By Elizabeth Lindquist
Nov. 4, the citizens of Genoa Township were given the opportunity to be heard on a topic that 96 percent of Americans think is a problem, but 92 percent think nothing will be done about: the corrupting influence of money in our political system.
After selecting candidates in a variety of races, voters in Genoa saw the following advisory question on their ballot:
“Do you support removing the corrupting influence of money on our political system by prohibiting politicians from taking campaign money from industries they regulate; increasing transparency for campaign funding; empowering all voters through a tax rebate voucher to contribute to the candidates they support; prohibiting representatives and senior staff from all lobbying activity for five years once they leave office; and placing limits on superPACs?”
The question received a whopping 89 percent support. Voters in two Massachusetts state Senate districts were also given the chance to weigh in on this question, and they approved the ideas with overwhelming support.
The question is a highly abbreviated version of the comprehensive reform plan known as the American Anti-Corruption Act (www.AntiCorruptionAct.org). The act would aim to stop the bribery, end secret money, enable citizens to fund elections, close the revolving door between Congress and lobbying firms, and empower the Federal Election Commission. Rockford Township citizens would have had the opportunity to weigh in on these ideas, but in July, the Rockford Township Board voted to not allow the question on the ballot. Months earlier, the Genoa Township Board unanimously voted to allow it. The DeKalb County Clerk reviewed the question, and placed it on the ballot.
Now, all the voters of Winnebago County have the opportunity to weigh in. In the coming weeks, corruption-fighting citizens from Represent.Us Rockford will be asking the Winnebago County Board to pass a resolution placing this question on the ballot for the April 7 election. Citizens who would like to see this question are asked to contact their county board members urging them to vote “Yes” to place this question on the ballot.
Some may wonder, “Why do this?” The county does administer elections, but does not determine how elections are funded, at least at levels of government higher than the county. It is, however, in the interest of the county board to help facilitate that the elections they administer are fair and free of corruption. Right now, they are not. Right now, regardless of how well intentioned the individuals within the system are, the system is corrupt.
A recent study by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin I. Page concludes, “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” (“Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12(3): 564-581.)
In other words: If you don’t have a lot of money to give, the government literally does not care what you think.
Neither party is taking a strong stand for comprehensive reform. While they fight over the issues that divide the country, the one thing that Americans agree on is ignored. We are losing our representative democracy, our Republic. Taking action at the local level sends a clear, strong message to those above. The results of these advisory ballot questions are not possibly biased survey results that can be ignored; they are the true desires of real voters.
Reform advocates will use the results from this ballot question and similar questions across the country to build these desires into demands. Starting at the local level is the way to shift the dependence of representatives away from the funders and back to the people — the way the founders intended.
Elizabeth Lindquist is a chapter leader of Represent.Us Rockford.
From the Nov. 19-25, 2014, issue