Sustainability: Nov. 5, 2011
Occupy Wall Street protesters are not the only Americans unhappy with the influence of money on our political system.
Frances Moore Lappe´ and her husband Anthony recently wrote, “Corporations sway public decision making via political contributions and lobbying — now with two dozen lobbyists for every member of Congress.” They urge us to Occupy Democracy.
The one-two punch of unruly campaign contributions and fat cat lobbyists has a decidedly corrupting effect on American politics.
Last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, allowing unfettered corporate contributions in the name of free speech, may have dealt representative democracy a near-fatal blow.
While we may be tempted to throw up our hands in despair, some creative proponents of living democracy have come up with possible solutions.
The best hope for real change may be the proven Fair Elections approach, sometimes referred to as Clean Elections.
In this system candidates have the choice of raising initial money through small, grassroots contributions in order to qualify for Fair Elections funding.
Once this threshold is met, candidates will be freed from the yoke of fundraising and can devote the campaign period to listening to voters and addressing issues.
Some form of Clean Elections has been passed in 11 states including Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, New Mexico and Hawaii. Probably the most well-know public official elected through Clean Elections was 2002 Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, currently serving as U.S. Homeland Security Secretary.
Public Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.”
On its website, http://www.public ampaign.org/fair-facts, you can learn all the details about Fair Elections and watch an informative video.
The Fair Elections Now Act was reintroduced earlier this year in the Senate by Dick Durbin and in the House of Representatives by a Republican and two Democrats. The bill would allow federal candidates to select the option of campaigning without relying on big money.
The bipartisan bill has more than 90 co-sponsors in the two houses but so far Rep. Jared Polis is the only Colorado legislator among them.
Currently, the bill is in committee in both the House and Senate and you can read an in-depth description at fairelectionsnow.org/about-bill.
According to his staff, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is “closely watching the Fair Elections Now Act’s progress through hearings regarding its constitutionality.”
Earlier this week Sens. Bennet and Tom Udall, D- N.M., introduced a constitutional amendment which would authorize Congress to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate campaign spending at their level.
A similar amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives in September. The Get Money Out movement also favors a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance.
In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned, “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism.”
Money may not be the root of all evil, but it sure drives politics toward the dark side.
Urge your representatives in Washington to support the Fair Elections Now Act and the constitutional amendment. Election finance reform will return power to the people and make our votes count once again.