Democrat — MO 2nd District

Why Reform? Why Now? Let’s Look at the Issues

Congress is not providing the American people with what they need.  Without functional and fair political institutions, we’re just fooling ourselves.  Political reform isn’t the end. Political reform is what’s needed to provide America with the representation and public policy it deserves. Fundamental reform is what is needed to provide America with the solutions it craves.

What are we talking about?  Follow the money.

Let’s take a look at just a few issues that have been corrupted by out of control money.

Big Media and Net Neutrality

If you use the internet you should care about net neutrality. Big media wants to control the internet and they have convinced members of Congress that they should be allowed to control the “speed” at which users can access internet content.

Net neutrality supporters want a level playing field; they want an internet that all users have equal access to. They want an internet that is not dominated by only those that can “buy” the fast-lanes.

This is not an issue in other countries. But it is in America because we’ve allowed big-money to pervert our democratic process. Members of Congress are bought by wealthy campaign contributing media interests. These members in turn pressure our regulators to squash net neutrality efforts.

This is not fair. It is not democratic. And most importantly it does not serve the best interests of the American public.

But it is allowed because of our corrupt “pay to play” culture in Congress. If money is speech, big money campaign contributions and other lobbyist largesse is encouraged and protected.

The result? A Congress representing only those that can dominate play in the campaign-finance game. The rest of us who see the virtue to net neutrality are simply bystanders.  Big media is fighting with guns. The rest of us have pea-shooters.

In the 1980s, 50 media companies controlled the bulk of information Americans consumed via the media. Today, just five media giants control virtually everything we read, and watch, and hear.

These five dominate the game because they dominate the congressional campaign-finance system. Look at the numbers: Since 1990, Big-Media has showered candidates for Congress with over $580 million in campaign contributions (with a slight majority of it going to Democrats)!  And since 1998, media giants have spent over $2.3 Billion on lobbying Congress. The TV/Movie/Telecom industry had over 1,000 professional lobbyists in Washington D.C. on the payroll in 2016 alone! (Source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Political worth = Net worth.

This is why political reform – especially campaign finance reform – is so imperative.  Without it, we’re living in a delusional democracy.

Climate Change

Climate change represents one of America’s greatest national security threats. This is not the opinion of just some environment loving tree-huggers. It is the conclusion of the U.S. Defense Department.

If the Pentagon understands the threat, why isn’t more being done?

Follow the money.

When we allow money to dominate our politics, our government becomes a commodity to be bought and consumed. Big-money interests dedicated to crushing sensible environmental regulation are allowed to sponsor and control congressional decision-making.

Other nations don’t allow money to dominate the process. And these other nations have sensible environmental regulation.

The result?  A Congress representing primarily only those that can dominate play in the campaign-finance game. Those of us who agree with 97% of climate scientists and who want reasonable environmental regulation are left watching from the sidelines.

Look at the numbers: The oil and gas industry are long-time players of the campaign finance game. Since 1990 they have poured over $538 million toward congressional candidates (62% to Republicans).  And since 1998, the oil and gas industry has spent over $1.9 Billion on lobbying Congress. The industry had 722 professional lobbyists in Washington D.C. on the payroll in 2016 alone! (Source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Nothing better demonstrates this than the corruption created by the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are the 5th and 6th richest individuals, respectively, in America.  Koch Industries see environmental regulation as a threat to their profits and therefore an enemy to be thwarted. Their weapon of choice is big-money in congressional campaigns ($9.5 million in 2016 alone – 100% to Republicans).  By purchasing members of Congress that are now beholden to them for political survival, they have been rewarded handsomely. They pull the strings of a climate-change denying Congress that defies reason and is an international outcast.

Political worth = Net worth.

This is why political reform – especially campaign finance reform – is so imperative.  Without it, we’re living in nation that is only masquerading as a democracy.

Globalization and Fair Trade

This is not our grandparents’ America. America must compete within a very competitive globalized economy. But in America’s rush toward globalization, we have embraced “free trade” often at the expense of “fair trade.”  Why?

Follow the money.

Multinational corporations and transnational banks thrive in a globalized economy. To fatten their wallets they must understand that all politics is local – in other words, they know that they can improve their standing across nations if they improve their standing within nations.

And oh, baby do they know how to take advantage of the American system!

More so than anywhere else in the world, the American system rewards those with the means to flood money into political campaigns.  Since the 1950’s, there has been no bigger player in the campaign finance game than multinational corporations or transnational banks.

The result? A congress increasingly accommodating to the demands of big business.

  • Weakened occupational safety standards.
  • Reduced employee workplace rights.
  • Declining worker salaries and benefits.
  • Reduced corporate and financial service regulation and oversight (e.g. Dodd-Frank)
  • Collapsing environmental protection.

And most significantly,

  • The almost complete collapse of labor unions.

As labor was weakened as a political force, it led to the collapse of the American middle-class.

The American middle class didn’t disappear on its own.  It was kidnapped.  And we allowed it to happen by ignoring the corporate domination in the pay-to-play culture festering in Congress.

Just look at the finance/banking/securities industry! They have always been big players in the campaign finance game. Since 1990, they have funneled just under $3 Billion to congressional candidates (58% to Republicans). And since 1998, they have spent over $3.9 Billion on lobbying. In 2016 alone, there were 1,100 professional lobbyists registered with the finance/banking/securities industry in Washington D.C. (Source: Center for Responsive Politics).

Political worth = Net worth.

This is why political reform – especially campaign finance reform – is so imperative.  Without it, we’ll stay a nation accountable to big corporations and banks. Moreover, we’ll remain a nation that callously and routinely denigrates the value of labor.

The decline of the middle and working class was no accident. It was caused by our system of legalized bribery.

Health Care and Pharmaceuticals

Why is America the only major industrial nation that does not guarantee health care coverage for its citizens? People have been asking that question for decades. As a result Americans pay more, get less on average, and don’t live as long.

And for decades now health insurance providers and big pharmaceuticals have been skillfully participating in America’s campaign finance game pouring millions of dollars into Congressional campaigns and lobbying.

For the last 50 years it’s become clear that our health care provision system is broken. But why is it so hard to get the change we need?

Follow the money.

Other nations don’t have this “pay to play” culture. As a result, legislators can’t be bought and good public policy is more likely to result. But in America, too many companies profit on sick Americans. These profits are used to bring in and keep members of Congress less capable of embracing the bold reforms that we need.  The result? The abomination in health care coverage that we have today.

Just take a look at Big-Pharma. They have played the campaign finance game in Congress to perfection! Since 1990 they have injected over $350 million into congressional campaigns (59% to Republicans). And since 1998, they have spent over $3.5 BILLION in lobbying! Big-Pharma had over 1,300 registered Washington lobbyists on their payrolls in 2016 alone!  (Source: Center for Responsive Politics)

What that leaves us with is a broken system where health care costs are out of control and medical bankruptcy is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.

And thanks to Big-Pharma, Americans pay more for the same drugs whose prices are kept under control in other countries. The fact that American seniors are forced to buy their drugs in Canada needs to be treated for what it is – a national embarrassment!

It’s also a direct result of our pay to play congress.

Political worth = Net worth.

This is why political reform – especially campaign finance reform – is so important.  Without it, we should stop calling ourselves a democratic republic.  In this current system, we’re nothing short of an oligarchy.

Big Agriculture

Rural America was not that long ago committed to the Democratic party. This was because farming was tied to the Democratic party and its policies. That hasn’t been the case for years now.

Gone are the family farms. They still exist, of course, but they don’t hold the political power in the nation – Big Agribusiness does. And this power is a direct result of the money they spend on politics.

The money Big Agribusiness spends in Washington D.C and in our state capitals is used to solidify and strengthen their monopolies: from seeds and livestock to produce and dairy. And this power over American agriculture comes at the expense of the family farmer and the rural communities that support them.

Gigantic multinationals want to control all the sectors in American agriculture.  And their allies in Congress are happy to help them rig the system.  How?

Follow the money.

Thanks to America’s few rules pay-to-play system, armies of agribusiness lobbyists descend upon Congress to make their case. Their money allows them to wine, dine, and buy time with our elected officials. The numbers in the last few years in particular are staggering!

Big Agribusiness has spent over $823 million since 1990 on campaign contributions to House and Senate candidates. When it comes to lobbying in general, the data is even more astonishing! Since just 1998, Big Agribusiness has spent a staggering $2.17 billion in lobbying House and Senate members. In just 2016 Big Agribusiness employed over one-thousand full-time lobbyists in Washington D.C. alone! (Source: Center for Responsive Politics).

For taking advantage of this corrupt system, they have been rewarded handsomely. All of this, of course, coming at the expense of rural communities, family farmers, and American consumers.

Democrats can win back these rural communities if they embrace a true reform agenda.  These communities already understand that the system is rigged against them.  What they lack is confidence that any individual, group, or political party can do anything about it.

The status quo is devastating to these communities. We need individuals (and ideally a revised Democratic party!) to recognize this corruption, call it what it is, and to develop a plan to fix a system that only caters to the wishes of the most financially strong businesses and thus, the most politically connected.


End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.