My Turn: N.H. Republicans want limits on political spending

For the Monitor
Published: 4/26/2019 12:10:32 AM

Republican voters want to fix our country’s politics. I saw that in Virginia in 2014 when recruiting a grassroots conservative, Dave Brat, who went on to shock the political establishment by beating U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Cantor was too focused on large donors and not paying attention to the people he was supposed to represent. So Republican voters ousted him, in one of the most stunning political upsets this country had ever seen.

In New Hampshire, GOP voters feel that same frustration: 86% think special interests have more influence than voters do. And they want the problem fixed. Transactional pay-for-play politics and crony capitalism are not what our nation’s founders intended. And it’s not the kind of government we want our grandchildren to inherit.

The state Legislature is considering a raft of political reform bills this year. One of those bills, House Bill 504, calls for amending the federal Constitution so that political spending can be limited and redistricting done without partisan bias. This is completely in line with the “drain the swamp” messages that gave President Donald Trump and Republicans across the country an unbelievable election in 2016.

But entrenched political groups often benefit from the status quo and oppose reform. Even reforms supported by GOP voters. Even reforms that might help GOP candidates, such as improved disclosure of political spending. Democrats held a huge edge in secret (sometimes called “dark”) money for the first time ever in 2018. Act Blue, Soros, Bloomberg and Steyer, and other mega-wealthy donors, prepare to once again outspend Republicans in 2020.

Voters deserve to know whose money is behind the candidates – and that can’t happen without better disclosure.

I can only urge Republican officials to not listen to entrenched political groups, but rather look at how Republican areas express themselves on these issues.

The “red” town of Bradford called for a constitutional amendment to limit political spending back in 2012. Voters insisted that “the First Amendment of the United States Constitution was designed to protect the free speech rights of people, not corporations.” They asked Congress for an amendment stating that “the expenditure of corporate money is not a form of constitutionally protected speech.”

While Barry Goldwater believed neither unions nor corporations should be allowed to give any political contributions, I have no problem with corporations giving limited amounts of money. In fact, we oppose the Massachusetts law of allowing unions to give $15,000 and banning corporation giving. Limit both to $15,000 or less and keep it an even playing field – but nationally we are seeing huge, secret giving that is drowning out individual voters and small-dollar contributors who live in the district of the candidate.

I believe this is consistent with many New Hampshire Republican-majority towns that have called for a constitutional amendment to limit political spending.

Voters in Bedford chose to “stand with communities across the country to defend democracy from the effects of unregulated spending to influence elections by corporate, labor and special interest groups.”

Voters in Windham called for a constitutional amendment “that guarantees the right of our elected representatives and the American people to safeguard fair elections through authority to regulate political spending.”

Voters in Salem and Newfields endorsed a constitutional amendment twice – both times by overwhelming margins.

In Derry and Durham, town council votes supporting an amendment were unanimous.

Citizens in Deerfield, Goffstown, Pelham, Atkinson, Hampstead, Hudson and Rindge have called for a constitutional amendment.

And the list goes on.

To date, 82 New Hampshire municipalities have called for a constitutional amendment allowing limits on political spending – and 50 of those towns are “red.” Republican voters want our politics fixed.

It’s crossover time at the State House in Concord. Bills that have been passed by one body of the Legislature are now being considered by the other. People who have been trying to fix our politics aren’t celebrating any victories yet. Too many times, in previous sessions, reform bills have been approved by one legislative body and then died in the other. And then there’s the question of, what is Gov. Chris Sununu going to do?

In March 2014, I was told as a Republican I could not continue to help Dave Brat, who had raised only $20,000 to date against Majority Leader Cantor’s $5 million in the bank. But I walked around a fundraiser and got a bunch of people to put checks in a basket I was holding – collecting $23,000, which combined with 200 door-knockers delivered the upset win.

I ask Gov. Sununu and his supporters to side with rank-and-file Republicans in a similar way. Gov. Sununu was right to insist the Republican State Committee members not endorse presidential candidates to support grassroots conservatives, and he can strike a similar win to take back our Republic by supporting HB 504.

(John Pudner is executive director of the nationwide conservative campaign reform group Take Back Our Republic.)




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