Lang Waters: Corruption has failed to fix corruption
At a Republican presidential debate on March 10, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump had this to say about electioneering done by special interests through Political Action Committees:
“I mean, PACs — you know, these super PACs are a disaster, by the way, folks. Very corrupt. It’s going to lead to lots of disasters … and you have to look at the people that are giving to those super PACs, number one. It’s very important to do that.”
Trump is absolutely right, and the appeal to deal with super PACs was one of the important aspects of the “drain the swamp” mantra. Draining the swamp has bipartisan appeal — it’s a potent idea. Few of us have any love for the professional politicians in DC. We know that they’re beholden to the megadonors and PACs that put them there, and they are held hostage to a system that requires constant fundraising to win and stay in office. But to be clear, why is it important to deal with super PACs? Trump continues:
“There is total control of the candidates, I know it better than anybody that probably ever lived. And I will tell you this, I know the system far better than anybody else and I know the system is broken. And I’m the one, because I know it so well because I was on both sides of it, I was on the other side all my life and I’ve always made large contributions.”
We know now that by “drain the swamp” Trump meant “fill the swamp.”
We’re currently living through the most unethical presidency that our country has endured. Two years into this administration, six of the president’s aides have been convicted or pleaded guilty, several secretaries and agency directors engulfed in ethics violations have resigned, and there are numerous others in the administration around whom ethical questions swarm but who haven’t yet succumbed, including of course, Trump himself.
Most of us agree that something needs to be done about the swamp.
HR 1, the “For The People” bill is the first bill that the blue shirts have introduced in the House in this session. “To expand American’s access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants.”
This is an important bill because it will target four areas of systemic and overt corruption in our government: redistricting, voting and election laws, campaign finance and ethics.
By requiring that redistricting be done in a bipartisan manner, this bill aims to fix a problem that has become particularly pernicious in the last two decades. Both major parties are guilty of egregiously gerrymandering districts to their advantage. This is a no-brainer to fix, but both parties at the state level have fought hard to retain this power.
By making voter registration easier, allowing 15 days of early voting and declaring a federal Election Day holiday, this bill takes the idea of citizens voting for their representatives seriously. According to Pew Research, only 56 percent of voting age citizens voted in 2016. The U.S. is 26th out of 32 highly developed democratic states with respect to voter turnout. The answer is not to make voting more difficult, the answer is to make it easier, as other countries have done.
Campaign finance is addressed in significant ways by expanding prohibitions on foreign political money, mandating disclosure of big donors to PACs, eliminating super PACs that support individual candidates, and creating a matching fund program for House candidates that agree to raise only small dollar contributions and more.
The poisonous vapors rising from the swamp are enough to stagger anyone: conflicts of interest, misuse of public funds, influence peddling, self-enrichment, working for foreign governments, failure to disclose information and violation of ethics rules surround and engulf the swamp. HR 1 also addresses overt corruption by strengthening the ethics laws to which our individual elected representatives must adhere.
“And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system because that system is wrong.” — Trump
HR 1 won’t become law — Mitch McConnell will never bring HR 1 to a vote in the Senate. HR 1 is a message bill. It’s an extraordinarily important message to the American people — we need to fix how we elect our representatives or risk losing our democracy. We need to support the people that will vote for anti-corruption laws, that will not allow the putrefaction of our elections to continue.
Lang Waters lives in Nevada City.
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