Think about this:
What would happen if you were to offer money to a judge or a police officer to influence them in the way they do their jobs? You’d be thrown in jail, right? So why do we allow lobbying firms to do this with the people who make the laws- politicians?
Lobbyists are representatives of groups and organizations who influence the political process by offering campaign contributions to politicians who are “patient enough” to hear their concerns. We need to eliminate lobbying from the political process. Sure, many public interest groups and religious/faith-based groups have done great things through lobbying, but who has the real money?Large transnational corporations… This is not an anti-capitalist conspiracy theory– it is merely natural and rational for large businesses to have similar interests.
Big banks put together a $400,000 lobbying (bribery) package to get Congress to repeal the Glass-Steagal Act of 1933. In 1999, they were successful. This is one reason why the financial collapse in 2008 was so pervasive, infecting every sector of the economy.
The fact that lobbying is allowed is the #1 reason why our country cannot function as a true democracy. We need to remove this tool from the hands of those who abuse it. To do so, however, requires strong legislation. We need a Constitutional Amendment which clearly and permanently bans this kind of behavior and puts the democratic process back into the hands of the people.
This is not an easy feat, and some may believe it cannot be done. Shame on them. The same things were said about abolishing slavery, granting women the right to vote and the Civil Rights Movement. These movements worked, despite the ignorant people and big money which campaigned against them- they worked because absolutely everyone talked about the movements- because people demanded these things (although in the case of slavery, it did require a Civil War) and overall, these movements were successful because they were Just and Right.
I think we can all agree that-in general- politicians are corrupt. Every American can understand the reason why: they are permitted to take bribes. The legal distinction between lobbying and bribery is so circumstantial and razor-thin that it may as well be put this way: “Lobbying is not bribery because Congress says so.” We know what the problem is and we know what the solution is. Now it is time to act.
The following is a draft/outline of a Constitutional Amendment. It starts off pretty similar to the way the 14th Amendment begins, but then includes additional information. The main summary could be reduced to :
- Corporations are not people and cannot have the same rights as a person.
- Money is not free speech.
My draft is certainly not perfect- it’s just a starting point toward something decisive that I think encapsulates the concerns of the entire nation and paves the way for further reform:
“In protection of the Rights & Privileges of the citizens of the United States of America:
1. Any and every individual human being who is a citizen of the United States, either by birth within her borders or by legal naturalization process, shall be granted all rights and privileges guaranteed under the United States Constitution and all Amendments thereof, including but not limited to any additional rights and/or privileges granted by the state in which they reside or are physically located. Neither the States nor Congress shall make any law limiting, abridging or otherwise circumventing these rights and privileges.
For the purposes of this Amendment, whereas:
(a) a “person” is defined as an individual human being -and-
(b) a “corporation or business entity” is defined as an entity incorporated or associated for business purposes
2. A “corporation or business entity” is not a “person” and shall not be granted the rights or privileges of such. No “corporation or business entity” shall be granted the rights or privileges of a United States citizen. Neither the States nor Congress shall make any law limiting, abridging or otherwise circumventing this distinction.
3. The use of money does not equal free speech. Lobbying in the interests of any “corporation or business entity”, community group, religious sect or any other such association – public or private – shall be prohibited. Donations, lobbying or financial support, in the form of campaign contributions or otherwise; including but not limited to: gifts, currency, wages, or stock options, provided to members of any office of the government whether or not they are intended for the purpose of affecting policy, are deemed “bribery”. These therefore are illegal and shall not under any circumstances be construed or protected as “free speech”. Neither the States nor Congress shall make any law limiting, abridging or otherwise circumventing this prohibition.
4. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
So now you may ask, “How, pray tell, will politicians PAY for their campaigns, smart guy?”
–Through a central public campaign fund.
Did you know that almost 95% of the time, the candidate with the most money wins? Why do you think that is? Why do you think that candidates never really seem to be aware of the issues that you care the most about? Instead, they tend to tell us which issues we should care about. Do you think that if everyone had the same amount of money to campaign with, that perhaps elections will focus on actual issues concerning the people of this country? That they may be won due to the politician’s actual policies and due to his/her actual track record?
Here’s an idea of what a publicly-funded campaign finance system might look like. It’s just an example. I didn’t crunch any numbers, I just used common sense and imagination. But if you don’t like my idea, that’s okay. I’m not the only one talking about it:
“Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign for President of the United States
I. Nomination and election process outline
- Campaigns begin with petition/nomination form to be signed by no less than 1,000 citizens within a period of one year.
- All petitions must arrive within three months of the local election, at which time all candidates will be announced. Candidates will contend in run-off elections within their home state only. Winning candidate will be referred to as “state of- blank- sponsored” candidate (e.g. State of Missouri-Sponsored Candidate or State of New York-Sponsored Candidate, and sometimes states are commonwealths- like Massachusetts).
- Election of the state-sponsored presidential candidate will enter said candidate into the national run-off election.
- National run-off election will produce one nationally-sponsored candidate to oppose incumbent, regardless of party affiliation, if incumbent has served only one term. If incumbent has served the maximum two terms, national run-off elections will terminate early, producing two nationally-sponsored candidates.
- All political parties are welcome to nominate their own candidates on the state or local level to participate in the state run-off elections.
- Write-in candidates will be allowed at any time, provided that they have not engaged in campaigning of any kind during preceding phases of the current election cycle.
II. Candidate funds
- All campaign contributions will be made to a central public agency and divided equally between all candidates.
- Fifty percent of all funds will be allocated toward the nationally-sponsored candidates. Fifty percent of funds will be allocated evenly among all the states and will be divided equally between all candidates in preliminary state elections.
III. Debates and Rallies
- All debates will be aired in their entirety on public/community radio stations, public/community television stations and on the internet at .org, .edu and .gov domains only.
- Private/corporate news media outlets will be given a feed which they can choose to air/stream the debate, but only if they do so for the entirety of the program, giving no preference to any candidate.
- Private/corporate news media outlets may interview individual candidates after debates or rallies only if equal airtime is given to all candidates.”
How about campaign staff? Perhaps we can allow college students affiliated with the appropriate political groups on-campus to get involved? They will likely do it for free as an internship.
Please think about this idea, and more importantly: Talk about it with everyone- Your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, your Congressional representatives- everyone. With everyone talking about it, we will eventually see this addressed in Congress. Even if passing an Amendment fails, we will at least then know who in Congress are friends to the public– and who are its enemies.
Thanks for reading– and pass it on!!