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Cleaning House

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Message Larry Sakin
We've all heard it a million times. Legislators have to raise $10,000 a day to fund their re-elections campaigns, so they often make deals with corporate devils so their campaign war chests become ever stronger. Now if you're as cynical as me, you'd think no one in Congress would make an effort to clean up this messy situation of campaign finance. And happily, we both would be wrong.

Currently there is a bill languishing in the House Telecommunications and Internet Sub-Committee, H.R. 3099 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h.r.3099:) that makes clean elections available for candidates running for the US House and Senate. It's the creation of Representative John Tierney, D-Connecticut, (http://www.house.gov/tierney/press/cleanmoneycleanelections01242006.shmtl) and he has been introducing the Bill since 1997. Over the years, Tierney has gathered forty Democratic co-sponsors. It's a comprehensive Bill which allows candidates from the major parties to gather five dollar donations from 1500 citizens in their districts (2250 for other party candidates). The clean candidates then qualify for federal funding which matches the funding of candidates who choose private over public financing. Generally, H.R. 3099 conforms to the clean election laws for State candidates in Arizona, Maine and most recently, Connecticut.

Clean Elections advocacy groups have been popping up all over the country. This is likely due to the outrage citizens feel over the Jack Abramoff corruption scandals now being played out in the federal courts and the Justice Department. Yet, there has been little in the national media about clean elections and H.R. 3099. This is probably because the national media is expecting a windfall of 22.2 billion dollars from campaign advertising revenues, and informing people about clean elections efforts might hurt the bottom line. And legislators who reap huge personal fortunes from private funding don't want you to know about this Bill either. That's why it was referred to the Telecommunications Sub-Committee, so it would die a slow, quiet death.

Ordinarily, I don't urge people into action of any sort. I've learned that when it comes to political issues its extremely difficult to motivate people to actually do something, even if it means improving their own miserable lots. But this Bill is a way of combating the lobbyists, corporate PAC funds and the other means of private financing. So I'm urging you to be a pest about this. If your representatives hear demands for accountability and the need for clean elections for Congress from enough of you, they will take action. The 2006 mid-terms are leaving both Democrat and Republican incumbents feeling vulnerable, considering opinion polls have given Congress a nineteen percent approval rating. Do you know if any of your representatives serve on the Telecommunications Sub-Committee? Check the list below to see, and if your representative is on it, ask him or her why this Bill has been stalled for so long.

Subcommittee Members
Fred Upton, Michigan
Michael Bilirakis, Florida
Joe Barton, Texas
Cliff Stearns, Florida
Vice Chairman
Paul Gillmor, Ohio
Christopher Cox, California
Nathan Deal, Georgia
Barbara Cubin, Wyoming
John Shimkus, Illinois
Heather Wilson, New Mexico
Chip Pickering, Mississippi
Vito Fossella, New York
Roy Blunt, Missouri
Tom Davis, Virginia
Bob Ehrlich, Maryland
Charlie Bass, New Hampshire
Lee Terry, Nebraska
Greg Walden, Oregon
Billy Tauzin, Louisiana
(Ex Officio) Edward Markey, Massachusetts
Bart Gordon, Tennessee
Bobby Rush, Illinois
Anna Eshoo, California
Eliot Engel, New York
Gene Green, Texas
Karen McCarthy, Missouri
Bill Luther, Minnesota
Bart Stupak, Michigan
Diana DeGette, Colorado
Jane Harman, California
Rick Boucher, Virginia
Sherrod Brown, Ohio
Thomas Sawyer, Ohio
John Dingell, Michigan
(Ex Officio)

And don't just write them a letter over the internet, where your concerns will be duly noted and quickly forgotten by staff. Call their offices, write them letters by hand, and encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and worship community to do this as well. Don't expect anything to change unless you're willing to do the leg work and get things changed. Few in Congress have any incentive to pass this legislation unless you demand it from them.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on Mytown.ca, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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