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Guest Column: Money in politics means taxation without representation
By Elizabeth Lindquist
April 15, we, the people, will dutifully pay our taxes to a government that no longer represents us.
Policy decisions on nearly every issue, regardless of public opinion, are decided by a select few who can afford to write massive checks, host campaign fund-raisers, and hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists.
A recent study by researchers at Yale and UC Berkeley found that members of Congress were four times as likely to take a meeting with a prospective donor than with a regular constituent. That’s a whole lot of attention for a vanishingly small number of people — just 0.12 percent of the population made $200 or more in political contributions in the last election cycle.
Keep in mind those were just the results for “prospective donors” with no prior relationships to the members of Congress contacted in the study. Imagine the access granted to former colleagues. As Mark Leibovich noted in his book This Town: “In 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. Now 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of congressmen do.” Now, combine that with the fact that those members of Congress who leave to become lobbyists enjoy, on average, a 1.452 percent raise. Combine that with the fact that the suburbs of Washington, D.C., now account for seven of the nation’s 10 richest counties, and a very clear picture emerges.
This is a culture of corruption. Our nation’s capital has become a place where those who have the money to buy their way in receive better treatment from our elected leaders than everyone else. That’s great for the handful of people who can afford to buy access, but for the rest of us, it’s taxation without representation.
If you’re as fed up with this sorry state of affairs as I am, you’ll understand why I haven’t been able to sit on the sidelines. That’s why I formed a local Represent.Us chapter here in Rockford. We’re part of a national, nonpartisan anti-corruption movement that’s organizing a push for an overhaul of American campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws.
Saturday, April 12, our volunteer-led district committee will hold a demonstration (complete with some fun street theater) near the Trolley Station at Riverview Park at 3 p.m. To remind our government they’re supposed to work for us, not big donors and lobbyists. And April 15, we’ll be rallying at the Post Office on Harrison for a national day of action to turn Tax Day into Representation Day.
Corruption at the municipal, state and federal level is a national disgrace that does every hardworking American a disservice. As citizens of this great republic, it is our duty to put an end to this corruption once and for all. If you’d like to join us, please visit www.represent.us/taxday to learn more and get involved.
Elizabeth Lindquist is the 16th District committee leader of Represent.Us IL.
From the April 9-15, 2014 issue