The current campaign system puts the interests of the American people in the hands of wealthy special interests. Both parties should rally behind the Fair Elections Now Act, returning public elections to public ownership.
As a former Republican member of Congress who devoted 24 years of service in the People’s House, I am saddened to find that our system of campaigning for Congress today is deeply flawed and in need of major repair.
To run for public office, good people seeking to represent their constituents on Capitol Hill must devote countless hours to the pursuit of millions of dollars in private money. To bring in the necessary cash, they must either be independently wealthy or have ready access to the wealth of others. Either way, our elected officials are at risk of no longer representing the interests of the American people.
But there is at least one bipartisan solution I know to repair our broken system, and it goes back to our most basic democratic principles: public ownership of our public elections. Congress must pass the Fair Election Now Act to curb the undue influence of special interests on candidates of both parties.
The current, untenable situation is this: A would-be challenger must answer two simple questions before being considered a candidate for public office: “Do you have it, or can you raise it?” Only after the candidate answers in the affirmative to this question of funding, are questions of experience, integrity, and results considered by the voters.
Let me be more concrete: If recent elections are any measure, a successful Senate candidate this fall will be required to raise at least $10 million, and a successful House candidate at least $1.5 million. What’s more, the money these candidates raise does not come from the American people by-and-large, but rather from a tiny percentage of wealthy parties representing various special interests.
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