Conservatives join New Hampshire rally in support of campaign finance reform

Jim Rubens (Photo by Rick Kurtz)
Jim Rubens (Photo by Rick Kurtz)

By Elizabeth Lindquist

CONCORD, New Hampshire — Several prominent conservatives rallied with independents and liberals in Concord, New Hampshire, Jan. 21, to support reforming the way political campaigns are funded.

The rally took place Jan. 21, on the final day of the New Hampshire Rebellion march and on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Citizens United ruling found that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates.

At the Jan. 21 event, former Senate Republican primary candidate Jim Rubens of New Hampshire called out his party for supporting campaign funding systems not conducive to fiscal conservatism.

Following (in italics) is the full text of Rubens’ speech:

I’m here as a veteran of many campaigns and causes to disabuse Republicans and conservatives of this falsehood: That Washington’s corrupt campaign money system gives us any advantage in advancing our principles.

For three decades now, Washington politicians — in both parties and in every election — promise us fiscal responsibility. Instead, they’ve loaded our kids and grandkids with a millstone of debt. They’ve robbed prosperity from our future and weakened our capacity to pay for our nation’s security in a dangerous world. Most of this spending and unfunded promises is payback to campaign contributors.

Our tortured, convoluted tax code is a direct result of this system of corruption. Tax breaks are carved out for big-money campaign contributors, paid for with higher rates on ordinary Americans.

This system puts corn ethanol in our gas tanks, driving up food prices, depressing gas mileage, and harming the environment.

Congress is unrelenting in its defense of the Export-Import Bank, where in 2012, 80 percent of taxpayer-guaranteed loans were provided to one highly profitable company, Boeing Aircraft.

The bi-partisan Cromnibus spending bill, once again, does nothing to tackle spending or deficits, but does stick ordinary Americans with the downside risk of derivatives trading by five megabanks.

While the U.S. government is the world’s largest buyer of pharmaceutical products, over $100 billion per year, Congress continues to forbid Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices — which for Americans are highest in the world. Could it be that the drug industry spent $435 million over the past two years on campaign contributions and its 1,400 Washington lobbyists?

To top it off, we’ve got foreigners purchasing special favors from government using straw campaign contributors, favors not available to people of ordinary means. Here’s a recent example documented in a December New York Times investigative story:

The Isaias, a wealthy Ecuadorian family accused by their government of looting half a billion dollars from a closely-held Ecuadorian bank, has given over $300,000 in campaign money to both Democrats and Republicans since 2010.”

Can you guess if the family got anything more than good government in return?

The U.S. government has continuously refused to extradite the two family patriarchs — William and Roberto — to Ecuador for prosecution.

Another family member had been repeatedly refused entry into the U.S. for having fraudulently obtained visas for several of her maids. One day after Hillary Clinton’s State Department lifted her ban, the family wrote a $40,000 check to the Obama Victory Fund. (Fairness: family campaign money also went to a potential GOP presidential candidate, Marco Rubio.)

The most devastating indictment of Washington’s system of corruption is that these seven examples of special-interest privilege and crony capitalism are not cherry picked anomalies.

A groundbreaking 2014 study tested the political outcomes in 1,800 contested issues over a 20-year period and found this: little surprise that economic elites and organized business interests had substantial impact on policy. And, average members of public have essentially zero influence over what Washington does.

Whatever your issue or ideology, we must confront this corrupted, immobilized political system, accountable to big-money donors and not to the American people.

This cannot stand if our nation is ever to address our common challenges. Any candidate who visits our state looking for votes and who fails to tell us how they would repair this system of corruption is complicit in its perpetuation. It’s long overdue time to demand the end to bought-and-paid-for Washington government.

Later in the evening, John Pudner, executive director of the newly formed organization Take Back Our Republic, spoke about how he used “crony capitalism” to successfully unseat Eric Cantor.

Pudner was the top strategist for Dave Brat’s winning primary challenge to then-House Majority Leader Cantor. In his speech, Pudner recalled what people would say when he told them he was in politics.

People said, ‘Oh, you’re in politics — isn’t the whole deal now that people give a million dollars to politicians and get millions back?’” Pudner said. “I said, ‘Wow, people are really starting to view the government as transactional.’”

Pudner pointed out that members of Congress spend half their time asking donors for money, something that is not only a waste of the time that should be spent doing the work of legislating, but skews the attention of the representatives. He said there is a growing recognition among conservatives that representative democracy is undermined when, “Your real constituency is anyone with a bigger check.”

Take Back Our Republic is in the process of developing consensus on solutions to the problem of the corrupting influence of money in politics. Pudner asked those in attendance to be patient as the group develops a comprehensive slate of reforms. More about the group can be found at www.TakeBack.org. More about the group hosting this event can be found at www.NHRebellion.org.

Posted Jan. 28, 2015

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