Sharing our own moments in history is real. It’s humbling.
I remember a moment I had back in late July when I was sitting in my spacious office down on K Street. I had just taken a call from yet another Member of Congress, asking me to raise him $25,000. My initial reaction was to smile and reflect on simpler but poorer times when I was a Senate staffer, MAKING $25,000 a year!
I spent almost seven years, the best years of my life by the way, doing policy in the Senate and I take great pride in my public service. Back then I did what was natural: I became a lobbyist, with the hopes of continuing my economic policy expertise from the outside. Key word here: policy.
But here’s the rub: lobbyists today rarely get to use the policy they learned in the halls of Congress. Instead they are forced to spend a majority of their time raising money and shuffling from cocktail reception to cocktail reception.
The “fundraising circuit” is deafening. It’s sick and it makes me nauseous to think of having to write check after check after check to a Senator or Representative just so I can get a meeting with him or her later. Anyone that tells you that’s not true is flat out lying to you.
So, back to my “moment in history.” It began at my desk. A physical chill came over my body. The smile of “making it” as one of the top lobbyists (apparently the Wall Street Journal thought so!) in Washington turned into something different.
That’s when it hit me. That’s when I knew I had to stop. I had two choices, be a cog in the wheel or destroy the wheel. I literally shuttered at the thought of losing everything I’d ever worked for: my home, my ability to travel, to live a life of luxury, to provide for my family, etc.
I left my lobbying firm and bunkered down on an island for the month of August and did some major soul searching.
Skip a couple of months forward and a new door opened: my friend Dylan Ratigan approached me to lead the Get Money Out Foundation. Great offer but I needed a sounding board, so I picked up the phone and called my brother Robert down in South Carolina. What I heard in my brother’s voice was this theme that Washington, DC isn’t just broken but corrupt. He confirmed what I suspected: that the country at worst hates its capitol and at best thinks our politicians have no clue about what it means to live outside the echo chamber known as the Beltway.
My brother and I couldn’t be more different; He’s a Republican, I’m a democrat. He’s straight, I’m gay, he’s reserved and more cautious, yet I was the kid in the family that threw it all out there. But there’s not a single person in this world whom I love or trust more than my brother, and when he tells me the country’s pissed off at Washington, I knew I had to do this.
Robert asked me how I was going to make Washington wake up and give up its power; what’s the strategy, he said. Here’s what I told him:
First, Get Money Out will debate openly and with the public’s input. We’ll write the best Constitutional Amendment possible and put it forward to the people. We wont always agree but if you have something to say, I’ll listen.
Second, we will take the best amendment language to Congress and find allies to introduce it for debate. Do I expect Congress to debate this immediately? I’m not that naive but that’s where you come in.
Third, I need a wave. As I write this, we know we have nearly 220,000 followers who believe in this mission. We need more. We need MANY more. I wont be satisfied until we reach 2 million or more. Why? Because Congress won’t listen unless the wave overtakes them. I’ve said it before: Congress doesn’t pro-act, Congress only reacts. This is where you come in. We need your help (and your friends and family’s help) to get Congress to react. Lets build a wave so big they can’t ignore by exposing the auction for this “government to the highest bidder” mentality for what it is: corruption through and through.
Fourth, if we can get Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment, then we turn our focus to the states, which have to ratify it to actually make it law.
Campaign finance reform isn’t a new idea. Congress has passed reform measure after reform measure. Yet, the Supreme Court continues to insist that corporations are people and that money is speech. I just don’t agree. I don’t think the Tea Party movement agrees. And I definitely don’t think the Occupy Wall Street movement agrees that Exxon is a person. What we all agree on is the system is broken, that Washington DC is nothing more than an auction house, with the highest bidder always winning.
There are others out there spearheading similar movements, many with good intentions. There are many roads to Rome. Some want to take the back-roads, some want to take the interstate. In the end, if we all want to reach Rome and agree on the same goal, to Get Money Out of Politics, then I don’t care how everyone gets there. I just care that we all make it to the finish line and pass an amendment banning money in the halls of Congress.
That’s the strategy for the Get Money Out Foundation. Its simple, its concise, and its honest. We don’t need to complicate a solution to something so inherently and blatantly wrong.
As the executive director of the Get Money Out Foundation, I give you my word (and my word is all I have in this world) that I will run this movement to ban money in politics as openly, honestly, and transparently as I possibly can. With your help, we will reach Rome.
Lets get money out and give America its government back.