A republic, if you can keep it

Former Ambassador and ReFormer Tim Roemer (D-IN) spoke last week at the historic Chautauqua Institution summer series, focusing on money and power.

Throughout its history, Chautauqua has seen some of America’s greatest leaders share its space: Booker T. Washington, President Franklin Roosevelt, Vice President Al Gore and Governor Tom Ridge (a recent addition to the ReFormers Caucus). You can watch his speech in it’s entirety below. 

Through his work with Issue One and the ReFormers Caucus, Amb. Roemer has worked to build bipartisan consensus for common-sense legislation in Congress to reduce the influence of money in politics and our government. As a result, the 150-member strong ReFormers Caucus is the largest group of former lawmakers ever assembled on behalf of fixing money in politics.

His speech focused on the problems plaguing our current campaign finance system, how expensive elections deter some of our best and brightest from running for office and what we can all do to make our democracy work for all Americans.

A brief excerpt is below:

I can trace my ambition to serve my country back to the fifth grade. I was in a small classroom in my hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana and I stepped forward when my Catholic school teacher asked for volunteers during a mock election. By the way, she didn’t ask me if I could raise enough money, either.

I knew from that moment that if I set my sights on a goal and worked hard, I could accomplish great things and make my hometown proud.

Somewhere along the way things got more complicated. Running for office was never easy, believe me I know after serving six terms in the House of Representatives and campaigning for then-Senator Barack Obama’s run for the White House in 2008. I was in office before super PACs and the non-stop campaigning that occurs today.

We can change things tomorrow, without the Supreme Court. We can improve transparency and disclosure of political spending, helping average Americans know who is trying to influence their vote.

Congress can empower our watchdogs at the FEC and FCC to give them real power to hold lawbreakers accountable. And there’s bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill right now that would do it.

We should sever the connection between lobbying and campaign contributions. These aren’t the most popular but we need to renew the American people’s faith in their government, and when there are more than 10,000 registered lobbyists, the voices of everyday Americans are drowned out.

I mentioned the states earlier – they really are where democracy is happening right now in the campaign finance world. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are taking hold all over the country to fight lobbying, improve ethics standards and more. We need to help them keep experimenting.

And finally, we have to look at the long-game: forging a new jurisprudence that reasserts the authority of Congress to pass laws that define and regulate the role of money in our federal elections.

I just described feasible solutions that we can implement right now — if our leaders find the political will. But that won’t happen unless we act. They have to hear from us.

Here are a few tweets and photos from the event.