By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
Randall Olsen’s résumé is impressive: he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 through 1988, and retired in mid-August from SwedishAmerican Hospital, Rockford, as a nuclear cardiology technologist. So, now it’s time to kick back with his feet up and enjoy a nice retirement, right?
Wrong! Randall Olsen wants to go to Washington, D.C. Specifically, if you live in Illinois’ 16th Congressional District, he wants to represent you.
My first thought was, “Are you crazy?” Well, obviously. But then I thought, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Washington is not a pretty place. Some call it downright corrupt, a “cesspool of vanity, greed and conflicts of interest so ubiquitous that it is openly joked about, even bragged about,” according to Jake Whitney, reviewing a book by Washington insider and journalist Mark Leibovich, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital. Whitney’s review of Liebovich’s “blistering assault on Washington’s insider culture” is found in September’s Progressive magazine.
Leibovich portrays the gridlock, hyperpartisanship, and failure of Republicans and Democrats to work together in Washington, as intentional, as predicated on the perpetuation of conflict. Conflict attracts viewers and readers, he says, keeps money pouring into super PACs, sells ads. “Politics as theater, it turns out,” Whitney paraphrases, “is far more lucrative than doing the people’s work.”
What we know as “the revolving door” is called “monetizing government employment” in Washington-speak, Whitney explains. “[Leibovich] offers this for context: In 1974, 3 percent of lawmakers went on to lobbying careers; today that number is about 50 percent.”
There is a remedy out here in the hinterland for what ails Washington. It is the American Anti-Corruption Act, and I’m betting no politician in Washington today would sign onto it without pressure.
That’s where we, the people, come in. In the coming months, a coalition of founders and citizen sponsors will seek more than a million signatories and ask every candidate to consent to it. If they do not, we pledge to either unseat them or not elect them in the first place.
“The Act,” says its website, “is comprehensive legislation written by former Federal Elections Commission Chairman Trevor Potter … [that] would sever the tie between politicians and special interest lobbyists, without requiring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Here are its nine provisions: Stop politicians from taking bribes; limit super PAC contributions and “coordination”; prevent job offers as bribes; call people who lobby lobbyists; limit lobbyist donations; end secret money; empower all voters with a tax rebate; separate fund-raising from lawmaking; and enforce the rules. The full text can be found at http://anticorruptionact.org, and you can sign on as a citizen co-sponsor here: https://represent.us.
This is a non-partisan issue. The act is equally embraced by citizens of all parties.
Which brings me back to Candidate Olsen. “If you’ll pledge to clean up Washington with the Anti-Corruption Act,” I said, “we’ll have your back.” “Absolutely!” he replied.
He’s got my vote!
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 Sept. 18-24, 2013, issue