Too often our government seems to work only for the wealthy and well-connected, while the interests of ordinary Kentuckians remain ignored.
Our government and its leaders should be open and transparent. Secret money in political campaigns undermines trust and confidence, and is not consistent with democratic values. An election system that effectively allows for unlimited contributions from corporations and lobbyists is a breeding ground for corruption. While some unethical politicians manipulate this system for personal gain, even leaders with good intentions must seek larger contributions from any source, simply to keep up. It’s a runaway train and it’s racing away from integrity in government. This is the swamp Sen. Mitch McConnell has built.
People are fed up with watching the Senate look the other way while its members sell power to special interests for campaign contributions and for their own profit. They’re fed up with a Senate that passes and upholds laws that benefit only the senators themselves and their families. And, they’re fed up with a Senate that is supposed to serve the people but is unwilling to roll back its own exclusive perks even as working Americans are forced to do more with less. It’s time to change all that.
Unlimited Political Money and its Damage to Democracy
During the last election cycle, around 70 percent of the total funds came from contributions by less than one half of one percent of the U.S. population. That’s staggering.
The question is, what does this do to our democracy? I see three major effects.
First, large undisclosed, unlimited corporate donations directly undermine the wants and needs of ordinary, hard-working citizens. Because of these donations, special interest groups hold enormous influence over politicians at the expense of real people. This means that ordinary citizens who cannot throw millions at candidates to buy influence face higher prescription drug costs, lower wages, and weak consumer protection—the list goes on and on.
Second, the amount of money flowing through politics forces members of Congress to constantly raise even more money for their next campaign. They spend up to 70 percent of their time fundraising. That leader you elected to represent you, to understand the issues, to meet with you, to attend hearings in overseeing the executive branch (as per the Constitution of the U.S.), and who is paid $174,000 to do so, is only spending an estimated 30 percent of their working time actually working for you. The bulk of their time is spent fundraising.
Third, elected offices are primarily held by those who cave to special interests or are millionaires themselves. The cost of political campaigns has skyrocketed in the past two decades. This makes running for office almost completely out of reach for anyone who is not a millionaire, does not come from a family of politics, and is not bought by special interests.
To clean up Washington, we need to:
- Limit unrestricted dark money and increase transparency by requiring the disclosure of donors to any organization that spends money in elections.
- Work to end Citizens United.
- Put an end to “senator” as a lifetime career by implementing term limits.
- Stop the “revolving door” between elected office and lobbying that allows special interests to buy the power of an elected official.
- Fight to end “Cadillac benefits” designed by elected officials only for them.
- Require release of complete federal tax returns by members of Congress, the president, the Cabinet, and the Supreme Court.
McConnell’s Washington Swamp
Sen. McConnell’s net worth has increased by as much as $57 million since he was elected. His office is a revolving door for lobbyists. In fact, at least 58 current and former McConnell staffers have passed through the proverbial “revolving door,” representing industries like Big Pharma and Wall Street. And lobbyists have rewarded him with campaign donations: he has received $1.9 million over the past 30 years.
In case that isn’t enough, Sen. McConnell has also received more than $6.71 million from Wall Street and the banking industry during the past 30 years. He has simultaneously worked to bail out the industry with $700 billion in taxpayer funds, voted to end federal student loans, which would be a windfall for Wall Street, and voted to privatize Social Security, another big windfall for Wall Street.
In contrast, I have received donations from all 120 Kentucky counties—and the average donation is $36 dollars. That’s democracy speaking and that kind of movement can inspire real leaders to run. Our country needs to get back to that. I pledge to work for you, not for corporations, lobbyists, or other special interests. I pledge to run a campaign that is financially transparent. And I pledge never to use my office for personal gain or to obtain special privileges not available to other Americans.
Only when government is transparent, and the rules of the road are applied equally, can Americans begin to trust that their government is truly working on their behalf.