There's been many calls to end the influence of corporate money on Washington.
Russ Feingold has raised the issue. You hear it echoed by Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. And Lawrence Lessig has a new book out called Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--And a Plan to Stop It.
Different ideas have been floated: laws limiting contributions, repealing the Citizens United decision, and programs which fund politics through small individual donations only.
All of these ideas have merit, but they require action from government - the same folks who are currently taking these donations.
You may not believe this, but I think we might be able to convince some of them without any legislation.
Why? Because it's actually in Democrats' best interests to lead the way in rejecting corporate contributions.
We get it. You need money to win elections.
You may think we don't understand how hard it is to run for election, but we do.
You have to convince 51% of the voting public that you're the better candidate and that can be difficult.
One of the easiest ways to reach people is through mass media so you raise as much money as you can to get your message out.
When it comes down to it, it's a numbers game. $100,000 equals:
- 10,000 people donating $10 each to the party
- 1,000 people donating $100 each
- A single "bundle" of contributions from a corporate bundler
And what's easier to get? Fewer larger contributions (Note: FEC limitations here).
We understand. But here's where things get tricky.
You've run on a populist platform, but a good chunk of your campaign funding came from corporate interests.
So you try to walk the fine line between the interests of your large donors and those who voted for you.
Someone like Steve Jobs would say that you have a branding problem: you say you stand for one thing, yet your actions make it clear you stand for something else.
If you don't believe me, ask some of your constituents why they're frustrated with the Democratic Party.
I'd be willing to wager that you hear something like "says one thing, does another."
Look at the bank bailouts and financial reform.
Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner? I seem to recall these guys were deregulation advocates.
You turned to the people who created the problem to come up with a solution.
Dodd-Frank? I guess we'll see if it ever gets implemented but it certainly looks like it lacks teeth and was heavily influenced by corporate interests.
Now I don't believe you write legislation based solely on corporate campaign contributions. But I do believe that big money buys a seat at the table and once there, it may be hard to go against their wishes for fear of shutting off the donations.
Is it any wonder people don't trust you?
Your brand is about as popular as Enron.
You likely know all about this Catch-22 though so I won't belabor the point. Instead, I'd like to offer a suggestion:
Stop taking corporate money.
"B-b-b-b-but," you say, "money wins elections and if I don't have it I cede a huge advantage to my opponent."
I know that at first it sounds crazy, but let's look take a closer look ...
First, money does not win elections. Getting a clearer message to 51% of your voting constituency than your opponent wins elections. Money is just one way to do this.
Second, one of the big reasons you're not winning is that you keep undermining your brand. You tell people one thing and then do another. Why should anyone trust you?
You know when you'll win elections this way? When your opponents screw up. Like 2008. Like 1992.
If you'd stop taking corporate donations, this would go a long way to establishing credibility. And if your party stood for something, it would take significantly less money to get elected and you might win based on something other than an awful opponent.
Third, Republicans have gone "all in" as the party of money. By coming out and stating you won't take corporate donations, you suddenly distinguish yourselves.
Instead of being Republican-lite, you would actually stand for something. Let Republicans stand for "big money," you should stand for something else.
Fourth, you gain respect among Independents (and others) by leading through example.
Fifth, do you know who you're spending all your money with? I'm guessing that a lot of it is with the corporate media. The same corporate media that will run your ads, but write editorials against you endorsing your opponents. Or even worse, corporate media that fills the airwaves with 8 hours of conservative pundits a day.
Why do you keep spending money with them? Spend it instead on alternative distribution channels.
Sixth, there's some significant changes going on the world right now. Not just politically, but technologically. Over the past several years, I've moved from getting my most credible information from the news to getting it from my friends and through people and groups I follow online.
In a few years, most everyone else will too (if they don't already). These methods of communication are significantly less expensive, but, and here's the rub, what you stand for is everything. If friends can recommend something, then you are more likely to trust that recommendation.
Right now I have a hard time recommending the Democratic Party. About the best I can say is that they're better than the alternative. This is not a rousing endorsement.
Seventh, imagine the publicity.
Is this idea starting to sound a little less crazy?
It's bold, I know, and it might take some time to establish what you stand for and develop credibility.
But once you do, it will pay off a thousand fold.
You just have to take the leap.
I sent this letter to my Congressmen and the Democratic National Committee and anyone else I could think of who might help get it noticed.
Please steal this and bring it to the attention of anyone you feel could help convince Democrats.
With all the attention brought to this issue by Occupy Wall Street, there has never been a better time.