By Congressman Rick Nolan
Secret, “dark,” special interest money is an invasive species that infests every nook and cranny of our campaigns and elections, rigging the system for the Wall Street billionaires and powerful forces behind those contributions. We’ve got to put a stop to it. The integrity of our public policy making process and the very survival of our democracy are at stake in this fight. So the foundation of our Restore Democracy legislation lies in overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
Citizens United granted corporations and other legal entities the right to free speech — just as people have — under the First Amendment. By doing so, the court opened federal election campaigns to the free flow of enormous amounts of secret “dark” money into phony advocacy groups set up by special interest contributors. Those groups, in turn, buy hateful TV ads that distort the truth, denigrate candidates, discourage voter turnout and destroy people’s confidence in our public policy making process.
As I’ve pointed out many times before, it’s time to establish once and for all that corporations are not “people,” money is not “free speech,” and the formation of our laws and policies must not be up for sale to the highest corporate bidders.
Moreover, the need many members of Congress feel to spend 20 to 30 hours a week “dialing for dollars” to defend themselves against false and misleading campaign advertising has all but transformed Congress from the greatest deliberative and law-making body in the world into a mid-level telemarketing operation. With so little time left for governing, Congress has become less productive than at any time in history, while campaigns have literally become 365 day a year operations.
While we continue to build support to overturn Citizens United, I’m also working hard across the aisle to pass the Stop Act to prohibit members of Congress from directly asking donors for campaign money. When you go to Washington you should go to work on the people’s business — not your re-election campaign.
By themselves, any of the measures in our Restore Democracy bill would constitute a major boost for our democratic process. Taken together, they are nothing short of revolutionary in scope.
The foundation lies in putting a stop to special interests spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence government and elections. Our legislation would also put Congress on record supporting small donor-public campaign financing and limiting the campaign season. Moreover, we are calling for full disclosure of all campaign contributions, establishment of national online voter registration and a halt to all voter suppression.
We also call for a return to Congress’s traditional process of Regular Order. Under Regular Order, we compromise and find bipartisan solutions by fully considering every idea and amendment under an open rule — and affording each one an up or down vote. That’s how Congress fixed things, solved problems and got things done for more than 200 years. It’s time to get back to that tried and true method of serving the American people.