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Have you ever watched the 1939 Frank Capra movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?" Of course you have. It's your classic good-triumphants-over-corruption movie. When "machine-owned" Senator Sam Foley dies unexpectedly, the machine inadvertently hand picks an honest man, Jefferson Smith to fill his unexpired term. More than any other movie made in the first half of the 20th century, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" epitomizes the stereotype that most politicians lack the integrity and honesty the voters expect from their elected officials.

As we watch the news, we see ample evidence that the stereotype still accurately depicts today's politician as well. For example, Sen. Ted Stevens [R-AK] is being investigated by the FBI on his ties were with a convicted lobbyist. Congressman Randy Cunningham [R-CA] was convicted of taking a bribe, and is now in federal prison. And William Jefferson [D-LA] was caught in an FBI sting taking $100 thousand in nonsequential $100 bills. Ninety thousand dollars, wrapped in aluminum foil was stashed in his freezer at his home in Washington, DC.

The reality of politics is simple: campaign contributors from corporations or wealthy individuals are bribes. They should be outlawed. Weighty donations are always quid pro quos. In plain language—they're bribes. The contributor knows he's buying favors whether in the form of access, the drafting of legislation favorable to the donor's business interests—or votes against legislation that would be detrimental to that donor. And the politician knows it, too. Tragically, millions of American citizens apparently still believe in the tooth fairy. They accept the rhetoric from the politicians that contributors donate money out of patriotism and not greed.

Massive mega-million dollar war chests change the nature of precisely who the politicians' real constituents are—and gives those who fill the war chests too much clout over the business of the federal government—and gives the citizen voters none. We need to create an equal opportunity playing field for the citizens to find a presidential statesman for 2008 and beyond. We need to find a few honest legislators and a few honest judges and outlaw or, at least, greatly curtail—and strictly police and enforce—campaign contribution limits.

Contributions of more than $500 to any officer seeker should be outlawed. This will help create a more level playing field that will allow grassroots candidates to compete for office. Legislators in the early days of the Republic were all grassroots candidates since those legislators were farmers, mechanics, or shopkeepers who served in Congress because it was a patriotic obligation, not a career. Career politicians did not show up until the Jacobins wrested control of Congress in the mid-1850s and the professional politician was born.

If I was writing the laws governing campaign contributions, donors would have to be registered voters in the congressional district or State where the politician was seeking office. If the candidate is running for Statewide or federal office, the maximum contribution would be $100 per registered voter. In other words, people would not be able to donate money in their children's names—or in the name of their pet, or in memory of their long-dead grandmother. (I realize that in some precincts, grandma still votes after she dies, but we need to fix that.) And, politicians who accept bribes from corporations or wealthy patrons should be jailed. A mandatory prison term of one year per contribution should be levied against the politician accepting the bribe and the corporate CEO—and every board member—of any company trying to buy quid pro quos. We need to bring honesty back to government.

We can no longer trust those who lead this nation because politics has corrupted them. We can't trust the President or Vice President since neither will stand up and talk openly, frankly, and honestly about their errors in judgment, or the political gaffes they've made over the last seven years. We hear demands from the left—and even from factions on the right—to impeach the President and the Vice President.

We can't trust either Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], who alternately call for calm as they strategize the political timing for impeachment hearings against both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney—and the timing of their trials in US Senate. Their strategy is not based on what's best for the nation. It never was. It's based on what will make the GOP look the worst next November—and what will help the left increase their stranglehold on the Congress...and their control over political appointments for the next four years.

Here's the long and the short of it. The American people want Mr. Smith to go to Washington—for real. We want elected officials who tell the truth—all the time. That's not impossible. Our early presidents—those who served before money became the golden calf that politicians worshipped—were honest men who served because the country demanded it, not because they would be financially enriched from the experience. Most came out of an obligation to serve. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. Patrick Henry. Andrew Jackson. Corruption in Washington came with the carpetbaggers at the end of the Civil War. Where are the men of vision today?

We want elected officials with the integrity to make the tough choices that benefit US wage earners, business owners, and consumers—not the fat cats who fill the war chests of nickel and dime politicians, or who fight to control the political process.

We expect those we elect to take politics out of government because, right now quite frankly, we don't trust the motives of the politicians. If the House of Representatives believes the President and Vice President have committed impeachable offenses, they need to impeach them because they are bad for the nation—not use impeachment as a tool to strategize how to gain the most seats from it next November.

To convince the American people that the Democratic leadership isn't trying to recast the Election of 2004 by putting a Democrat in the White House this year, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader—who have popularity ratings lower than the President's—should step down from their senior positions.

The voters would like to clean house on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I think the Democratic majority in the House should appoint Rep. Jane Harmon [D-CA] as Speaker of the House and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I-CT] as Senate Majority Leader. That way, John Q. Public would at least have a sense that Mr. Smith had, indeed, come to Washington.

 

To: Bill Barnstead

 

 

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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