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Conventional wisdom says our political system is too broken to be fixed. That bribery and graft are here to stay. That politicians cannot be trusted to do the right thing. This year, we started a campaign to change all that.
Right now, 300 candidates running for Congress have signed. That’s 300 who pledge to: improve publicly-funded elections elections, support real lobbying reform, and create transparency for the fundraising done by lobbyists.
Today we held a national press conference to announce all of our success in getting 300 Congressional candidates to sign the Voter's First Pledge. Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, laid out the facts for reporters.
Did your candidates sign? Look up our results so far at the newly-launched Voters First Web site.
If any of your candidates are missing, its time to join the movement. Take action by contacting your candidates for election and asking them to sign the Pledge.
Remember, the only real deadline is the election on November 7th. Its not too late for candidates to sign. Make a call or write an email to change their minds.
Or drop by their campaign headquarters, as the Director of Congress Watch did last Friday (read all about her adventures trying to sign up some Illinois candidates in person at their HQs).
Our current election system pushes candidates for Congress to sell out before they can get in. Its time for a new day in American politics that will make politicians more accountable to voters than to wealthy special interests.
We can do it, with your help. Call your candidates and let us know how it went. And be sure to check back before November 7th to see where your candidates stand on corruption and the public funding of elections.
Last week, when I was visiting Chicago, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign and I got inspired to take the pledge campaign to the streets. We decided to “field-test” the Voters First Pledge by toting along a blown-up poster of the pledge to a couple of candidates for election this November and telling them all of the excellent reasons that they should sign on. We were closest to the campaign HQs of Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic candidate, and Peter Roskum, a Republican and former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay. Both are vying for the open seat vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde in Illinois’ fifth district.
We were joined in the effort by Aileen, a local member of the Public Campaign. We found the Duckworth campaign office in a small strip mall and approached with the poster. Inside, people were a little taken aback until we finished up the introductions and walked them through the elements of the poster-sized pledge. The campaign manager for Duckworth was gracious, told us that he had reviewed the pledged with the candidate and that she would sign on. He pulled papers out of the back office to which Duckworth had attached a statement of her views and had us push the fax machine button to send them through. Another pledge on record!
We next ventured on to visit the Roskum headquarters. It was in a small house in a residential area, with a Mercedes parked out front. The reception there was far chillier. Once inside, an office manager appeared who summarily informed us that the candidate and campaign manager were gone. She did allow us to leave the large pledge behind in the entry way to the office and thanked us for visiting as she closed the door.
Overall, a pleasant experience! Everyone should drop by a campaign office, or email and call candidates and ask them to sign the pledge. You never know what will happen until you try.
The Toledo Blade reports that Thomas Noe was convicted of conspiring to violate federal campaign laws. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison and will pay $136,200 in fines. Noe achieved “Pioneer” status (raising over $100,000 for Bush) by giving cash to friends and associates, who in turn paid to attend a high-priced lunch.
Before sentencing, Noe said, “…I was pressured by Bush-Cheney campaign officials to become a pioneer for George Bush” and “I knew it was wrong.”
The RNC said it would return the money if authorities ordered it to do so.
Last night, the Senate took a step towards restoring accountability in government. The “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act,” sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), will create an easy-to-use Internet database allowing citizens to see how their members of Congress are using our tax dollars. According to Coburn's Web site, it will track about $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans.
Roll Call (subscription only) reports Democrats have opened their arms to lobbyists and special interests. With control of the House in reach, Democrats are eager to muster all the help they can get. Likewise, Big Business and K Street want to avoid alienation if the House is turned over in November.
In an effort not to jeopardize their credibility or their effort to paint Republicans as “corporate handmaidens,” Democrats have steered clear of taking money from the less popular pharmaceutical and energy industries.
Or have they?
Democrat Benjamin Cardin, who is running for Maryland’s open Senate seat, has advertised he "always tries to do what's right...taking on the drug companies, the oil companies, and the insurance companies." However, his campaign has received money from PACs representing those very industries, the Washington Post reports.
Republicans running as Washington outsiders have not fared better in refusing special interest funding. Michael Steele, who has accepted $44,718 from the oil and gas industry, said it would not affect his aggressive environmental agenda. Rep Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), who pledged to work with Steele on environmental issues, said it is tough not be influenced by where you get your funding from.
Perhaps it's not surprising--neither Cardin* or Steele have signed our Voters First Pledge.
*Correction: Cardin signed the Voters First Pledge on Sept. 5.
In Roll Call (subscription only), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) reneged on his decision to take the “trifecta” bill off the calendar. The proposal would tie the national minimum wage raise to an extension of soon-to-expire tax provisions and a costly repeal of the estate tax. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Democrats will likely not back down from their threatened filibuster of the combined measure, and that Democrats are not enticed by the coupling of their desired minimum wage increases with estate tax repeal.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI is asking questions about Christine DeLay, the wife of ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). At issue is whether Mrs. DeLay was actually doing work for Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm run by two former DeLay aides, while she was being paid a salary of $3,200 a month. Investigators are also asking about $144,000 that Mrs. Delay received from the Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, a PAC which fundraised for DeLay's campaign. The FBI is also looking into fees paid to Dani DeLay Ferro, DeLay’s daughter, who was given money for her role as a political consultant for her father.