I read an item in the local paper (in my case that's the Washington Post) the other day about an organization called "Repledge," and its plan reportedly aimed at reducing the "amounts of cash sloshing around" in our political system. Then I re-read it. And read it once more. It's really not clear to me how it would have the desired effect of reducing the money spent on political campaigns in the U.S.
The concept is that supporters of candidates would pledge a certain amount to charity through Repledge and the candidates' support would be balanced off against each other. So if Obama supporters collectively pledged $40,000 and Romney supporters pledged $70,000, a total of 80,000 would go to charities while only the difference of 30,000 would go to the higher-pledged candidate (Romney in this case).
This scheme, according to its originator, UCLA law professor Eric Zolt, would provide a "way for donors disgusted with money in politics to keep their cash out of the system," while ensuring that candidates they like aren't damaged along the way.
It sounds complicated, and it is. The tax treatment of any Repledge donations, for example, would be difficult. Political contributions aren't deductible; charitable ones are. Further, the FEC is now considering whether the whole concept is legal, and naturally there are those arguing on both sides.
Even presuming those hurdles are overcome, however, it's hard to fathom what donors, beyond an idealistic handful, would decide to involve themselves. If you have money to donate for political causes, what would be the benefit of channeling it to a charity instead? In the example above, if you're for Obama, you could give him $40,000 directly, or see that money diverted to charity where it would do him no good. And if he lost, you'd probably be kicking yourself the day after the election. On the other hand, if you are really upset about the effects of money in our politics, wouldn't the best way to express that be simply not to donate at all?
It looks as if the only group to benefit from this would be charitable organizations. Good for them, if it works, but it just seems totally impractical to me.