Those of us who do not detest our own legislators have not been paying attention. One look at the legislative process, lack of productive results, voting records and histories of special-interest financial support should tell us the folks we’ve hired to navigate our troubled national waters have our ship of state headed for a painful pileup.
Most of us believe in the value of a two-party system but that certainly implies some degree of negotiated consensus for the 90 percent of legislation liberals and conservatives might commonly acknowledge is needed. The other 10 percent we could continue to disagree about and continue to do without.
Have we ever seen Washington such a snake-pit? Swamp creatures everywhere! The truth has been in hiding for years. If a legislator has his/her mouth open, they are probably lying. Honor, honesty, ethics and good judgment have been in short supply while self-serving opportunists are in great supply. It all comes down to a single issue — money!
Money and legislative influence: At present, citizens are poorly represented and public opinion of legislators has fallen to nearly record-lows. Until money and undue influence are permanently removed and regulated, legislators will continue their allegiance to special-interests instead of their constituents and country. Legislators of both parties would do well to be reminded of their oaths! It is the acknowledged duty of legislators to write laws or amend the Constitution, if necessary and to work diligently on behalf of their constituents.
That corporations, wealthy individuals and special-interests of every sort control our government should have gotten our attention earlier. The result is an inability to address the needs of the country with the appropriate support of education, broadly offered and affordable healthcare, quality work opportunities, a reconstruction of our middle class, the correction of unconscionable income disparities and an end to our propensity to resolve international conflict with war, our denial of science to save a rapidly deteriorating environment and finally; the potential end of our democratic republic.
Citizens United: Corporations should no longer be considered persons for purposes of political campaign contributions and money should not be considered a form of free speech. If the Supreme Court fails to revisit this issue, in the writer’s opinion, Congress must act.
Campaign finance: Federal elections should, be financed and monitored by the federal government. Federal funds would be matched against campaign funding contributed by individuals. No other money should be utilized. Individual citizens should be able to contribute their own money up to $200 or so per political campaign per year. A citizen’s political contributions should be limited to approximately $1,000 per year in total for local, state and federal elections. Political contributions of approximately $1,000 per year per family unit should be tax deductible. IRS rules would be written to tax excessive political contributions at a 200 percent tax rate. Limitations should be indexed to inflation. Individuals running for office should not utilize their own personal wealth or accept anything of financial value, directly or indirectly from any person, PAC, Corporation, Union or organization of any sort except as described above.
Limited access: Lobbyists should not have personal, direct or indirect access to elected officials, except to testify before duly formed official committees or work groups and should not provide private services, entertainment, travel, meals, or gifts to or for candidates for office, elected officials, government employees or their families. Lobbyists and legislators should communicate only by direct mail, email or other tracked system. Such records shall be kept indefinitely and should be made available to the public by request under the FOIA.
Hidden legislation and earmarks: As newly written legislation offers a temptation to reward undeserving special-interests, bills before the House and Senate should no longer have buried in them language regarding any unrelated matter. The practice of writing earmarks into unrelated legislation should end immediately. If funding is required for a justified use, it can be debated in the light of day.
While money in its many forms influencing our ethically challenged legislators is not the public’s entire issue, it certainly is the most intractable and a very good place to start.
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Del Purscell, Newtown, is the past president of the Committee to Reform Congress.