Whoever has the most money gets to choose our next legislators?

In late January 2010, following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling—in which five justices came to the conclusion that “corporations and unions have the same First Amendment rights as individuals, which means that corporations and unions are free to spend unlimited amounts of money independently in elections”—I wrote a blog entitled “Whoever has the most money gets to choose our next president.”

I forgot to add that whoever has the most money may also choose our legislators, as has been confirmed by the latest election spending reports:

The $80 million spent so far by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfs the $16 million spent at this point for the 2006 midterms. In that election, the vast majority of money – more than 90 percent – was disclosed along with donors’ identities. This year, that figure has fallen to less than half of the total, according to data analyzed by The Washington Post.

The trends amount to a spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows.

The bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives, who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by 7 to 1 in recent weeks.

First of all, less transparency in how our government and elections work is most definitely not what is needed.

And second, this sounds less like government of the people, by the people, for the people, and more like a government of special interests, by special interests, for special interests.

We can only hope that people are smart and savvy enough to see through the sham of campaign finance and vote based on values and informed reason next month.

Hitting the campaign trail

This evening I got to Wheaton, Illinois. I’ll be here for a month or so to volunteer for Ben Lowe’s congressional campaign. He’s running in the Sixth District, which includes DuPage County and Cook County, as the Democratic Party’s representative against Peter Roskam, the Republican incumbent. I’m not sure yet exactly what I’ll be doing, but I’m excited to be getting involved and to be supporting someone who’s become a friend over the last year.

A person’s integrity is hugely important to me—especially for someone who’s running for elected office. I’m a firm believer that what we get done is at least equaled in importance by how we get it done.

Ben and I met late last year, and have gotten to know each other in the last 12 months. He’s someone who’s shown a winning—and tragically rare—combination of intelligence, passion, commitment, and—perhaps most importantly—humility. He seeks to live out his Christian faith in the truest sense of loving God and loving neighbor: in reaching out to and defending those who are oppressed and marginalized; in taking care of the world we all share; in standing up to those who seek only to maintain unjust systems and structures; in affirming that every person is made equal and valuable, made in the image of God. Moreover, he refuses to let himself be bought by special interests—he hasn’t taken a cent from PACs. It’s put him at a distinct financial disadvantage, but it’s simultaneously showed him to be a man of integrity.

Ben Lowe is the kind of person I want my elected official to be like, and this is why I’m supporting him.

Visit Lowe for Congress.

Back in the District

Got back to DC last Thursday. Leave for Illinois next Tuesday.

That’s the news for now, folks. Though there may/will be news coming …

P.S. In non-me-related news, the Senate Republicans united to defeat a cloture motion that would allow the Defense Authorization bill, including the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the DREAM Act; which dents hopes for the passage of both of those pieces of legislation. However, the Child Protection Compact Act, which is geared toward combating child trafficking, was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which means it could come to the floor for a vote.

UPDATE: My friend Allison Johnson, who heads up Sojourners’ Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign, had this to say after today’s vote: “Our DREAMs Deferred, Our Hearts Emboldened.” She offered up this Martin Luther King, Jr. quote as an closing encouragement:

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.

Amen.