2009-10-16 / Letters

Corporations Should Not Buy Congressmen

Dear Editor,

Congressman Anthony Wiener merits thanks for his strong support for "healthcare to… those who do not have coverage, while allowing everybody else to keep what they have." He's right when he states, "… The healthcare industry is a tough sell… businesses do not… give up their profits without a fight."

A large portion of the fight (as reported early this summer in a documented study by the organization Common Cause) has been in the form of about 1.4 million dollars a day for lobbying expenses and contributions to campaign funds by the healthcare industry, with much of this going to help finance the campaign of committee members responsible for drafting healthcare bills. With candidates for federal office raising huge sums of money to be elected (as much as 10 million dollars for the Senate and 1.5 million dollars for the House of Representatives), the influence and power of 'big money' contributors are truly disturbing.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether corporations can donate unlimited amounts of money to help elect or defeat a candidate. These contributions depend on how the candidate will vote, not only on healthcare reform, but on issues of clean energy, global warming, gun control, banking regulations, international trade, and peace. Every aspect of our lives and our children's futures could be affected by 'big money' interests, by a few with large sums of cash to contribute.

Surely, Congressman Weiner is aware of this flaw in our system of financing elections. More than 40 members of the House of Representatives are co-sponsors of a bi-partisan bill (the Fair Elections Now Act) that would help to counteract the potential control of our government by powerful, wealthy, corporate interests. This bill proposes a similar campaign financing system to ones already adopted for state elections by Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona. These states have stipulated the following:

Those candidates willing to accept small donations plus public grants can compete successfully; Participation by candidates is voluntary (as in New York City) and is not considered an abridgement of free speech; Legislators can act for reform without fear of corporate backlash; Small donors have more leverage and legislators are accountable to voters, not lobbyists.

With his record of voting in favor of legislation that has helped so many Americans and his evident support of an ethical, truly representative legislature, Congressman Weiner must be troubled by our current method of financing elections. The results will be even more disturbing if the Supreme Court rules that corporations have the same 'free speech' rights as individuals and can contribute unlimited funds to a political campaign. The floodgates are in danger of being completely opened and the interests of the people overwhelmed.

We should therefore urge Congressman Weiner not only to co-sponsor the Fair Elections Now Act, but also to add his increasing prestige and influence in Congress to the voices of those legislators calling for true reform of our method of financing campaigns.

RUTH ZINAR

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