We badly need to clean up Washington, D.C. and put an end to the scandals and influence-peddling that have become a way of life in our nation’s capitol. In fact, it must be done. Obviously, it will take a bipartisan effort in the White House and in Congress to get the job done. For this effort to be successful, ordinary citizens in every state must get actively involved. To really clean things up there are some basic things that must be done. The following are just a few:
• Politicians must be made to be accountable to citizens and not to the powerful special interests.
• Special-interest money must be taken out of elections.
• Reasonable limits must be placed on spending by candidates in elections – which means imposing both giving and spending limitations.
• Lobbyists must be prohibited from fundraising for politicians.
• The influence of lobbyists in between elections must be controlled.
• Privately-funded travel by public officials should be prohibited. All gifts to office holders should be banned. The practice of special interests and lobbyists paying for lawmakers and their staff members to take lavish trips and giving them gifts must be stopped.
• There must be a halt to the revolving door that now exists between government and the private sector. Former government officials must be prohibited from becoming lobbyists for two years. Public officials must disclose negotiations for future employment while in office.
• An independent ethics watchdog must be created. The current system is clearly broken. An independent, non-partisan authority is needed to monitor compliance with the law and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
All of us need to get involved with groups that are working to clean up the horrendous mess that exists in Washington. Government must be returned to the people, and you can be an important part of this process. Public Citizen, one of the groups that have taken action, has organized the Clean Up Washington Campaign. I encourage you to join with them. Their campaign, which is in the very early stages, is already under way. Based on its track record, I believe Public Citizen is a good group to join up with. Their interest is strictly the public’s interest and that’s a very rare commodity today in our nation’s capitol. There are numerous reform proposals under consideration in Congress. In my opinion, only a strong grassroots lobbying effort can have any real effect. Members of Congress need to hear from folks back home and on a regular basis. The strong connection between lobbyists’ money and our political leaders must be broken. Political influence can be restored, but only if enough folks get involved. Your participation can be an historic legacy. Support Public Citizen and help Clean Up Washington! You can contact Public Citizen by going to their website, www.citizen.org.
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