My Turn: Senators not listening to people of NH about campaign spending
Our state senators are not listening to us. For the jaded among us, this isn’t a surprise. We’re cynical because we know our government is bought and paid for by the highest bidders.
Our legislators no longer have constituents, they have investors – groups not even from legislators’ districts with whom legislators spend 70 percent of their time fundraising and who donate in order to obtain favorable policy.
A recent Princeton study showed definitively we no longer have a democracy, but an oligarchy – rule by the wealthy few. It showed that public policy is dictated by the 0.000042 percent of Americans who give substantial contributions, not by the people, as we all believe. But we don’t have to resign to apathy.
New Hampshirites, true to our independent spirit, are trying to restore government to the people. Building on work of years past, this March resolutions were on 61 town warrants calling for a constitutional amendment that would: 1) guarantee the right of the people to regulate political spending, and 2) clarify that artificial entities such as labor unions, SuperPACs and corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as actual human beings.
Out of the 61 towns, 48 passed the resolution – and most by an overwhelming majority. The people of New Hampshire have spoken.
Yet when this same resolution, SB 307, came before our state senate, 12 senators rejected the original language, gutting it – although 32 of the 48 towns that passed warrant articles were in these senators’ districts.
For example, Sen. Jeanie Forrester voted against the purpose of the bill but seven of the nine towns in her district passed similar resolutions. And although all five towns in Sen. Peter Bragdon’s district and all four in Sen. Jeb Bradley’s district also passed these resolutions, both of them also voted no. Why aren’t they listening to us?
A UNH Poll revealed 75 percent of New Hampshire residents, across all political lines, want a constitutional amendment to return control of government to the people.
New Hampshire cares about this. A lot. There is a movement building in response to government corruption, and it stems from our collective innate sense of what democracy is – from the wisdom of leaders from James Madison and Teddy Roosevelt to Warren Rudman and John McCain.
It’s tempting to be apathetic, thinking the system is rigged. It is rigged; that is why we have to fix it. SB 307 is now passing the House, so it will go back to conference with the Senate, where our senators may try to weaken it again.
We have to make our state senators hear us, on this more than anything else, because this is the one issue that decides whether we have a say in any other.
No matter your politics or cause, if you want to have a say in it then we have to get big money out of politics. No one should have to have money to have a voice – not in a democracy.
(Ellen Read lives in Newmarket.)