Contributions and other gifts from lobbyists and special interests to public servants are bribes.
Without Campaign Finance Reform no other meaningful reform is possible.
Overturning the Citizen’s United decision by the US Supreme Court, as well as making a “Move-To-Amend” the US Constitution, would only be a mere fraction of what’s necessary to reform our broken campaign finance system.
Public trust in government is at an all-time low. There’s a widespread belief that our political and economic system is rigged and politicians listen more to their donors than voters.
A good example is the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings only have allegiance to their private money owners, not the fans. They used extortion and threatened to leave Minnesota if the State didn’t give them corporate welfare to build a billion dollar stadium. In contrast, the Packers will never threaten to leave Green Bay because they’re a fan-owned team with allegiance to the fans because they control the money not the privateers.
Likewise, all elections are rigged by the money masters who own your choice of indentured lawmakers. Under our money-rigged system, it takes huge advertising budgets to catch the attention of the average voter. That means, the wealthy influence peddlers win the election and the voters lose by choosing the least-worst candidate. Does this sound familiar?
Distrust in government has resulted in voter apathy and a feeling of powerlessness to change a rigged political system. After all, why bother voting when your only choice is a corrupt wealth-owned candidate? The suicidal effect of this is voter disengagement which leaves the foxes guarding the henhouse and enables the seizure of political power by economic power.
As a result, lobbyists today write ninety percent of the bills at the Minnesota Legislature. Ninety percent! Lobbyists buy, sell and rent politicians, including staffers and offer them revolving door lobbying jobs when they leave their public jobs. In fact, once a politician or staffer accepts an offer to work for the lobbyists, and before they’re officially hired, the lobbyist knows they’re already on the job working for free.
For example, Democratic State Rep. Ann Lenczewski, the chair of the powerful Taxes Committee, went through the revolving door to become a lobbyist for Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P, who sells her lobbying expertise to at least 16 businesses and municipalities. Her company funnels money to every US House & Senate member from Minnesota including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. See https://cfb.mn.gov/reports-and-data/viewers/lobbying/lobbyists/3525/2017.2/ and https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=D000027256
Perhaps the greatest offender of the revolving door is former Gov. Tim Pawlenty who left office in 2011 and went from politician-to-lobbyist after a failed run for President in 2012. In 2012, Pawlenty became President and CEO the Financial Services Roundtable; formerly named the “Banker’s Roundtable.” This lobbying firm represents 100 of the largest banks and financial companies in the world. He shouldn’t have any problem using lobbyist bundled dollars to win another term as Governor of Minnesota.
So, how can we bring about citizen-owned elections, end conflicts of interest and political bribery?
- Make it illegal for political candidates to accept contributions in connection with an election from a lobbyist.
- Prohibit lobbyists from bundling campaign contributions.
- Close the revolving door—elected officials and their staff must be barred for life from working for any company, organization, or association which lobbies the government. In addition, it should be illegal to get around lobbying by saying you’re a consultant who introduces an official to an individual at their law firm who tries to lobby them.
- Lobbyists should be banned from gift giving as well—Instead of limiting the amount that lobbyists may spend on wining and dining elected officials and their staff; eliminate it entirely. No finger food, no snacks, no hot dogs. Nothing.
- We need to eliminate any contribution by those lobbying the government, participating as contractors, or otherwise financially benefiting from public funds, be it a company, a union, an association, a law firm, or an individual, if you get money or perks from the government or public officials, you should not be able to give a single red cent.
- Prohibit fundraising during legislative hours.
- End Gerrymandering —Transfer authority over redistricting to an independent, fully transparent commission that must follow strict guidelines that eliminate human bias like a computer program. For instance, there is an open source computer program called, “Auto-Redistrict. Simply open a “shapefile” load in census and election data (if not already included in the shapefile), and hit "Go". See http://autodistrict.org.
- Public Campaign Financing - Citizen Owned Elections require public financing to counteract the wealthy influence peddlers who buy, sell and rent politicians. Therefore, I propose giving every registered voter a $75 credit tied to inflation with the Campaign Finance Board they can use to make a contribution to candidates or parties that agree to fundraise only from small donors. Under Minnesota’s current Political Contribution Refund (PCR) program, donors must first give $50 before they can be refunded $50 which can take three weeks or more, not to mention the 49-cents for postage. Poor voters can't afford to give or wait and why should they? Let them give online at a candidate or party's website and give them a computer application from the Campaign Finance Board where they can give online using a secure username and password. Note: That if the PCR had been tied to inflation in 1990 it would be worth $97.28 today.
- Automatically register eligible citizens to vote. Citizen’s can always decline to be registered.
- Eliminate Dark Money—Disclose the Donors—meaning stop donors from hiding behind non-profit secret-money groups like 501(C)(4) (social welfare) 501(C)(5) (unions) and 501(C)(6) (trade association) groups. These groups flood elections with money funneled through secret donors that spend money directly to influence elections and make unlimited contributions to super PAC’s which run ads to elect and defeat candidates.
- Free advertising on Public Television and Radio for all candidates.
- Mandate free or reduced cost advertising on Private Television and Radio. Despite the fact that the airwaves are the public domain, the largest broadcasters pay nothing for it. The least they could do is provide a public service for the privilege of not losing their licenses.
- Free space in public buildings or subsidized space for political party headquarters or local branches.
- Free access to public stadiums and arenas for rallies.
- Free or subsidized campaign mailings
- Provide access to political debates by ballot qualified candidates so pressing issues don’t go undebated; like campaign finance reform.
Notes: See 01-20-2010 City Pages, “The 10 Most Influential Lobbyists in Minnesota” http://www.citypages.com/news/the-10-most-influential-lobbyists-in-minnesota-6724069