Maine people work hard to get ahead, but the more politicians steal from our paychecks, the more we struggle to even tread water. That’s why, during my two terms in the Maine Senate, I fought for taxpayers against Augusta’s culture of cronyism and wasteful spending.
Over the last 17 years, Augusta politicians have taken $40 million dollars from the Maine taxpayers to fund their campaigns. They tell us this helps reduce special interest spending in our elections, but a Duke University study found this to be absolutely untrue. Not only has this expensive “welfare for politicians” program done nothing to stop the special interests, it has made election spending less transparent as their money is now diverted through PACs and political parties.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results. That’s why I published an Op-Ed in the Bangor Daily News earlier this week criticizing Congressman Jared Golden for joining with Nancy Pelosi to co-sponsor new legislation in Congress (H.R. 1) that would replicate this failed welfare for politicians program on the federal level, granting every Washington politician millions in tax dollars to spend on their re-elections.
Apparently, my piece touched a nerve with Anna Keller, the head lobbyist for welfare for politicians in Maine, who instantly fired back, attacking my integrity rather than addressing my arguments.
Accusing me of being a tool for special interests, Kellar cited a donation to my recent campaign for US Senate received from “Jobs, Freedom & Security PAC.” She fails to mention this is Senator Ted Cruz’s Leadership PAC (who sent a $5000 PAC contribution after endorsing my candidacy) and instead implies this is one of the many corporate lobbyist-driven PACs that populate Washington.
Since virtually every corporate lobbyist-driven PAC gave to my opponent, Sen. Angus King, I can understand why Kellar had difficulty finding a real example to fit her narrative. (Apparently, my calls for ending hundreds of billions in corporate welfare didn’t appeal to the corporate special interests).
Instead, I ran a grassroots-driven campaign, fueled by the hard work of hundreds of volunteers and low-dollar donations, including contributions of less than $50 from over 5000 individual citizens.
Kellar (ironically the head of a well-monied special interest group), misses the point of my argument completely. Assuming she’s truly motivated by a desire to fight back against special interest influences, I’m ready to work with her and all Maine people.
The multimillion dollar onslaught of television ads and slick mailers we saw in last year’s Second District contest did little to advance debate and turned many off completely. I want to see a return to issues-based campaigning and honest debate.
But giving our hard-earned tax dollars to politicians and their rich consultants will never fix the problem.
Instead, here are two specific policy changes we could make today to effectively fight against special interest influences in our government — without costing taxpayers a penny or shredding our Constitutional rights:
- We have a real problem with government contractors taking our taxpayer money and using it to lobby for more taxpayer money through more government contracts. This is pure and simple crony capitalism.
Let’s end this practice by putting a clause in every government contract valued at more than $1 million to prohibit these organizations (including both corporations and unions) from donating to candidates, PACs and political parties. We can enforce this prohibition by requiring those organizations that violate this contract be ineligible for future government contracts.
- Another problem is the amount of money foreign governments spend to lobby and influence our representatives in Washington. Let’s prohibit this practice outright. If foreign governments want to discuss issues with our elected officials, they should use official diplomatic channels, not D.C. lobbying firms
These two practical changes would plug holes in the integrity of our system. That said, we will never truly defeat big money in politics until we address its root cause: big government itself.
If we want big money out of politics, we must cut the scope of government and restore its proper size. Government at all levels consumes 36% of our GDP. Today, controlling government means controlling trillions in spending, creating tremendous incentive for special interests across the ideological spectrum to develop increasingly creative ways to buy off the politicians.
Big money in politics – Super PACs, Citizens United, so called ‘dark money” – are symptoms of a government that has grown out-of-control, running the economy, promoting crony capitalism and out of touch, one-size-fits-all solutions that tell us all how to live. Taxpayer funding of political campaigns only adds fuel to the fire while sticking a thumb in the eye of the taxpayer and eroding our freedom of speech.
I urge Maine people to join me in what should be our most precious common goal: restoring our government to its proper, Constitutional size and ensuring government does only what it should: protect our freedoms as American people.