The idea of ‘cutting the strings’ will mean different things to different people, especially upon first reading it. Let me tell you what is at the heart of it in the context of my campaign. It summarizes where we are as a country, having a Congress filled with puppets who are doing the bidding of massive money interests, those who pull the strings because they also control the purse strings. It is a ‘strings attached’ relationship. Members of Congress represent their corporate sponsors at the expense of the rest of us.
Those are the strings which need to be cut. Then we can move on as a country and begin to make progress.There are multiple issues to be addressed, but three things stand out:
1. There is too much money flowing into campaigns and pockets.
2. There are too many people in/running for Congress willing to take the money that’s offered.
3. Those who want to run for office to help the country get back on track have difficulty being competitive in elections because there is no level playing field.
Here is an outline of a plan to address the problem. Other ballot access issues need to also be changed so those who are interested in serving and in the greater good of our country will be able to have more of a chance for equal opportunity when it comes to running for office, but let’s start with corruption and campaign finance reform. Several specifics are based on conversations I’ve been having in District 8. (I welcome further comment on how to fine tune any item or others that need to be added.)
1. “Overturn” Citizens United by amending the Constitution. Money does not equal speech.
2. Only REGISTERED VOTERS living within a state or legislative district should be able to contribute to a campaign. i.e only registered voters living within a congressional district could donate to a campaign for a U.S. House seat. Registered voters living in the State of Missouri could donate to Senate races in their state and registered voters who are U.S. citizens could donate to presidential campaigns. This means corporations cannot contribute because they do not register to vote. This addresses the issue of lobbyists. Any registered voter living in a district can “lobby” their elected officials, but are subject to the same contribution limits as anyone else.
Only registered voters in District 8 could sign my petition to get on the ballot, so why not limit contributions to the same list? Why should any candidate take contributions from outside the area he/she represents? (Full disclosure, I accept citizen contributions according to current FEC regulations. A retired friend of mine who lives in Springfield, which is outside the district, made a small donation to my campaign several months ago. A high school friend of mine who now lives in another state has also recently made a contribution.)
3. Set amount of contributions from individuals at no more than current level or reduce the amount. Small amounts from many are certainly better than large amounts from a few.
4. Introduce public campaign financing, including addressing the issue of advertising on public airways. Suggestions welcome for specific ideas.
5. Eliminate superPACs. (This would be my ultimate goal, but at the very least require transparency in who gives and limit individual contributions to PACs to same levels as individual contributions to campaigns.)
6. Institute term limits: Three terms in the House, with additional option to run for one term in the Senate, or serve two terms in the Senate, for a total of 12 years maximum serving in Congress. I have never been a fan of term limits because elections should serve as a way to limit terms, but too many members of Congress have abused the trust of voters and the political process is currently stacked too heavily in favor of incumbents. With the right reforms, term limits would not be necessary.
7. Prohibit all fundraising during congressional working hours.
8. Eliminate public speaking opportunities by any incumbent who is running for re-election from the time when he/she has filed for office until the general election is over unless other candidates are offered equal time. This includes at any event which is open to the general public. Incumbents who attend/speak at events (either private or public) should not receive free publicity (either advance or follow-up) from the media.
9. No going directly from Congress (including congressional staffers) to having a job in any industry or organization (also known as special interests) which seeks special advantages by employing lobbyists. Close that so-called ‘revolving door’ by imposing a six-year time limit before those working in the federal government, including Congress, could be employed by the groups who employ lobbyists. (This concept should also apply in reverse. Those who work in a special interest area cannot be hired by the government to work in any decision-making capacity related to their industry.)
10. Members of Congress should receive no special privileges and especially in regard to pensions, insurance and other benefits. They should be treated as any other employee of the federal government.
Aren’t we all ready to cut the big-money strings that control Congress?