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Sunday, October 03, 2010

When the election fix is in, Congress is in a fix

"...the current system of privately financed campaigns for election to the House of Representatives has the capacity... to undermine democracy..."
- Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), Title I


Our electoral system has been stolen from the people who need it most by the people who care about us the least. The irony is that those who fight entitlements the loudest are the ones taking the most from our tax coffers. Corporate money interferes with democracy, beguiles Congress and suckles at the government breast with such unfettered access that the rest of the people are ignored like we are the runt of Mother Country's litter. It is an issue that is Right and Left, front and center.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon called it a "broken trust," when he addressed the Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, Kentucky on last Saturday. "Congress now ranks sixteenth among public institutions when it comes to trust," he pointed out, "behind big business, and even the media." The people, he said, feel "unable to impact the process because money has taken over the process."

"It's a mad, mad merry-go-round, where Congress endlessly chases campaign cash, and voters can't even get a ticket for the ride."

On September 23, the Fair Elections Now Act came out of committee in the U.S. House. The bill sets up a matching funding system for Congressional campaigns, with fundraising limits based on the number of US Congressional districts in each state. Like presidential elections, Candidates can opt into this fund and run on a more competitive field, or they can opt-out, and collect from big donors. Regardless, under the terms of the bill, "Joint fundraising committees between candidates and parties would be prohibited," publicampaign.org says in its summary.

Unfortunately, Congress adjourned for the fall/mid-term election break before any action could be taken on the floor of the House. In fact, our elected representatives spend far more time raising money to get us to keep them in their jobs than they spend actually doing the work of the people - if by "people" you mean the corporate special interests.

David Donnelly, of the Public Campaign Action Fund, also appearing at the Coffee Party Convention, cited a Roll Call article that estimated that in September alone, Congress was in session only seven days, "but they would have held 415 fundraisers in our nation's capital."

[caption id="attachment_341" align="alignright" width="297" caption="David Donnelly addresses the Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of September. (from livestream provided, via UStream, by 5 Steps Forward Media)"][/caption]

"That doesn't take into account the countless hours we know elected officials and candidates for office spend on the phone dialing-for-dollars," Donnelly added.

It's possible the bill may come to the floor of the House during the lame duck session following the election, especially if the fallout from the Citizens United decision has an obvious and profound influence on November 2. But it will only do that if we come together and call our Congressional leaders and make it happen. They may not know how serious we are, but they know we are here.

"Politicians' and elected officials' antennae are quivering right now," McKinnon said, "because they see what's happening with the Tea Party; they see what's happening here [with the Coffee Party]; they know that something's happening in America and they've got to do something about it."

-PBG
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