Bill to reform government, elections should be the top item on the agenda in 2019
BY TIFFANY MULLER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 10/12/18 05:15 PM EDT 114
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL
Americans don’t believe that their government works for them. And they’re right. They also know that all of the money spent in politics affects every decision made in Washington – and it’s not to the benefit of everyday, working families.
Instead, mega donors and special interests have access and influence to lawmakers, members of the administration, and other decision makers that the rest of us don’t. At best, there’s an uneven playing field stacked in favor of the biggest donors. At worst, this corrupt pay to play system means that politicians are doing the bidding for the individual and corporate special interests who fund and support their campaigns at the expense of the American people.
In either case, this rigged system that gives more wealth to the wealthy and more power to the powerful is unacceptable. Time and again, polling shows that Americans of every party believe this is a top issue for concern, consistently ranking as the No. 1 or No. 2 issue among independents. Voters are calling for change.
Born out of that call is a new generation of leaders who are running for Congress to change Washington. Many of them are first-time candidates, non-politicians who decided to run for office because they saw the system fail, often firsthand. For some, it was a personal experience with the cost or access to health care. Others were veterans who couldn’t sit on the sidelines and watch the country they fought for continue down this path. For others, it was the opioid crisis, or lax gun laws, or watching Congress raise taxes on the middle class to pay for a tax cut for corporate donors.
Binding this class of candidates together is a common thread that we must reform Washington in a truly transformational way. We must end the corrosive influence of big money and change the pervasive culture of corruption permeates in the capital. These candidates have made this reform a central part of their campaigns. Many of them have declared they’ll be more transparent and accessible. Among their commitments include making their congressional schedules public, holding regular town halls and forums, pledging never to become lobbyists, or refusing to take corporate PAC and special interest money in their campaigns.
This week, almost half of the Democratic challengers for seats in the House of Representatives, led by Katie Porter (Calif.-45), Jason Crow (Colo.-6), Lauren Baer (Fla.-18), Sharice Davids (Kan.-3), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.-8), Dean Phillips (Minn.-3), Andy Kim (N.J.-3), Tom Malinowski (N.J.-7), Max Rose (N.Y.-11), Antonio Delgado (N.Y.-19), Colin Allred (Texas-32), and Abigail Spanberger (Va.-7), united in a call to Congress to make a bold and sweeping reform bill the very first item of business in the next Congress. More than 100 of them from across the country, in some of the most competitive red, purple, and blue districts wrote to the House of Representatives:
Restoring faith in our elections and in the integrity of our elected officials should be a top priority that all members of Congress can agree upon. Without these reforms we will be unable to truly regain the public trust or tackle the challenges of our day, like the costs of health care and prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic, or building an economy that is strong for working families.
For those reasons, these reforms must be sweeping, and they must be bold. They must be the very first item Congress addresses. We must not yield on this demand, the American public is counting on us.
End Citizens United was proud to support the efforts of these candidates and distribute the letter on their behalf. The candidates are demanding that the first bill in the House of Representative in the 116 Congress include:
- limiting the influence of big donors on campaigns, quashing the political influence, real or perceived, special interests currently have in our government and providing incentives for donors to make small contributions to federal candidates;
- finally requiring genuine accountability through disclosure of all political spending and ensuring foreign money has no way of influencing our elections;
- shutting the revolving door between elected officials and the professional, special-interest lobbying industry;
- strengthening congressional ethics laws and their enforcement, including the adoption of harsher penalties for breaking the law and betraying the public trust;
- ending the imbalanced and divisive practice of political gerrymandering that currently allows the undemocratic practice of politicians picking their voters, rather than ensuring that voters pick their representatives; and
- removing, once and for all, the deliberate and partisan barriers that prohibit millions of Americans from freely and fairly exercising their right to vote.
Reforming Washington and the ending the culture of corruption has been an electoral talking point before. But, not since the 1974 Watergate Babies have we had a crop of candidates running for Congress who uniformly and genuinely believe we need to fundamentally restructure the system so the field is tilted back to the people.
This class of candidates will lead the charge to make sure that those who write the biggest checks no longer have the biggest say. That’s how our democracy is supposed to work – elected representatives making decision on behalf of their constituents. That is how we meet the challenges of our day and ensure that we have a government of, for, and by the people.
Tiffany Muller is the president of End Citizens United, an organization dedicated to reforming our campaign finance system and ending the influence of big money in politics.