Finance Reform – Challengers and Considers
I am thrilled to testify in support of the important and urgent topic of campaign finance reform your political campaign finance reform’s critical and urgent topic. As a former finance chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, I was one of the chief architects behind the Sarbanes Oxley and Ethics Act. Because of my knowledge of the issues, I was also one of the key congressional votes to keep that law in place. In particular, I was one of the strong, votive votes against Harken back in 2021. That was one of the primary reasons I felt compelled to write this testimony today. The House Ways and Means Committee will resume their work on Capitol Hill immediately, so we must all get geared up and ready to fight for change,
Over the past few decades, the amount of money spent by American citizens in local, state, and federal elections has increased at an alarming rate. Today, American citizens spend billions of dollars in political campaigns, putting enormous pressure on our broken campaign finance laws and election finance spending limits. Some say that the U.S. citizenry has become polarized politically. Maybe politicians no longer understand how to bridge the partisan divide to work together to solve our country’s problems. Whatever the case may be, at some point soon, our politicians will need to realize that they cannot go on forever borrowing money from wealthy donors to run these costly, unfair, and inefficient campaigns.
The current campaign finance reform law and its structure currently make the system of bribes and kickbacks basically unstoppable. For example, under current U.S. Senate rules, it is virtually impossible for any Senator or Representative ever to be brought to justice for accepting bribes or kickbacks from special interest groups and special interests. In fact, all of the current U.S. Senate candidates are completely protected by campaign finance laws that shield them from both public accountability and legal accountability. If these politicians had been forced to face the music after accepting these bribes and kickbacks, we probably would have never seen any of them ever again in our political system. For this reason, many citizens wonder if the U.S. political system is such a broken system that it makes the current banking collapse look like a minor hiccup. After all, isn’t the current banking crisis bigger?
Although there is a lot of debate over the validity of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution related to freedom of speech and political speech, it is generally accepted and understood that the U.S. Constitution was adopted as a protection against both actual bribery and political bribery. Of course, since our nation’s founding fathers did not guarantee rights in the first amendment, today’s citizens are left to fend for themselves in the political arena when the government cannot protect their freedoms and their rights and freedoms. When corporations and special interest groups exert tremendous amounts of influence over our elected officials, the first amendment must protect them from excessive influence so that our representatives can do their job effectively. Unfortunately, some high-level politicians have used their political power to extend their own power and their corporate Citizens’ personal power through fraudulent and unethical conduct in the political arena.
This is where some of the most incredible abuses of power have occurred. In the last few decades, many U.S. House and Senate candidates have run on platforms of reducing the size of the federal government and increasing regulations and burdens on small businesses. When they are elected, they often do just that, and they often do so, riding high on promises to “cut the size of the government.” They then increase those government regulations and burdens on businesses with which they do business while simultaneously working diligently to defeat any efforts by Congressional voters to reduce those government regulations and burdens. In many instances, these politicians have misled the voters, promising to cut government spending when they know that it will increase government spending.
However, it is not just the politicians who have failed the taxpayers by not following the original intentions of the United States Congress in pursuing campaign finance reform. Many representatives have also failed by misleading the voters about how campaign finance reform is actually being implemented. One example is Representative Barney Franks (R-PA), who has received over $500,000 in campaign finance money from one politically inspired company in the last election cycle. He further lied to the voter during the election about how his office changed many campaign finance laws. If these politicians had only stuck to their original promises and stopped lying and misleading the voters, perhaps there would have been a smaller amount of taxpayer-funded political contributions made in the last couple of decades.
Today, thanks to the United States citizen’s initiative, the Truth in Politics Institute, the Barney Franks Campaign Fund, and other citizens and watchdog groups have begun a concerted campaign to put a stop to this type of fraudulent conduct. Today, they are launching an aggressive public education and political lobby effort known as “PACER petitions.” The PACER petitions will require all Members of Congress to submit written statements explaining how they intend to vote on the various pieces of legislation being considered by the House and Senate. The petition will also require each member of Congress to declare their position on whether or not they support, oppose, or have a positive or negative opinion about the bailouts and another piece of legislation being called for by the United States Congress. All Members of Congress who fail to comply with these requirements will be considered ineligible to serve.
Not long ago, some prominent legal scholars and the CATO Institute sent a letter to all members of Congress urging them not to take part in any activities that would limit their freedom of speech and their free exercise of religion. In the letter, they explained that although the United States Constitution protects every citizen’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, the courts have increasingly interpreted the law to restrict citizens’ free exercise of these rights. For example, during the debates regarding the Patient Health Care Act (PCCA) in 2021, some members of Congress promised to vote against any measures that would limit religious expression in the marketplace. Similarly, some members of Congress promised to vote against any legislation that would allow corporations to contribute to political ads. Such unlimited contributions by corporations could hamper smaller, more vulnerable candidates who do not have deep pockets.