Ten years ago Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the door to a flood of unlimited spending by corporations and expanded the influence of secret dark money in our elections. Establishing a basis for corporations to legally be considered people and allowing them to spend unlimited money in our elections has given them undue influence in Washington.
Here in Maine, we know that the system of special interests influencing elections runs contrary to our democratic values. For decades, we’ve led the country with our clean elections system, and that’s why, as speaker of the Maine House, I worked to strengthen and protect that system and to prohibit gubernatorial and legislative candidates from accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists.
But that kind of bold action hasn’t been happening in Washington. From campaign contributions to expensive perks paid for by special interests, wealthy donors and corporate special interests have increasingly been able to purchase influence and promote their agendas in Congress. Whether you look at health care, the cost of prescription drugs, climate change or any other issue, you can see directly the influence of drug or insurance or oil companies, and see why nothing is getting done.
That’s exactly why I’ve announced my Reform Agenda – a plan to fix Washington and make democracy work for us again by ending the influence big corporations and special interests have over politicians.
My Reform Agenda calls for sweeping legislation in Congress to overhaul our campaign finance system. In the Senate, I will push to overturn Citizens United as I’ve been vocal about since I first served on the Town Council. I will also support the DISCLOSE Act and the Real Time Transparency Act to require organizations that spend money in elections to disclose their donors, crack down on the use of shell organizations and require that political ads identify the organizations and individuals behind them.
In addition to passing meaningful reforms to our campaign finance system, we need to increase accountability for our elected officials. Mainers know the importance of hard work and accountability, and our representatives in Washington should be held to the same standard as any Maine worker. That’s why I will support “No Budget, No Pay” legislation in Congress – if our elected officials don’t do their job and pass a budget on time, they should not be paid.
I’m also rejecting all corporate political action committee money – in this race and as a U.S. senator. Since 2011, corporate PACs have contributed nearly $750 million to candidates for federal office – so it’s no surprise that they hold so much influence in Washington. It will always be crystal clear that I’m working for Mainers in the Senate.
My Reform Agenda also proposes banning former members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists. Right now, 445 former members of Congress are working as lobbyists – it’s the most common profession pursued by U.S. senators and representatives after they leave office. That revolving door benefits only the wealthy and corporate special interests, and it’s past time we put an end to it.
Finally, in the Senate, I will refuse any trips paid for by special interests and I will enforce strict rules in my office to refuse any gifts or meals from lobbyists, no matter how small. Lobbyists and special interests continue to take advantage of loopholes that allow them to host lavish receptions and pay for trips for members of Congress. Those practices represent exactly what’s wrong with Washington, and I’m committed to ending them.
Taken together, the Reform Agenda would be the biggest campaign finance and reform package adopted in Congress in over a decade – and I believe it’s what we need right now.
These ideas should be common sense for our representatives, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. I’m running to fight for Mainers in the Senate, not special interests. We need to stand up to special interests once and for all, and with this Reform Agenda, we can end the influence of money in politics and return our government to the people.