Spirituality and Politics
I share these thoughts with you on my spirituality blog because when you open yourself to god and love (one in the same, Atheists welcome), it is impossible to ignore injustice. Recognizing disparity and separation is a byproduct of plugging in…of becoming connected. When our hearts open, passion seeps in. There is no need to feel desperate. We can all do something. It’s when you close your eyes to meditate that you truly begin to see.
I Break For Reform
When one starts to observe the world around them, in all its beauty and all its miserable pain, one cannot help but feel connected to it. Once you start to feel that connection, you’re hooked—invested. You find it impossible not to care. Maybe your participation is relatively small and personal pertaining to just a few causes that resonate with you. You start to recycle or conserve water. Maybe you collect canned goods from your church parish or volunteer at an animal shelter. Sometimes injustice is too much to stand. One day you wake up and you realize that sitting idle one more day will surely cause your heart to collapse in on itself. Sometimes, you gotta go big or go home.
This morning 61 year old postman, Doug Hughes ignored Washington, DC’s no-fly-zone and landed his one-man gyrocopter on the lawn of the US Capitol in protest against campaign finance corruption. In his possession were 535 letters, individually addressed and stamped to each member of Congress. The two-page letter nicely lays out the need for reform and outlines specifically the need to end corporate lobbying and special interest groups.
“There will be discussion about the structure and details of reform. As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress. Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money.”
The best news, of course, is that Hughes was not blown out of the sky. He was open about his plans and was visited by the secret service whom he obviously was able to convince that his protest was peaceful and non-violent. Don’t let me mislead you into thinking this was an “approved protest.” It was not. Dough Hughes was arrested within minutes of his impressively accurate landing and is probably sitting in a cell somewhere in DC as I write this…or maybe in one of those grey rooms under harsh fluorescent light being tempted by cigarettes and bottomless glasses of water for hours on end without a single pee-break. (What? I watched a lot of Law and Order in my 20’s)
Hughes talked about his peaceful “Freedom Flight” protest in a short video where he makes one critically important statement:
“There are problems more important than campaign finance reform, but those won’t get addressed until we fix campaign finance reform.”
The Doug Hughes “Freedom Flight” Letter
And that, my friends, is the truth. We’re all passionate about something…maybe it’s the environment or decriminalizing marijuana or maybe it’s ending abortion or supporting small business. Campaign corruption goes beyond partisanship. Unless you have millions of dollars to buy a politician, your voice will not be heard. With that, I’m going to post Doug Hughes’ letter in its entirety. After all, I’d hate if his important message was watered down but the flair of his delivery.
Consider the following statement by John Kerry in his farewell speech to the Senate —
“The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself. They know it. They know we know it. And yet, Nothing Happens!” — John Kerry, 2-13
In a July 2012 Gallup poll, 87% tagged corruption in the federal government as extremely important or very important, placing this issue just barely behind job creation. According to Gallup, public faith in Congress is at a 41-year record low, 7%. (June 2014) Kerry is correct. The popular perception outside the DC beltway is that the federal government is corrupt and the US Congress is the major problem. As a voter, I’m a member of the only political body with authority over Congress. I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson’s description of rights in the Declaration of Independence. As a member of Congress, you have three options.
- You may pretend corruption does not exist.
- You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform.
- You may actively participate in real reform.
If you’re considering option 1, you may wonder if voters really know what the ‘chase for money’ is. Your dismal and declining popularity documented by Gallup suggests we know, but allow a few examples, by no means a complete list. That these practices are legal does not make them right! Obviously, it is Congress who writes the laws that make corruption legal.
- Dozens of major and very profitable corporations pay nothing in taxes. Voters know how this is done. Corporations pay millions to lobbyists for special legislation. Many companies on the list of freeloaders are household names — GE, Boeing, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, Citigroup, Dow …
- Almost half of the retiring members of Congress from 1998 to 2004 got jobs as lobbyists earning on average fourteen times their Congressional salary. (50% of the Senate, 42% of the House)
- The new democratic freshmen to the US House in 2012 were ‘advised’ by the party to schedule 4 hours per day on the phones fund raising at party headquarters (because fund raising is illegal from gov’t offices.) It is the donors with deep pockets who get the calls, but seldom do the priorities of the rich donor help the average citizen.
- The relevant (rich) donors who command the attention of Congress are only .05% of the public (5 people in a thousand) but these aristocrats of both parties are who Congress really works for. As a member of the US Congress, you should work only for The People.
- Not yourself.
- Not your political party.
- Not the richest donors to your campaign.
- Not the lobbyist company who will hire you after your leave Congress.
There are several credible groups working to reform Congress. Their evaluations of the problem are remarkably in agreement though the leadership (and membership) may lean conservative or liberal. They see the corrupting effect of money — how the current rules empower special interests through lobbyists and PACs — robbing the average American of any representation on any issue where the connected have a stake. This is not democracy even if the ritual of elections is maintained.
The various mechanisms which funnel money to candidates and congress-persons are complex. It happens before they are elected, while they are in office and after they leave Congress. Fortunately, a solution to corruption is not complicated. All the proposals are built around either reform legislation or a Constitutional Amendment. Actually, we need both — a constitutional amendment and legislation.
There will be discussion about the structure and details of reform. As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress. Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money. This you must do — or your replacement will do. A corporation is not ‘people’ and no individual should be allowed to spend hundreds of millions to ‘influence’ an election. That much money is a megaphone which drowns out the voices of ‘We the People.’ Next, a retired member of Congress has a lifelong obligation to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That almost half the retired members of Congress work as lobbyists and make millions of dollars per year smells like bribery, however legal. It must end. Pass real campaign finance reform and prohibit even the appearance of payola after retirement and you will be part of a Congress I can respect.
The states have the power to pass a Constitutional Amendment without Congress — and we will. You in Congress will likely embrace the change just to survive, because liberals and conservatives won’t settle for less than democracy. The leadership and organization to coordinate a voters revolution exist now! New groups will add their voices because the vast majority of Americans believe in the real democracy we once had, which Congress over time has eroded to the corrupt, dysfunctional plutocracy we have.
The question is where YOU individually stand. You have three options and you must choose.
Douglas M. Hughes
I wouldn’t be surprised if Hughes’ letters end up in an evidence room somewhere and never reach Congress. I’m posting the letter, in full, above so you can copy it and mail (or email) it directly to your representatives. #CampaignReform If you’re interested in learning more about campaign reform and government transparency, check out Citizens United. ∞