Democrat — MO 2nd District

Campaign Finance Reform

Political campaigns in America have become absurd competitions for funding. Those who raise the most money are the most likely to win. And most of the money is coming from big-moneyed interests.  Donors know what they’re doing: they’re buying access to Congress. And with that access they are being rewarded handsomely.

The disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court made a bad situation worse. We currently have a system where one’s political worth is equal to their net worth. That, by definition, is a corruption.

My plan is to lead the charge to reform our campaign finance system.

This is what I propose:

  • An immediate return to the campaign finance limits outlined in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. This would immediately bring limits and regulations on donations back down to more reasonable levels. The maximum limits as they stand right now are too generous and therefore exclude the average citizen from being able to compete.
  • An immediate ban on all campaign donations to Congress from registered lobbyists. Either you get paid to lobby Congress or you donate to their campaigns. To allow both is to allow lobbyists to buy preferential treatment from our elected public servants. Lobbyists should succeed if they make sound arguments. Their success shouldn’t be about the ability to bribe public officials.
  • The creation of the “Independent Select Committee on Campaign Finance Reform.” This will be a committee made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. The committee will thoroughly investigate ways we can rid federal elections of contributions that are so large that they corrupt the electoral process. An election should be a competition of ideas, not a competition of who has the wealthiest supporters. This committee will thoroughly look into – but not be limited to – the following:
    • Publicly funded federal campaigns. Several states and municipalities already employ various levels of public finance for viable and serious political candidates. This allows candidates to focus their campaigns on what’s important, and not obsess over their need to obtain private financing. This committee’s job will be to look into how a publicly funded campaign system on the federal system could operate. This would greatly expand the efforts already introduced in the “Government By the People Act.
    • Greatly improving disclosure requirements. Who is contributing to federal elections? Where are federal candidates getting their money? This committee’s job will be to look into how we can strengthen the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in order for it to do a better job in fully disclosing where campaign money is coming from and where it is going. This information needs to be easily and readily available to all Americans and not buried in an overwhelmed – and at times neglected – federal bureaucracy.
    • Eliminating loopholes and “dark money.” Money spent in any capacity on federal elections needs to be publicly disclosed. Right now, there are loopholes that allow big money to bypass regulations and allow contributors to escape full public disclosure. The process needs to be transparent. This committee will look into how we can close these loopholes and how we can bring “dark” money in from the shadows.
  • Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Finance. Even with these reforms, however, we still face a grotesque reality established by Citizens United. Corporations are not people and money is not speech. Thus, if the Supreme Court refuses to overrule the Citizens United decision, we need to address it through a Constitutional Amendment.

In my opinion, the best amendment language has been proposed by former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens:

Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.

My personal pledge in this campaign

Money and gifts shouldn’t buy votes and it shouldn’t be allowed to pervert the democratic process. This is not rocket science. It’s not even political science. It’s common sense!

For my campaign, I pledge the following:

  • I will disavow any connection to – or support from –  “independent expenditure-only committees.” (These are often known as “SUPER-PACS).
  • I will never accept gifts, meals, or other accommodations from lobbyists or representatives of special interests (groups with a vested interest in federal policy).
  • I will never allow my immediate family or my campaign staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists or representatives of special interests.
End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.