One Call at a Time – campaign reform – money out of politics – bribery – corruption – government – representatives – special interests – pledge – honest – candidates – House of Representatives – congress – balance budget – Grover Norquist – Trans Pacific Partnership – TPP

I’ve started my campaign in earnest: to call each congressional challenger who hasn’t already signed, and ask him or her to sign the Pledge for Honest Candidates. Of course, I’m starting in California because that’s where I live.  I’ve learned one thing already: phone calls work where candidates are concerned.

I always know inside of five minutes whether the candidate is seeking office to be a servant to the people or wants the position as a career. It’s something in their manner, and it’s usually expressed by the amount of reluctance they have to making a pledge that would remove their ability to score big campaign dollars once in office.

I was lucky enough to start the day with three incredible people:

Jack Orswell, District 27
David Hernandez, District 29
Stephen Smith, District 34

I trust that all three of these people will sign the pledge because I could tell that they had been through the wringer, trying to campaign against candidates who are so well backed that they expect to lose.

I may not agree with their platforms, but I can say that they are the kind of people who will listen to their constituents. How can I tell? First of all, they answer their own phone. They make themselves available, and they listen. Even if they aren’t representing the party of the majority of their district, I believe they would bend to the will of the people if given a chance to hear out the people’s grievances.

It would be interesting, for example, to have constituents of Stephen Smith explain to him why he shouldn’t vote to turn Medicare into a voucher program. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of his office if a handful of Medicare recipients came to him and explained why Medicare is a good thing.

If Mr. Smith did sign the pledge, he wouldn’t have a torrent of lobbyists coming from the financial industry explaining why it’s in his best interests (hint, hint) to vote in favor of privatizing Medicare. And his constituents wouldn’t have to worry that he’d vote in favor of a certain industry so that they could pour poison into their water table rather than listening to the people who had to drink that water every day.

And they wouldn’t have to wonder if Mr. Smith’s arm were getting twisted by all the corporations that wrote the Trans Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-on steroids “free trade” bill that will get passed if we don’t fix this problem of money in politics real soon.

I also called my own Bill Bloomfield, running in District 33. This was my second call to the congressman challenger, who runs against incumbent Henry Waxman. Bill used to be a Republican, but now he calls himself an Independent. I don’t care what he calls himself; I have trouble trusting a guy who won’t sign my pledge. So far, I have only talked to his assistant, Jason, who says that Mr. Bloomfield doesn’t sign pledges, that pledges have gotten us the terrible congress we have now. I know who he’s talking about. He’s referring to Grover Norquist, the mastermind behind the worst (for Americans) pledge ever: the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which basically protects the wealthiest of the wealthy from ever paying more than they now pay with the Bush tax cuts in place. It also keeps us from ever balancing the budget. Imagine that: a balanced budget!

To people who complain that Pledges are bad, I say this: a pledge is a promise that you sign. It is important for candidates to have strong convictions with which their constituents agree, else why would they vote for them? If ever there were a nonpartisan issue that most voters can agree upon, it’s that their representative should not take money from a special interest group, because it is a conflict of interest and it sways a congressperson’s vote. It’s a bribe, plain and simple.

If nothing else, the Pledge draws attention to the corruption in our government. To sign or not to sign? I don’t trust anyone who won’t (at the very least) consider it.

The excuses I’ve heard from candidates run the gamut. Some say that the Pledge doesn’t get rid of PACs and Super PACs (it does) because PACs can promote a candidate without coordinating with them. I say that PACs and SuperPACs are handled by the Pledge because all we have to do is show a “conflict of interest” situation exists and that congressman is in deep water. They don’t even have to take money. If the VALUE of a person or entity’s “contribution” is more than $100, then the Pledge strictly forbids it. You won’t hear “My name is ____ and I approve this message” anymore once the Pledge becomes law.

I’ve heard candidates say that they can’t constrain themselves to a $100 limit because then they can’t compete with the other guy. I tell them that their limit is $2,500 right now, because that is what the FEC allows. Many of the challengers have trouble finding donors that will give that much, but when they do, they want to be able to accept it. The Pledge allows it, because a challenger is not yet in office. It’s when they get elected that they have to reduce their donations to $100 per. Incumbents statistically have a much easier time getting reelected, so they shouldn’t have to spend ridiculous sums of money to do so, if their voting record matches their constituents’ wishes. In other words, if they do a good job, they get reelected, not if they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I talked with Mark Takano, running in California’s District 41. He was worried about limiting himself to $100 per contribution. He wanted to be sure it had to be the same for everyone “If it’s a law, I’d consider supporting [it]. I don’t think this would necessarily pass congress. Make the people feel that…the system’s not rigged against ordinary people.…Unless that’s true for everybody… That’s a rule I’m willing to abide by.”

And why WOULD congress pass a law that the People wanted? If it doesn’t support their ends, why would congress pass a law? This is the problem with trying to get incumbents to rein themselves in. WE MUST have our representatives promise to pass this as legislation BEFORE they get elected. It must be a clear mandate from the people, and that mandate has to start somewhere. That is why I am making these phone calls.

Finally, I called John Tavaglione, who is running against Mark Takano in District 41. I offered the same information, but I was talking to his assistant, whose name I never learned. Everyone today received an email like the one here:

I hope that we will be working together to educate your constituency about our efforts to get money out of politics. Everybody is ready for it!

Here’s my website and the infomercial that will convince voters to mandate campaign reform as our first order of business once the new congress convenes:

Let me know if you agree to the pledge and I’ll get you on our list of signers! All you have to do is reply this email with your answer.

But in the case of John Tavaglione, I did something a little wicked. I thought twice about doing it, but I caved in to my baser instincts. I purposely forwarded the email I had just sent to his competitor, Takano and just added a simple introductory sentence at the top. Now he knows that Takano is considering the Pledge and the edge it would give his campaign above his opponent.

This entry was posted in Bookmark the permalink.