If you live in Oregon, you may have been asked to sign a petition for the "Fair Elections" initiative. The initiative would set limits on campaign contributions so that neither corporations nor individuals could, in effect, buy a state election. This measure would enable Oregon to join 45 other states that already place limits on campaign contributions. In addition, Oregon would join the ranks of states such as Colorado and Montana in enacting effective and comprehensive campaign finance reform.
Obviously, we all need to support this initiative - whether you're a Republican, Democrat, or independent. If you need further convincing, read the following excerpt from a speech delivered recently by Bill Moyers:
"For a quarter of a century now a ferocious campaign has been conducted to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual, cultural, and religious frameworks that sustained America’s social contract. The corporate, political, and religious right converged in a movement that for a long time only they understood because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries.
"Their economic strategy was to cut workforces and wages, scour the globe for even cheaper labor, and relieve investors of any responsibility for the cost of society.
"Their political strategy was to neutralize the independent media, create their own propaganda machine with a partisan press, and flood their coffers with rivers of money from those who stand to benefit from the transfer of public resources to elite control. Along the way they would burden the nation with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready to retire, systematically stripping government of its capacity, over time, to do little more than wage war and reward privilege.
"Their religious strategy was to fuse ideology and theology into a worldview freed of the impurities of compromise, claim for America the status of God’s favored among nations (and therefore beyond political critique or challenge), and demonize their opponents as ungodly and immoral.
"At the intersection of these three strategies was money: Big Money.
"They found a deep flaw in our political system and zeroed in on it.
"Our elected officials need huge sums of money to finance their campaigns, especially to buy television. The average cost of running and winning a seat in the House of Representatives – the so-called “People’s House” – now tops one million dollars. The chairman of the Federal Election Commission said just this weekend that anyone who expects to run for the nomination for president – the nomination – in 2008 will need to have raised one hundred million dollars by the end of 2007. That money isn’t going to come from regular folks – less than one half of one percent of all Americans made a contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. No, the men and women who have mastered the money game have taken advantage of this fundamental weakness in our system – the high cost of campaigns – to sell democracy to the highest bidder.
"Some simple facts:
"The number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled in the last five years. That’s 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.
"The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.
"But it’s a small investment on the return. Just look at the most important legislation passed by Congress in the last decade.
"There was the energy bill that gave oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that Exxon Mobil just posted $36 billion in profits in 2005, while our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high.
"There was the bankruptcy “reform” bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe.
"There was the deregulation of the banking, securities, and insurance sectors, which led to rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors.
"There was the deregulation of the telecommunications sector which led to cable industry price-gouging and the abandonment of news coverage by the big media companies.
"There was the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a P.O. box in an off-shore tax haven like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.
"In every case these results were driven by the demands of Big Money in the form of campaign contributions and the cost of lobbying."
Sign the petition!