Home Virginia Politics The First Issue: Addressing Political Money, Ending Corruption

The First Issue: Addressing Political Money, Ending Corruption

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What issue is your issue? What drives your passion for politics?

I’m a relatively new transplant to the Northern Virginia community, but I understood from the start how fortunate this place is to be filled with such strongly progressive voices. Battling climate change, expanding access to affordable health care, pushing for compassionate immigration reform – the residents of Virginia’s 8th congressional district are guided by staunchly progressive values.

But as Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard often says – while each of these issues is deeply important, they cannot be the first issue. The first issue is tackling the systemic corruption that has engulfed the American political system. Special interests and the power of money in our political system have rewritten the rules.

I have been following the race to succeed Jim Moran with interest. This is a field of remarkably qualified candidates, each ready to profess their progressive credentials. But from the very start, I have been shocked at how rarely political reform issues have been raised.  

Virginia needs to be ground zero of this debate. The values instilled in the 8th district bleed into the perspective of the greater Washington community. On a state-wide level, the desire for real ethics and campaign reform are on the rise. In many respects, this state will come to represent the challenges in framing these issues across the nation leading up to the midterm elections this year.

Let’s stand up and make these reform issues our issues. Let’s actively shape the debate.

At the candidates’ forum this past weekend in Mount Vernon, the money-in-politics question was finally addressed one hour and forty-five minutes into the debate. By and large, the right things were said. Yes, we need to overturn the disastrous Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon. Yes, we need to push for publicly funded elections so candidates can stop spending the majority of their time asking for checks from donors and more time talking to actual constituents. Yes, we need to maintain tight restrictions on contribution limits and controls on outside “dark money” groups. Yes, we need to expand voting rights and make it easier to participate in elections in the 21st Century.

But more than this, we need to make these topics some of the defining issues of the race. Unless a genuine grassroots movement can support real, systemic reform, not a lot is going to change in this particularly ineffective Congress. In whatever small way, I'd like to help make that happen. And I could use your support. Let’s form working groups to help address this issue – the first issue – not just in VA’s 8th district but across the state and region.

Today, the FEC contribution reports will be released. I will be reviewing the disclosures and will search for irregularities between what the candidates say in public verses who they accept money from behind closed doors. I would love your help.

Moving forward, we need to work together to make sure our progressive values are heard loud and clear. Everyone has an important issue – but we must all agree to first and foremost fix the process. Let’s stop this blatant corruption in our political system and again establish a government of, by, and for the people of the United States.