Speak Up Now for Campaign Finance Reform

National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 2001 | Go to article overview

Speak Up Now for Campaign Finance Reform


Make no mistake about it. Without serious campaign finance reform, democratic government, as we grew up understanding it, is a thing of the past.

Without changing the laws by which we elect our governing officials, that government, of which Abraham Lincoln so lovingly spoke, "of the people, by the people, and for the people," is threatened.

It makes little sense to lobby for or against any piece of legislation when the elected officials who will consider the arguments are your representatives in name only. Too often today those "representatives" are owned by the relative few powerful and wealthy interests who contributed heavily to their campaigns.

Serious campaign finance reform is singularly the most important legislative issue facing congress this year. It is fundamental to all other legislation.

There is good news here. The protracted debates going on in the Senate are forcing a degree of casual honesty. It was difficult last week to find a single senator on any side of the campaign finance issue who would deny that big money has come to play an inordinate role in our electoral politics. There was a time when such open admissions would have sent the press into a frenzy of influence-peddling stories.

However, there was bad news, too. Much of what passes as "support" for reform in the senate is well crafted political posturing aimed at assuring serious reform will not occur: Load the bill, add those killer amendments, shift the focus -- all in the name of alleged reform. That's the game that was being played by many senators and most recently by President Bush who has lately joined the fray in an attempt to derail reasonable reform efforts.

The truth is that many senators; even as they recognize the crumbling state of our delicate democratic processes, have grown tight and comfortable with the wealthy interests that elected them. Today there is little hope of wrestling back a government "of the people" from the millionaires and other powerful interests that control it. The only hope for reform comes in making our collective sense of outrage known in Washington.

Recent third-party candidacies were indications that citizens are fed up. …

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