Let’s be direct about this – our political campaigns are exceedingly corrupt by rich world standards. Corporations and wealthy special interests dump countless millions into our elections every time, and to think they get nothing in return for that is profoundly naïve. In fact, we know they get special access to government officials, preferential treatment in the justice system, and the ability to advance their agenda in a way unmatched by any coalition of ordinary citizens. Much of the legislation pursued in Congress is written directly by corporate lobbyists, and its path to passage is eased by campaign contributions to key members. This is little more than bribery, differing little from the bad old days when people walked into the Capitol building with envelopes of cash.
But while many elected official benefit personally from this corruption and like it this way, it is a system forced upon many good people in Congress who would surely prefer another way. The good news is that the way out of it requires only a few changes to the laws, and if enough people are elected on clean-money pledges to enact such reforms, we can end the tyranny of Big Money on our political processes, and return the government to the peoples’ business.
I propose the following changes:
- First, a system of public funding for political campaigns that removes the need for campaign contributions to candidates, using matching dollars for small-donor funds raised.
- Second, clarification of bribery laws to include accepting or soliciting lobbyist cash.
- Third, bans on the outside authorship of legislation.
- And finally, a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which equated money with speech and thereby made some Americans’ speech more free than others. This latter would neuter the power of Political Action Committees, and combined with the other changes to direct fund-raising by candidates, would lead to a clean system of elections in which elected officials would be beholden only to the American people, and not to the wealthy special interests that got them into office.
For his own campaign, I have pledged to refuse Super-PAC money and focus on small contributions from ordinary Americans. In Congress, I will stand firm against party rules that force members to spend time phone-banking the rich and powerful for money, and will instead invest that time in town-hall meetings with constituents and pitches to ordinary voters for their financial support. It is time for Congress to do the business that the voters sent them there to do, rather than dancing to the tune of special interests and wealthy donors.
Photo by torbakhopper, Courtesy Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0