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On The Issues: An Intimate Fireside Chat with America’s Favorite Dark Horse Candidate for President

Candidate for President: Corey Sterner
Candidate for Vice President: Jeffrey Ryan
Party: TARFU (kidding, none)
Slogan: More Cowbell, Less Government
States Where Candidates are Eligible as Write In’s: AL, CO, IA, MS, NH, NJ, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WY

Background: As documented in this blog, I decided back in 2009 that I would run for President as a write-in candidate as soon as I was legally qualified to do so. 2016 is the first general election in which I qualify and over the past few years I’ve researched the viability and mechanics of campaigning as such. While I’ve documented my motivation and research quite well, I have not documented my stance on the various issues important to voters. So I’ve written this post to do just that, and I hope the timing is perfect as most everyone considers how to complete their ballot in just a few days. Should you be as disgusted as I am with the predictable A/B choice we’re offered every 4 years, I encourage you to explore alternative candidates like myself and/or resolve to run for yourself as a write-in candidate in forthcoming general elections. You are not ‘throwing your vote away’ if you vote for someone other than the A/B mainstream options. You only throw your vote away if you don’t cast it.

Stance On Issues: While I could write a complete essay on every issue, I think voters want a simple explanation absent minutiae. Every issue comes with exceptions upon nuance wrapped in contradiction. So instead of trying to account for every angle, I will state my general positions and move on. I welcome commentary through whatever medium you’re reading this post, and am happy to discuss any issues not addressed herein.

Taxes – I support lower taxes across the board. Taxation is necessary but I believe there is an optimal rate at which work is incentivized while government is funded. My tax philosophy is inspired in large part by the work of Art Laffer and his curve theory. Tax reform is possible and very necessary to re-accelerate our economy. We’ve become complacent with a state of economic malaise and it’s unacceptable. Capital gains taxes should be returned to pre-Obama levels to incent capital investment. Corporate tax rates should be reduced and a tax holiday implemented to incent cash repatriation from abroad. The biggest problem facing America is our insolvency; if we focus more time and resources on cost reduction than tax increases, and we incent investment + productivity, then we can rapidly change the country’s financial imbalances.

Social Issues – Gay marriage: live and let live, government should not legislate morality. Legalization of marijuana: in full favor of it (see Colorado for example of massive economic benefit). War on Drugs: has been an utter failure so it needs re-thinking. In short, there are much bigger problems for the federal government to solve than protecting us from ourselves and legislating morality. I have faith in the individual’s ability to take responsibility for him or herself. The more empowered, responsible and disciplined we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a nation and culture. The reverse is also true here.

Gun Control – I’m a staunch defender of the second amendment. The federal government should not violate your liberty in deciding how to protect your life when it is threatened. But I also support common sense improvements in the background check process. Similar to the requirements for a concealed carry permit, training on firearm use, safety, and laws should be required prior to firearm purchase. More thorough training should be required to secure a concealed carry permit. Those on a no-fly list should not be permitted to buy a firearm. Those with a diagnosed history of mental illness should be subject to a much longer waiting period and in some cases outright denial of purchase. In short, more extensive cross-referencing should take place prior to purchase authorization. I am not in favor of magazine capacity limits or assault rifle bans.

Healthcare – The Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, is an absolute disgrace and should be unwound post haste. I don’t say this for theatrics; I say it because the ACA has done nothing to truly reform healthcare. All it has done is add bureaucracy, increase costs, and push the government deeper into yet another aspect of our personal lives. True healthcare reform focuses on cost reduction and incents investment in better patient outcomes. When a knee brace costs $200 in cash paid by the patient but $800 when billed to the insurance company something is terribly wrong. When an ER bills an insurance company $50 for a tablet of ibuprofen something is terribly broken. So I support the reallocation of resources toward reducing the cost structure of healthcare. And philosophically, I do not believe that a country the size of America can provide “free” healthcare to all of her citizens. When people cite New Zealand, Canada, France, England, et al as paragons of national healthcare they’re ignoring the problem of scale. America has over 300 million citizens while these other countries have just a fraction of our population. No one ever applauds more comparable nations (i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, China) for their ability to care for their citizens via federal programs. Privatized healthcare can and does provide superior patient outcomes in a country of our scale.

Defense – Peace through strength and diplomacy. Statesmanship seems to be a lost art and the most recent administration has done us zero favors on the diplomatic front. With a military as potent as our own, we need renewed focus on trade deals and alliances in order to affect Smart Power. I have no radical agenda either way (spending or cutting) with regard to the defense budget. I am in favor of maintaining and enhancing the most advanced military on the planet. The Global War on Terror is best waged in the shadows by our intelligence agencies and in tandem with small footprint engagement by our military branches.

Immigration – Responsible immigration policy makes our country stronger. Almost every American is descended from immigrants so the mindset of slamming the door shut behind ourselves is unacceptable to me. Illegal immigration is a problem because, well…it’s illegal. The biggest problem with illegal immigration is the drain on social services at the state and local level. Renewed focus on enforcement of laws/rules is more favorable and pragmatic than just trying to keep everyone out. Pathways to legal citizenship should be strengthened and encouraged. Illegal immigrants just subvert our efforts to bring in the good people who want to be here lawfully. I am not in favor of wholesale amnesty nor am I in favor of mass deportation. Rather, I see economic pressure (i.e. social service crackdown, e-verify) as much more effective in modifying the behavior of illegal immigrants who cannot be bothered to pursue legal pathways. They’re mostly here for the cash so make that harder to get and they will go away. Simple as that.

Education – The federal government should be benchmarking & measuring, not mandating. So I believe curriculum decisions for primary and secondary education should be delegated to the State level. Higher Education should be held more accountable for the soaring rise in tuition costs. There is no reasonable explanation for how inflated the costs are and the federal government should stop rubber stamping the increases by way of backing the student loans to pay those costs. The federal government needs to be more stringent about backing student loans which will in turn pressure tuition costs downward. Tax breaks for student loan balances would be seriously considered by my administration.

Abortion – Put simply, I would not impose my personal beliefs on this issue on the Judicial branch. I am politically pro-choice but personally pro-life. How does that work? I believe that the Federal government should not infringe upon a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. The Federal government should not legislate her morality. But I personally believe that the choice to abort a pregnancy comes with profound spiritual ramifications. Those ramifications transcend the laws of a nation and the woman who makes such a choice – as well as anyone complicit in her choice – has to live with the consequences into the hereafter. In only extreme cases (i.e. rape, incest, life of the mother) do I believe in spiritual clemency for the abortion of life.

Economy – Not sure how to treat this as an issue but it’s worth a section. History has shown us that central planning leads to failure. And the Keynesian model of central planning that the federal government has employed for nearly a century is failing. The Austrian school of economics holds far greater promise and on this matter the Libertarian party has the best ideas. Major reform is necessary in the reserve banking system and with our monetary policy. Without reform, we are destined for an implosion unlike anything the world has ever seen. If we don’t grow our appetite for reform then the only question we should be trying to answer is ‘how soon will we implode?’

Death Penalty – While every person has a right to their own life, I believe that right is forfeited once you’ve infringed upon the right of another to their life via homicide. Cases of self-defense excepted. In cases of clear-cut guilt I see no sense in nurturing the rest of a perpetrator’s life at the expense of taxpayers.

Minimum Wage – I support raising the minimum wage. Foremost because it would alleviate the burden on social services at the state and local levels. At present, depending on where one lives, one would be better served taking social services than working a minimum wage job. At these income levels, the means for living are more lucrative on social services across much of the country. Taking individual pride out of the equation, that’s a perfectly rational economic decision. But if minimum wage were raised it would change that calculus. Going to work everyday would result in a net gain for the individual. Many small business owners pay their employees well above the minimum wage and if they can do it, then every fast food corporation (as an example) can do it too. End Issue. Easter Egg: Coke or Pepsi – If you’ve stayed with me this long and are reading this final section, I will gladly buy you a Coke, Pepsi, or other Cola of your choice as thanks for your time. Simply comment, ‘fiddy cent’ and I will follow through.

Welcome To The Jungle: Deez Nuts and Koch-Fueled Candidates

Well it’s sure been a while since I posted something on here. Plenty of folks were wondering if I was running under the name ‘Deez Nuts’ a year or two ago when that candidate earned national attention as a write-in candidate. While I respect the chutzpah of Deez Nuts, I cannot claim any credit for his (or her?) work! The truth is that I’ve simply been more apathetic about American politics the last two years than ever before. When I started this project in 2013, I was inspired make a statement and add a new dimension to the upcoming election cycle – if only to amuse myself. While I’m no less intrigued by the idea of running as a write-in candidate, I’m unspeakably disappointed with how the field of candidates has winnowed itself down.

In a way this winnowing is exactly why I started this project. The absurd way in which our American political machine predictably reduces the field to two unlikeable candidates, every election cycle, never sat well with me. But whereas past candidates in previous cycles actually got my blood going (for better or worse), the field in this cycle doesn’t hasn’t excited me either way. And that is because they are SO BAD.

Never mind the circus that was the Republican candidate selection process. A pack of pathetic dim wits, pandering to deep pockets, like a bunch of spoiled rich kids asking their daddy for more money to go on a Koch-fueled four year bender (see what I did there Koch bros?). And let’s not talk about the Democrats, who have in gloating fashion reaped the benefits of an electorate more divided than ever. They have zero interest in unifying America, only in slashing it to pieces and turning us against one another. From both sides have emerged candidates so flawed, and so embarrassing as potential leaders, that I haven’t been bothered to expend energy or attention on them.

But I will acknowledge them briefly here. Donald Trump is a boorish blowhard who I can’t even imagine as the face of America. While I applaud THINGS about him, namely that he’s not beholden to any lobby and he comes not from the Washington machine, the ideas he formulates on his own are grotesque and dangerous. The last thing that man needs is more power. Hilary Clinton is an unabashed criminal who lacks any backbone or conviction whatsoever. She reminds me of the slick-haired manager we’ve all worked with who swims upstream by avarice and ass-kissing rather than merit and authenticity. She wouldn’t hesitate to send all of us downriver if it was expedient to her politically. That’s a fact folks. She cares about America – and Americans – even less than Michele Obama (is that even possible?!). The prize for her is a seat amongst equals in the Globalist regime. POTUS is a mere resume builder.

While the current political situation is PERFECT validation for my POTUS project, it has had the unexpected consequence of turning me off intellectually. So that is why there hasn’t been a flurry of blog posts or fervent damnation from my camp. I’ve also kept very busy with work and family but that’s no excuse because all of us are busy. This does not mean, however, that I’ve shuttered this project. Quite the opposite. I am in full swing filing candidate paperwork in various states. Some states – California in particular – changed their laws with regard to write-in candidates since I started this project. As a result, the patchwork of states I initially mapped out for 270 electoral votes no longer exists. It’s not impossible for a write-in candidate to secure that many electoral votes but frankly it will now take more time and than I have to give to the project.

So I’m focused on securing those states where I can devote reasonable time relative to their electoral voting value. In parallel, I plan to publish my stance on various issues (on this site) and ‘campaign’ throughout the fall. Campaigning, for me, will consist almost exclusively of tweeting. That’s right, I’ll be a digital paper tiger. So if you’re on Twitter, follow me @Sterner2016. I will be a loudmouth and have as much fun as I can at the expense of the mainstream candidates. In the interim get your popcorn ready for the big-tent party conventions, because there are sure to be fireworks and dysfunction!

Target 270: An Electoral Update

I haven’t posted in a while and that’s because A) working for a start up allows precious little free time, B) my wife and I are preparing for the birth of our baby girl at the end of this month, and C) what sparse time I find for the POTUS Project is spent on research. This post is devoted to item C.

The process by which Presidential candidates – write-in or otherwise – qualify themselves for general election balloting is done on a state by state basis. There is no magical process at the federal level whereby candidates secure a spot on state ballots nationwide. What’s more, the requirements for write-in candidates vary considerably from state to state. So my research entails contacting the Secretary of State office and/or elections division in every state of our Republic to understand each’s unique requirements for Presidential write-in candidates. This job of discovery and compliance with each state’s requirements is largely administrative and is typically carried out by the campaign staff of major party candidates during the general election year. Since I’m not a major party candidate and my staff consists of a single individual (me), there is much grunt work to be done and I don’t want to cram it all into 2016.

At the time of this post I have only AK, GA, ME, RI and Washington DC left to communicate with. Every other state has responded to me with their specific requirements based on the 2012 election just passed. Much can change from a state’s legislative standpoint between now and the next general election in 2016, but none of us have a crystal ball so we must work with the information we have today. As I hear back from the various states, I’m assigning them a value from 1 to 5 (easy to impossible) to score their viability for a write-in campaign. My scoring methodology is as follows:

1 – write-ins are allowed, votes for them are counted, and candidates don’t need to do anything

2- same as 1 but candidates need to file some kind of basic paperwork (affidavit of candidacy, declaration of intent, etc)

3- same as 2 but candidates must also secure as many elector signatures as that state has electoral votes

4 – same as 3 but a petition with a certain number of signatures is also required and/or there are filing fees

5- write-in candidates are not allowed, any votes for them are not counted.

This scoring system will help me select the states in which I’m going to run. Obviously 5’s are off limits but 4’s are so labor intensive or cost prohibitive that I’m not going to spend any time on them (I’m looking at you IL, MI). The low hanging fruit are the 1’s and the 2’s, with 3’s selected as needed for critical mass. There are a total of 538 electoral votes up for grabs and the first candidate to win 270 wins the race. As I have stated in most or all of my posts, I don’t seriously expect or plan to win; my campaign is based on principle and disillusionment with the status quo. But as a matter of formality, I want to qualify as a candidate in enough states to win 270 electoral votes should all of those states vote for me. It’s unlikely my target states will sum 270 on the dot but as long as their electoral votes amount to 270 or more then my quest for formality will be complete.

When I’m through with my research & discovery I will post a list of states where I plan to be qualified as a write-in candidate. With election mechanics out of the way my posts will then shift to platform and the fun can really begin!

The War Chest: How Much Money Do You Need To Raise In Order To Run for President?

In the buildup to every Presidential election, we’re subjected to headlines related to campaign fundraising. Early in the campaign cycle they begin as brief mentions along with other candidate news, but as time-to-election dwindles, much attention is paid to the war chest assembled by each campaign. Why does this matter? Does the amount raised by either candidate influence voter choice? To me the fundraising numbers mean nothing. Perhaps because I’m not a billionaire donor seeking influence and favor. But it gets so much attention in the media that surely it must matter, right?! After all, doesn’t The Leviathan Media (TLM) report on matters of solemn importance?! Nevermind that last question; I’ll stay out of rabbit holes in this post.

Let us consider for a moment what marquee candidates spend campaign funds on. Without having firsthand knowledge, we can safely assume that there are salaries & wages to campaign staff, overhead expenses like office space, and travel/lodging/dining costs. But those do not add up to tens of millions – or billions – of dollars. A quick look at fec.gov records shows us that for the 2012 election, Barack Obama’s campaign raised $717.5M and Mitt Romney’s raised $449.3M. All candidates combined raised over $1.3 billion. I don’t understand all the nuance in PAC/Super PAC reporting guidelines so for simplicity’s sake I’m just using these figures provided by the FEC. $1.3B….that’s a lot of money! And it’s raised & spent every four years, making campaign finance an industry unto itself. Fundraising figures aside, let’s get back to expenditures.

Unfortunately the links on fec.gov to the last reports of each campaign are broken so I can’t say definitively where funds were spent. But without hard data, my gut tells me that the overwhelming majority of campaign funds are spent on advertising. Your gut probably agrees with mine because we’re all subjected to the same commercials run ad nauseam during the election cycle. Commercials that are run on every medium: television, radio, web, and print. Advertising is big business and premium ad space or air time is not cheap. So who profits from all of that advertising spend? Ah yes, The Leviathan Media. And whom, kindly recall, focuses with such fervor on campaign fundraising? Ah yes, The Leviathan Media.

Very few media outlets are independently owned and operated; most roll up to one of a handful of parent companies like Viacom, Comcast, and Time Warner (great interactive chart showing media ownership here). These are for-profit enterprises and much of their profit is derived from advertising revenue. So of course they’re going to hype the fundraising game because the more money the candidates raise, the more money the candidates spend on advertising. I don’t fault TLM for hyping campaign funds because that hype fans the flames of profit. It’s pure capitalism. But I do fault candidates and their campaigns for participating in a fundraising/advertising arms race. And I fault us voters for buying into the distorted messages delivered through those advertisements. If they weren’t so effective at influencing voter opinion, candidates wouldn’t spend such absurd amounts of money on them.

What is the DIY candidate to do? Well if you want to be a “serious” candidate for POTUS you probably do need hundreds of millions of dollars raised by a campaign. You’re going to need it to smear your opposition with advertising because – sadly – it works. Voters are more easily influenced than any would like to admit. You’re also going to need it to defend yourself from smearing by that same opposition. Parry and joust. It’s a true arms race between the party superpowers, and TLM is nothing more than an arms dealer. The cycle is as predictable as the sun rising and politicians lying, thanks to a constitutionally defined election every four years. There is good news however for the principled DIY candidate: you don’t need to raise a single copper cent to legally run for President!

According to FEC guidelines, no formal filing or compliance is required until you’ve raised or spent $5,000 in your quest for the Presidency. So as long as your campaign is contained to $4,999 you need only comply with regulations on a state-by-state basis. At the federal level, once you’ve raised or spent $5,000 you have to file a “Statement of Candidacy (FEC Form 2 [PDF]; Instructions [PDF]) authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on your behalf. Within 10 days of that filing, your principal campaign committee must submit a Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1 [PDF]; Instructions [PDF]).  Your campaign will thereafter report its receipts and disbursements on a regular basis.” This quoted text is copied directly from the FEC’s website. The ‘regular basis’ for campaign reporting is quarterly, with additional reporting requirements before and after the primary/general elections.

So in answer to this post’s headline question, ‘how much money do you need to raise in order to run for President’, the answer is: it depends. It can be as little as $0 or as much as hundreds of millions of dollars. The scale of your campaign and the degree to which you compete is entirely up to you. There is no financial requirement at the federal level to officially run for POTUS. For my own 2016 campaign I’m planning to go with the $0 option. As I’ve articulated in previous posts, I have neither a desire nor expectation to seriously compete for votes and win the Presidency. So there’s no need for me to enter the fundraising arms race. My motivation to run is rooted in the principle of awarding my vote to the candidate who best represents MY political beliefs at this time: me. But to make a write-in vote for Corey Sterner legally count – even if the only vote counted is my own – there are procedures that must be followed. Future posts will explore these procedures. This blog and my campaign twitter account are all I intend to use to broadcast my candidacy. We are only weeks into the 2016 election cycle so most of my early posts will focus on regulations, procedures, compliance, etc. As my understanding of campaign mechanics solidifies, my posts will shift my platform and positions. If the notion of running as a candidate yourself is intriguing, my early posts will help you make that notion a reality.

The maneuvering by candidates for the 2016 election began as soon as the official count was in to re-elect Barack Obama. Along with that maneuvering begins a new cycle of maniacal campaign fundraising. By now it should be clear to you that technically, not one cent needs to be raised by a constitutionally qualified citizen aspiring to the office of the Presidency. Here’s to hoping that I can successfully prove this technicality by making a write-in vote for Corey Sterner legally counted in November of 2016!

Constitutional Requirements for Serving as POTUS

Yesterday was the inauguration ceremony for the 44th Presidential term. The occasion prompts me to write this post on the constitutional requirements for a citizen aspiring to serve as President. 

Those requirements are breathtakingly simple: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” Article II, Section 1, paragraph 5.

Born citizen of the US, at least 35 years of age, and must have lived here for at least 14 years. That’s it?! A quick look at 2010 estimates of age/gender distribution on Wolfram Alpha shows us that over 75 million men and well over 81 million women meet the age requirement. That’s 156 million people, or about half of our total population. Of course the data is not perfect or clean – it is just age and gender distribution of the population. Some percentage is not a U.S. Citizen (born or naturalized), may not have lived in the country for 14 years, etc. But the point is that A LOT of people are constitutionally qualified to serve. How we end up with an ostensible TWO candidates each election boggles the mind and will be explored in future posts.

Unfortunately, if you qualify and would like to run for President yourself, it’s not as simple as folks walking into the voting booth and writing your name in as their choice. We’re dealing with bureaucracy after all! As such there are legal requirements and compliance procedures that must be met and followed for those votes to be legally counted. The thrust of this blog/project is to document the process that qualifies write-in votes for a candidate to be legally counted. The candidate in question will be myself and to understand my motivation you can read my first post.