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Politicians in Congress should serve you, not rich contributors

'Fair Elections' reform would allow public servants like those in Congress to focus on policy, not fundraising.

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Call us old-fashioned sentimentalists.

We used to think of the United States Senate as a place where sober-minded men and women with a hankering for public service came together to listen to different points of view and forge common solutions to the nation's tough problems.

The fact that each of us represented a different political party did not diminish our mutual respect and readiness to work together. On the campaign trail, we tried to help our parties win, but in the Congress, we and many others sought to reach bipartisan legislative outcomes in the national interest.

But nowadays in Washington, the bridge-builders are heading for the hills.

The recent announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana that he would leave the Senate in 2010 was just the latest in a stream of moderate senators who are too fed up to seek another term. His fellow Midwesterner, Sen. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio, paved the way a year ago. Unless the ways of Washington change, we doubt these two senators will be the last to quit.

Big money's corrosive effect

If there's one reason for leaving that both Senators Voinovich and Bayh – and ourselves in our time – share in common, it's money. Congress is stuck in the mud of strident partisanship, excessive ideology, never-ending campaigns, and – at the heart of it all – a corrosive system of private campaign funding and the constant fundraising it demands.

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