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Agitate, America!: We can get money out of politics

May 1, 2013

Nancy Churchill

By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

Just in time for you to sign on to something that will clean up the corruption in Washington, D.C., a group called “Represent.Us” has launched the American Anti-Corruption Act, and you can be a co-sponsor or founder. Download your own copy of the act at anticorruptionact.org. It’s an equal-opportunity initiative that should appeal to conservatives, liberals, Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and everyone in between (but maybe not lawmakers)!

The act has nine provisions, as follow:

First, stop politicians from taking bribes. This includes prohibiting members of Congress from soliciting and receiving contributions from any industry or entity they (are supposed to) regulate.

Second, limit SuperPAC contributions and the practice known as “coordination,” or the collaboration between campaigns and their SuperPACS. This practice, common since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, makes a mockery of the “independence” the court expected to exist.

Third, prevent the selling of legislative power in exchange for lucrative job offers that representatives and their staffers engage in after leaving office, calling it what it is: bribery. Require at least a five-year “cooling off” period before private employment in high-paying K Street lobbying jobs.

Fourth, call people who lobby lobbyists. This would include registering all lobbyists to prevent influence-peddling by skirting the rules. Too often today, this means calling former members of Congress and their staffs “historical advisers.” Bending the rules takes many forms!

Fifth, limit lobbyist donations. This limits contributions to federal candidates and political parties, and fund-raising for political campaigns, to $500 per year. It would also extend the ban to high-level executives, government relations employees and PACs of federal government contractors.

Sixth, end secret money. This includes mandating full transparency of all political money and filing a full disclosure report online with the Federal Election Commission for any organization that spends more than $10,000 to influence an election.

Seventh, (my favorite!) provide all voters with a tax rebate of $100 to use to make a qualified contribution to federal candidates, political parties and political committees, allowing small donors to offset the huge spenders.

Eighth, require federal candidates to disclose the names of contribution “bundlers,” whether or not they are lobbyists.

And ninth, enforce the rules (what a novel idea!). That means strengthening the Federal Election Commission’s independence and the House and Senate ethics enforcement process. This includes providing federal prosecutors with the tools to combat corruption and prohibit lobbyists who fail to register and properly disclose their activities.

These provisions may appear obvious to us. But it’s clear that money in politics is too strong a siren call to expect lawmakers and their staffs to resist, much less self-police. It’s about time we make them clean up election rules that have proven far too easy for them to skirt or break with impunity. We can take charge of this situation and require them to clean up their act. Become a signatory of the American Anti-Corruption Act and share widely with your family, friends and co-workers.

Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the May 1-7, 2013, issue

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