I’m very concerned about the direction our country is headed, and I believe it’s time to change the way we elect our political leaders. The voices of the American people are being drowned out by big money – the kind of money that only corporations, special interest groups, and powerful lobbyists can afford to pay. In this recent election, we’re talking about billions of dollars spent, not millions. What will be the total amount spent in 2016?
It’s more than just a money problem. Instead of paying attention to constituents, our politicians cater to the biggest donors looking for influence and political favors. While they deny they expect anything in return, these donors don’t fork over huge sums of money with no strings attached. No one believes that for a minute.
With two-year terms, running for the House of Representatives is almost a year-round job. As soon as one election is over, the work begins on the next campaign. Fund raisers are scheduled and phone calls to potential donors are made. Adding insult to injury, they still earn their Congressional salaries while spending hundreds of hours campaigning for reelection. Why should politicians get paid for keeping their job and not doing their job?
Our representatives in Washington are supposed to work for us, not for their campaign contributors. There are things that can be done to fix the problem, but there is tremendous resistance to changing the rules in Washington. There are also Constitutional hurdles related to the First Amendment that must be addressed in order to get reform that will stand up to court challenges. Below, I’ve summarized ideas on what could be done to inject fairness into our political system:
- Impose a short campaign cycle – We currently have people running for office for several years leading up to the election. Why not limit all campaign spending to a few months before the primary or general election? If it worked in the old days when high-speed communications didn’t even exist, it can work now. That would spare all of us from 2+ years of endless television commercials and phone calls.
- Federal funding for elections – You shouldn’t have to be wealthy to serve your country in Washington. Federal funding would level the playing field so that talented people of all means will have a chance to run for office and win.
- Cap spending – An alternative to federal funding is to place mandatory caps on the amount of money that can be raised and spent on each election. This would shorten the campaign cycle by default, and would enable more people to mount credible campaigns.
- Limit corporate contributions – We are supposed to be a government of the people, and corporations are not people. Their contributions should be severely limited and require full disclosure.
- Term Limits – The founding fathers never intended senators and representatives to be lifetime positions. Senators should serve no more than two 6-year terms, and Representatives no more than three 2-year terms.
- End Congressional pensions – It’s time to remove a big incentive for politicians to overstay their welcome in Washington. Take away their generous pensions and benefits, and give them credit for time served to a civil service position if they decide to stay in government when their term ends.
We need to end the vicious cycle of politicians chasing money and ignoring the constituents they are supposed to serve. When citizens like Davy Crockett went to Washington, they did so out of a desire to serve, with no intentions of making politics a lifelong career. Unlike today’s politicians, they didn’t spend most of their time raising money and campaigning. After they served a term or two in Congress, they returned home to do the jobs they had left behind. Unfortunately, those days are long gone.
We need to get back to the philosophy of service before self, and inject fresh blood and new ideas into a system that no longer represents our best interests. There’s something terribly wrong with a system that is totally oriented toward reelection rather than doing the right thing for the people. We have to break the back of a political class whose membership is consistently reelected more than 90% of the time. We need ordinary citizens in Washington who understand what it’s like to live in the real world dealing with real problems.
Dramatic change is needed now, or the problems we currently face will only get worse. The more money is injected into politics, the more corrupt it becomes. Our representatives need to spend all their time working for us and solving our nation’s problems. It’s time to stop talking and start acting.
I strongly urge you to seriously consider the reforms I’ve outlined above. Specifically, I request your sponsorship of a bill(s) that would address the issues raised, and solicitation of co-sponsorship and support from your fellow members. Thank you for your time and attention to these important matters.