We live in a nation where leaders write laws that give corporations tax benefits for shipping our jobs overseas.
We live in a nation, where, last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers made on average $1 billion -- the combined salary of 20,000 teachers. But teachers pay higher taxes.
We live in a nation, where the average CEO makes 400 times the average worker’s salary. A generation ago, the average CEO made 40 times the average worker's salary.
We live in a nation where Senator Chuck Grassley wants to give millionaires $300,000 tax breaks. He says it will help improve the economy. That trickle-down theory just doesn’t work. He said the same thing in 2001 and from 2001 to 2007, the median wage kept dropping.
We live in a country where, unfortunately, patriotism has been hijacked by greed.
At a press conference yesterday, I proposed three principles that I will work for in the United States Senate.
My plan is after the jump.
1. Reform the system of financing political campaigns so our leaders are not dependent on corporate special interest funding to get elected.
Senator Grassley is part of the problem. He has taken more than $800,000 from Wall Street while voting to hand over $700 billion no strings attached. He then opposed regulations cracking down on the corruption that caused the meltdown.
Worse, after taking a million dollars from the insurance and health care industries, he voted against health care reform.
2. Make the way lobbying is done in Washington, DC transparent so that the corrupting relationship between corporate interests and members of Congress is broken.
Last year, $3.49 billion was spent lobbying the federal government. In lobbying to keep prescription drug re-importation from Canada out of the health insurance reform bill, the pharmaceutical industry spent $267 million, the "greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now there are more than five lobbyists working to kill clean energy legislation for every Member of Congress.
The 2005 Transportation bill contained 6,000 pork projects including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. Iowa's Chuck Grassley brought his staff to the floor of the Senate to congratulate them on their work on the bill.
What he failed to mention was that Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell, the lobbying firm where his wife "crafts legislative strategy," received more than $250,000 in fees to secure the Bridge to Nowhere.
3. Lastly, we must overturn the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Citizen’s United.
When Thomas Jefferson and the other drafters of the Declaration of Independence declared all "men" are created equal -- I am certain they didn't intend to include AIG, Goldman Sachs, or BP. However, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court apparently believes that corporations are just like people.
Last year, BP contributed a half a million dollars to politicians through their PAC. Imagine what they are doing this year, now that they can contribute directly to these 527s, and 501(c)s that have been created in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
Even before Citizens United, the influence of special interest money in Washington was considerable. Just last week, for Senator Grassley’s 77th birthday, corporate PACs donated $2500 each to host a birthday party fundraiser and individual lobbyists paid $1000 to host it.
Don't even get me started on Target's donation to support a political action committee supporting Tom Emmer's run for governor of Minnesota, or Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
This must end. That is why corporate accountability and good governance will be a top priority for me in the US Senate. Democracy is not for sale. We must ensure, as Abraham Lincoln said, that "the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish for the earth."
I'll be around for a while to take questions about my plan -- and the race -- thanks!