Yearly Kos: "When you are a clean-money candidate you can basically give the finger to lobbyists. Which is a beautiful thing."

| Fri Jun. 9, 2006 1:50 PM EDT

Greetings from the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas, where the netroots mingle with...overweight white people incapable of learning from repeated failures and helplessly chucking their money away on doomed long-shot bets. (That's right—the Democratic Party establishment.) YKC 06, as we insiders have learned to call it, shares space in the garishly carpeted convention center in the basement of the Riviera Hotel with…the NSA (The National Seniors Association, many of whose members appear to be wearing suspicious listening devices in arrogantly plain view) and the national "cue-sports" association.

More, when I figure it all out, on such details as the number of pale and underfed bloggers gathered here, not to mention the activists, mainstream media types, professional politicians, and starry-eyed blog groupies. (I will say for now that, as with most conferences, the panel discussions tend to be sparsely attended, with media folks overrepresented, while the big "keynote"-type events, like the speech last night by Markos Moulitsas-Zuniga (Kos), are packed, possibly owing to the availability of free food.) More, too, on YCK 06 as the progressive blogosphere's coming out party; more on the fact that such Democratic luminaries as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi feel it necessary to make the pilgrimage here to touch the feet of Kos, this event's presiding deity. And more gratuitous and strained analogies between Democratic politics and the sublime human comedy that is Las Vegas.

For now, though, a word on an 8 a.m. panel I attended (yes, 8 a.m.! This Markos guy does have a sense of humor, after all). The subject was electoral reform and the speakers included grunge legend-turned activist Krist Noveselic of Nirvana fame and the estimable writer Micah L. Sifry. Sifry pointed out—and we all know this but it's worth belaboring—that money is screwing up American politics. The cost of waging a political campaign is massive and getting bigger all the time; prospective candidates who lack big-money backing might as well stay in bed; elected officials spend much or most of their time dialing for dollars and sucking up to donors rather than connecting with their constituents; and special interests buy special favors.

Sifry went on to argue that regulatory fixes (campaign spending limits, disclosure rules) are all fine and dandy, but what's really needed is…a paradigm shift (I know, I know; but hear him out…), one that breaks the dependency of political candidates on moneyed interests—a "clean-money" solution under which candidates, having proven their small-d democratic bona fides by amassing a sufficient number of small (say $5) contributions, receive enough public money to finance their campaigns and agree to forego any more private money. The great state of Maine has tried something similar with good results.

Seems to have potential in Arizona, too. One of the panelists was state representative Kyrsten Sinema, who, speaking from vivid experience, had this to say:

"When you are a clean-money candidate you can basically give the finger to lobbyists. Which is a beautiful thing."

For more on clean-money elections, see Fairvote.org, Public Campaign, and Cleanmoneyday.com.