This just in over the Internet from the John Edwards campaign. I’ve read this carefully and folks if this gets done we are going to have an entirely new ballgame in Congress. The corporatist bloodsuckers will go batshit crazy to stop John now. Read it over for yourself and if you want to help visit our ‘For a Blue Majority Now!’ page. And, no, the primaries are not over and Hillery Clinton is not inevitable. Not by a long damn shot. How do I know this? Simple they have not yet voted in Iowa, a state where polling is a black art not a science, and everyone who’s been following same labels it, ‘Too close to call…’
When special interests have seized control over Washington, it is no coincidence that regular families face stagnant wages, longer hours at work, and higher costs for health care, energy, and college. Insurance and drug companies block efforts to make health care universal and more affordable. Energy and power companies block efforts to develop renewable energy and improve energy efficiency. Financial institutions block efforts to crack down on predatory lending. Businesses block efforts to give workers a real choice to join a union. Wealthy taxpayers and corporations lobby for special tax breaks while the 37 million Americans living in poverty are not even on the agenda.
John Edwards believes that we can not go on as two Americas with two political systems—one for the insiders who can buy unlimited access to our leaders, and another for the rest of us. Today, he outlined his One Democracy Initiative, which will return the power in Washington to regular Americans by strengthening voting and campaign finance laws and taking on the special influence of lobbyists.
Strengthen The Voice Of Ordinary Citizens
Voting is perhaps our most important right and the defining right of an American citizen, but only about 55 percent of eligible Americans vote. There are 32 million Americans who are eligible to vote but not registered. No wonder that only 10 percent of Americans believe that people like themselves consistently have a say in their government. [Washington Post, 10/29/2006; Demos, 2005; CBS/N.Y. Times, 2000]
- Create a Citizen Congress: Most Americans can only exert significant influence on Washington by voting every two or four years. Despite the growth of communications technology, most voters are no closer to Washington policymakers than they were hundreds of years ago. Edwards believes in the wisdom of the American people and the power of deliberation. Every two years, he will ask 1 million citizens nationwide to participate in Citizen Congresses combining local town halls with the latest technology to create true national discussions, unfiltered by interest groups. Americans will discuss the challenges and trade-offs facing our country and offer advisory opinions to leaders. Part of an emerging movement to continue the democratic process between elections, citizen-centered projects have given ordinary people a voice in designs for the World Trade Center memorial, the redevelopment of New Orleans, health care reform in California and local issues in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. [Ackerman and Fishkin, 2004; November 5th Coalition, 2007; AmericaSpeaks, 2007]
- Reform Election Laws: America ought to set an example with the most trustworthy, inclusive and secure election system in the world. But recent elections have exposed major flaws, from insecure voting machines to laws and practices that disenfranchise citizens. Edwards will reform election laws to increase voter participation, promote fair elections, and enfranchise more Americans by:
- Protecting the vote: Edwards will secure Americans’ voting rights by requiring the use of paper ballots verified by voters. Voting machines will ensure access for people with disabilities and foreign-language speakers, use transparent and publicly accountable open-source software, and be verified by mandatory audits.
- Expanding voting rights and participation: Because election-day registration is a proven way to raise voter turnout, Edwards will require it for federal elections and encourage states to offer no-excuse absentee voting. He will support the right of Washington, D.C. residents to have voting representation in Congress and expand the rights of ex-prisoners who have served their time to vote in federal elections.Ending voter intimidation and suppression: Edwards will enact a new law making intentional interference with the right to vote a federal offense and providing tough penalties for political parties, officials and individuals. He will establish a Department of Justice task force to investigate patterns of dirty election tricks nationwide. He will also eliminate concerns over the partisan administration of elections by prohibiting chief state election officials from publicly supporting federal candidates. [Demos, 2006; Brennan Center and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 2007]
Promote Open and Democratic Media: The media is essential to democratic engagement, but it is now dominated by a few powerful corporate interests, and two-thirds of all independently-owned newspapers have shut down since 1975. Eight business conglomerates control the majority of media content in America. The result is a poorer democracy, with a few loud corporate voices drowning out independent perspectives and local participation. Edwards will strengthen rules against highly concentrated media ownership and define robust public interest obligations for digital broadcasters, a task 12 years overdue. He will promote citizens’ full democratic participation online by achieving univeral broadband access by 2010 and protecting the net neutrality rules that prohibit the selective degradation or blocking of access to certain web sites or services. [Free Press, 2006]
Reform Campaign Finance To Strengthen Small Donors
The system for financing American elections is rigged to amplify the influence of powerful and wealthy individuals as both donors and candidates. Facing increasingly expensive campaigns, politicians have become dependent on wealthy supporters. Even while governing, they must raise thousands of dollars a day. The average cost of successful congressional races has doubled since 1990 to $1 million for House races and $8 million for Senate races. The best-financed candidates won in over 90 percent of races in 2004. [CRP, 2004 and 2007]
John Edwards believes that the first step toward getting the policies we want is to put regular people back in charge of Washington. As president, he will:
- Reform Presidential Campaign Finance Laws to Empower Small Donors: Analysts believe that we are on track to spend a $1 billion on the 2008 presidential election. Few top-tier presidential candidates accept public financing, and candidates rely on wealthy, well-connected “bundlers” to help them raise tens of millions of dollars. The Internet has enabled a boom in small donations from regular people, but wealthy donors and bundlers still supplied nearly 80 percent of dollars contributed to candidates in the first quarter of 2007. Edwards will create a new Grassroots Presidential Financing System to empower regular Americans in a potentially universal public financing system. It will match small donations under $100 by eight to one, making two $100 donations as valuable to a campaign as a single $1,000 donation. (Each $100 donation would receive an $800 match, making them worth $900 each. The $1,000 donation would also receive an $800 match and be worth $1,800.) Edwards will also reduce the maximum contribution from $2,300 to $1,000 per person to better reflect the incomes of most Americans and update the campaign spending limits to attract all candidates into the system. [N.Y. Times, 1/23/07; CFI, 2007]
- Provide Full Public Financing in Congressional Campaigns: There is no public financing for congressional races, favoring candidates who are incumbents, have personal wealth, or have strong support from the wealthy and their corporate interests. Edwards will create full public financing for House and Senate races. Candidates who raise a certain number of $5 contributions will receive equal public financing and air time, while additional “fair fight” funds will help candidates facing self-financed campaigns and independent expenditures. States with these models—like Maine and Arizona—have reported more political accountability and candidates from more diverse backgrounds. [Brennan Center et al, 2007]
- Make Corporations Accountable: Corporations cannot give to federal campaigns, but can and do donate anonymously to independent 527 groups, politically active trade associations, state and local candidates, and state parties. The costs are often passed on to shareholders, workers, and customers. Edwards will require corporations to disclose all political spending and activity. [CPA, 2007]
End The Undue Power Of Lobbyists
Over the past few administrations, influencing our government has grown into a big business that employs a mass of lobbyists and lawyers. Lobbying expenditures totaled $5.1 billion during the last Congress. The number of Washington lobbyists has tripled in the past 10 years to almost 36,000—more than 60 for every member of Congress. The greed and corruption possible under the new regime of lobbyist influence was brought home by the short, corrupt, and very lucrative career of Jack Abramoff. Regular families are outnumbered: between 1998 and 2005, for example, the Chamber of Commerce spent more than $200 million on lobbying, eight times more than the AFL-CIO. As corporate influence in Washington has grown, so has government spending, driving some of the highest economic growth in the nation around the nation’s capital. [CRP, 2007; Senate Office of Public Records, 2006; Washington Post, 3/29/06; CPI, 2005; Galbraith and Hale, 2006]
John Edwards will take the power out of the hands of lobbyists. He will:
- Take on the Lobbyists’ Power with a Constitutional Line-Item Veto: Winning earmarks for their clients – transferring government money directly to certain institutions and interests – is the bread and butter of Washington lobbyists. The lobbyist who pioneered the use of earmarks, Gerald Cassidy, earned a fortune that exceeds $125 million. His earmarks helped start what the Washington Post called “the lobbying boom” and establish “a system of interdependence between lobbyists and Congress that thrives today.” To put an end to the rampant abuse of earmarks, Edwards will enact a new form of line-item veto – “expedited rescission” – that would allow the president to single out pork spending provisions in bills and send them back to Congress for required up or down votes. Congress could earmark money only by going on the record in support of each special-interest provision, one by one. Edwards will minimize the risk that the president will abuse the process by allowing only one package of rescissions per bill and requiring the president to spend the funds if Congress reaffirms them. [Washington Post, 4/8/2007]
- Prohibit Lobbyists from Giving or Raising Campaign Cash: Today, lobbyists approach politicians with campaign checks in one hand and wish lists in the other. Federally registered lobbyists gave over $23 million in the 2006 campaign. Edwards has never taken a dime from federal lobbyists or PACs. He will sever the connection between money and lobbyist influence by:
- Ending lobbyist campaign contributions: Lobbyists should be able to make their cases on the merits, not by influencing politicians with donations. Edwards will prohibit all federal candidates from accepting campaign contributions from federal lobbyists.
- Stopping lobbyists from bundling: Lobbyists solicit donations from others and direct them towards candidates to maximize their impact, a practice known as bundling. Edwards has never allowed any lobbyists to bundle donations for him. As president he will ban federal lobbyists from bundling for federal candidates. [CRP, 2007]
- Close the Lobbyist Revolving Door: Cashing in on government connections has become a new retirement plan for Washington politicians. Nearly 250 former members of Congress and agency heads registered as federal lobbyists between 1998 and 2004. Edwards will close the lobbyist revolving door by:
- Banning top government officials from becoming lobbyists: Edwards will restore the Clinton-era executive order barring appointees from lobbying their former colleagues for five years, created by President Clinton but rescinded in his last days. He will also enact it by statute so that no president can revoke it and expand the definition of prohibited lobbying to include directing strategy on lobbying campaigns, not just making direct contact with officials.
- Banning lobbyists from taking top government jobs: In today’s Washington, corporate lobbyists don’t just lobby public officials, they often become them. Edwards will bar individuals who acted as federal lobbyists in the preceding two years from taking senior executive jobs with responsibility for the subject areas on which they lobbied. [Center for Public Integrity, 2006; Washington Post, 12/29/00]
- Expose Lobbyist Contacts to Sunlight: Recent legislation expands disclosures of lobbying activity, but still delays information by three months and doesn’t provide enough detail to expose the real chains of influence. John Edwards will require lobbyists to disclose within 48 hours which federal office candidates, members, staff and executive officials they met with, which legislative or regulatory items they discussed, and any contributions made or raised for that official. Lobbyists will also have to disclose prior employment by the government or a contractor and any close relationship to a current member of Congress, staff member, or executive branch employee.
Prohibit Executive Branch Employees from Accepting Corporate Gifts: From March 2006 to April 2007, corporations and trade groups paid for more than 200 trips for executives of agencies that regulated or did business with them. Edwards will prohibit all executive branch officials and staff from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists or their employers. [USA Today, 8/23/07]