neighborhood Legislature?

A:

Nope; the Neighborhood Legislature is an entirely nonpartisan initiative that appeals to conservatives and liberals alike. Conservatives love us because we make government local again. Liberals love us because we make our leaders more responsive to the needs of average citizens. Both sides love us because we do what everyone agrees needs to be done: we reduce the inordinate power of money in politics, and give the power back to the people. And we do it in a way that doesn’t step on either party’s ideological toes.

How will political parties change under the Neighborhood Legislature?

A:

Today, political parties are little more than massive fundraising and advertising machines. But under the Neighborhood Legislature, campaigns won’t require the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars that they do now. They’ll be grassroots efforts characterized by door-to-door campaigning, town hall meetings, and issue-based deliberation. Political parties will have to adapt accordingly. Rather than focusing on fundraising, they will focus on training candidates and volunteers in effective grassroots strategies, which will include detailed education on the issues relevant to the election.

 

As the financial barriers to political participation are removed, we’ll also see an increase in independent and third-party candidates running for office. This sort of ideological diversification is a good thing for our republic; it makes representation more genuine and reduces partisan gridlock.

So, you want to get money out of politics? Why not just go with a simpler solution, like contribution limits?

A:

There are few problems with contribution limits:

 

First: Contribution limits have amounted largely to a game of “let’s see who can find the biggest loophole!” – a game being enjoyed by lawyers everywhere. If there’s a place for money in politics, then the people with the money will find a way to get it there. That’s just a historical fact.

 

Second: Who is writing the rules? All the legal proposals currently in place to regulate campaign contributions give that power to the legislators who are currently in office. Think about this for a minute: does it really sound like a good idea to give the people in power control over the purses of those who would challenge them? Incumbents would write the rules to benefit themselves, making it more difficult for new candidates to challenge them.

 

You can also think of it this way: because the Supreme Court has decided that political spending amounts to political speech, contribution limit laws actually give those in power the ability to regulate the political speech of everyone else. We believe in the importance of free speech too much to start down this slippery slope.

 

Lastly: Contribution limits make it harder for third parties to give money to candidates, but they don’t do anything about independent expenditures. In fact, they’ve only driven money outwards towards independent groups who spend it on advertising that the candidates aren’t allowed to control. There is no accountability with these independent expenditures, and this is where we get much of the deceitful, sensationalist advertising that goes on during a campaign.

Ok, so what about public financing?

A:

You get the same independent expenditure proliferation described above. Just because the wealthy can’t give their money straight to the candidates does NOT mean that they won’t use it to influence campaigns just as much as they do now.

Alright, but don’t we really just need stricter disclosure laws?

A:

Disclosure is only effective if the people at large are actually paying attention to what gets disclosed – which, frankly, they aren’t. And knowing where the money comes from doesn’t take any of its power away. Disclosure laws keep candidates honest about where they are getting their money, but in reality, they don’t actually do anything to reduce its influence.

Ok, I see why these other proposed solutions won’t actually get the job done. But what sets the Neighborhood Legislature apart?

A:

Contribution limits, public financing, disclosure laws… all of these methods are just trying to cage the beast. But money is a powerful beast, and it always finds a way to break free. The Neighborhood Legislature ditches the cages and puts the beast to sleep. In other words, it doesn’t just try to control and regulate the money in politics – it actually makes the money unnecessary, which takes away its power altogether. 

 

Another way to think about it: all other proposed solutions simply try to treat the symptoms of the current system. The Neighborhood Legislature cures the disease.

 

Plus, the Neighborhood Legislature is really much more than just a campaign finance reform. It’s a systemic overhaul of the current CA state legislature that makes the government more responsive and accountable to the citizens, while also bringing about political equality and all the other benefits campaign finance reforms strive for. 

 

The Neighborhood Legislature is a comprehensive solution to the biggest challenges facing our republic today: the influence of money in politics, bad and unreliable representation, an entrenched governing class. Even though it looks new, it will actually make our government operate closer to the way that our Founding Fathers intended it to, because it takes into account the modern challenges that our Founders could never have foreseen.