Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reform, Without Delay!

Jonathan Alter reminds us, in the Oct. 10th Newsweek, just how totally corrupt the Republican lead Congress has become: "DeLay had begun keeping a little black book with the names of Washington lobbyists who wanted to come see him. If the lobbyists were not Republicans and contributors to his power base, the did not get into 'the people's house.' DeLay not only confirmed the story, he showed me the book.... Why should he open his door to people who are not on the team?"

It is way past time to clean up the federal government. We need real reform, and we need it now! The very first item on the liberal agenda should be to eliminate corporate donations. The fall-back position, if the courts object to that, should be to give stockholders the same right that Republicans have been pushing for union members--the right to opt out of such donations. Stockholders who opt out will be sent a check by the corporation equal to their share of what was spent on corporate donations.

Second, make it illegal to pay for access. No more: "for $20,000, you can play golf with Denny Hastert. And say, wouldn't that be a good time to talk to him about that exemption/contract/grant/bill/project you were interested in?" This does not mean no more fund raisers, but any event where people pay to attend, that is attended by a public figure, must be a public event. Everything said there is on the record and will be available to the public. If Denny Hastert wants to give a speech, he can charge for attendance (subject to existing ethics rules); if he wants to have a private chat, he cannot charge for it.

Third, we need better public financing of campaigns, so that politicians will not be so dependent on the big donors in the first place. Here's a simple change that would make a big difference: instead of simply checking a box on our tax returns that says whether we want $3 to go to finance campaigns, we should check a box that says which party we want our $3 to go to. The top 5 or so could be listed on the form, with a space to fill in any registered party. Not only would this provide a lot more money (I estimate about $2.4 billion per 4 years), but it would give the major parties a big incentive to listen to the little guy--if they don't want that $2.4 billion to go to the Greens, Libs, Reforms and Natural Lawyers? Lawies? Laws? Anyway, you get the point.


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