My Turn: Let’s force Washington to work for the voters
Just 10 years ago, the public had favorable views toward government at all levels. Today, we retain these favorable views toward state and local government, but trust and confidence in Washington has fallen into the sub-basement, with trust in Congress reaching a record-ever low of 23 percent late last year.
What’s different about Washington and why the record distaste toward congressional incumbents?
A big explanation is today’s campaign funding system: Special interests feed on special favors worth billions, and a small number of very large dollar donors now control which candidates are financially viable and which issues and positions ever get an airing.
Other than self-financed candidates, there are no alternative sources of money sufficiently large to fund competitive campaigns. The current campaign funding system protects incumbents and perpetuates gridlock. It leaves Congress lacking the spine necessary to control our disastrously accumulating public debt. It blocks the reforms needed to revitalize job growth in our private economy.
Here is what I have proposed to fix our broken Washington politics and to make Congress accountable to voters:
∎ 1. Enact a public elections financing system for candidates voluntarily opting out of the current private money system. This public system would allow voters to use a portion of their own taxes to fund the campaigns of their choice. Every two years, every citizen 18 years and older is given a $50 tax rebate check. Candidates eligible to receive these citizen rebate contributions must first establish credibility by raising a threshold sum of private money in small dollar contributions from voters from their district.
This public elections financing system will reduce the cost of government and will more than pay for itself. It will reduce the wasteful spending, corporate welfare and special interest tax subsidies now given in trade for campaign contributions.
∎ 2. End the dark money system. Require all campaign contributions and expenditures of all types and to all entities engaged in electioneering and lobbying to be reported in real time in an easily searchable, public database.
∎ 3. Ban solicitation or receipt of political contributions by members while Congress is in session. Ban spouses, children, parents, and near-relatives of members of Congress from being registered lobbyists. Interest groups often hire such relatives as a perfectly legal side-door means of buying votes.
∎ 4. Enact a constitutional amendment limiting members of Congress to terms of not greater than 12 years. In the meantime, I have pledged to serve no more than two terms, if elected to the U.S. Senate.
∎ 5. Enact a constitutional balanced budget amendment or, better, a constitutional gross federal debt ceiling, with waivers during times of declared national disaster or war.
∎ 6. As provided for under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, I support a convention called for by the legislatures of at least 34 states to propose amendments to the Constitution for subsequent ratification by the legislatures of at least 38 states. This never-used amending process is the single means to bypass a reluctant and excessively self-interested Congress in enacting needed reform. The 38-state ratification threshold is sufficient to block proposed amendments harmful to liberty.
∎ 7. Members of Congress should adhere equally to all laws applying to the public.
∎ 8. Over the period ending June 1, 2014, I will participate in and will respond to unfiltered questions at no fewer than five public meetings or debates noticed in advance and open to the general public. I challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to do same.
(Jim Rubens is a businessman, former state senator and Republican candidate for Senate.)