Campaign Finance

When I first ran for Congress 26 years ago, I said that the single most important issue facing our nation was campaign finance reform because it touched upon every other facet of our system of self-governance. At the time, I spoke out against the dependence of our elected representatives on the ever-increasing flow of special interest money financing their re-election bids. I pointed out that lawmakers were becoming less and less beholden to the voters and more and more in the pocket of the corporations and political action committees whose funds flowed, largely unimpeded, into their campaign accounts.

I explained how these large contributions were distorting the legislative process, affecting whom lawmakers see, and what and how things get done in Congress. I suggested that democracy simply could not survive when elected officials are inevitably obliged to legislate on behalf of their big donors and not in the best interests of the general population.

Now, more than two decades later, things have gotten much, much worse. In fact, there is a broad understanding in our country today that the United States has ceased to be a democratic nation in any true sense of the word; that our political system has been transformed into an oligarchy ­̶ a place where wealthy elites wield the most power, and rich, well-connected individuals steer the direction of the country, regardless of, or even against the will of, the majority of voters.

We must be louder than the oligarchs. We must hire representatives who still believe that power comes from the people and not the pocketbook, and we must support those who are willing to uproot the current corrupt system of campaign finance and declare, once and for all, that private money has no place in the public domain.

And so, today, campaign finance reform is still the most important political issue facing our nation. If nothing changes in this area of our national life, then none of the other serious problems we must solve will ever be approached or remediated in a way that promotes the general welfare of our citizenry. The oligarchs will have won and the rest of us will be mere bystanders, simply watching the slow, painful demise of the great American experiment in democracy begun over two centuries ago by those who believed that the people were meant to rule and govern themselves. Now’s the time!