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Public Statements

Issue Position: Election and Governmental Reform

Issue Position

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"We have to reduce the cost of campaigns. Abramoff did and now other Lobbyist run Washington and both political parties, because of the high costs of campaigns. I support public financing of congressional campaigns. This will not only stop Congress from catering to the special interests, it will do a lot to reform the Democratic Party and bring it back to fighting for the average citizen" -- Yvette Clarke

We also have a political system, and the heart of that political system is equality. That was the genius of the American Constitution, not fully realized at the time, a goal that we have been striving towards with some success ever since. What we have in our public policy is a tension between an economic system built on inequality where people are unequally rewarded and unequally powerful and a political system in which people are supposed to be equal, in which people's preferences are supposed to count each equally one for one.

What we have in America today is a corruption of that system in the broadest sense. As money has become more and more influential in politics, the inequality of the economic system has damaged the ability of the political system to function in a way that carries out equality. We cannot allow the inequality that is a necessary element of our capitalism to swamp the equality that is supposed to be the element of our political system.

Campaign Finance Reform

Clarke will fight for public financing of elections, and more immediately for candidates to accept voluntary spending limits in exchange for free or reduced rates for television, radio time, and reduced postal rates. It is a proven way to give voters more control over government, make politicians accountable to their voters rather than their campaign contributors, and level the playing field by giving all citizens a fair shot at getting elected

Lobbying Reform

As a result of the Abramoff corruption scandal, the Congress must take urgent action to reform the ethics process, the existing rules under which lobbyists operate and disclose their activities and the campaign finance system. Clarke supports the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, an aggressive reform package to protect the public's faith in government. This bill will bring an end to the era when elected officials are treated to fancy skyboxes at sporting events or lavish golf vacations overseas

Clarke wants Real-time reporting of lobbying contacts and real enforcement of disclosure rules in Washington. The multi-billion-dollar lobbying industry operates almost entirely in secret. Lobby reports are filed on paper in Washington, and housed in the offices of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. The Clerk and Secretary were designed to be repositories for the forms, but have no powers to enforce that they are filed on time, completely, and by all those who register. This must change. The American public has a right to know who is lobbying their elected officials. They also have a right to know when those contacts are made in real time, so they can assess the impact of lobbying on public policy decisions.

Mandate electronic filing of quarterly lobby disclosure reports, available online and searchable, with a storable database that lets the public know the name of the lobbyists, the official who was lobbied, and what specific legislation was discussed.

Require lobbyists to report within 48 hours each contact with a Member of Congress and Congressional staff, including the date of contact, the staff member contacted, and the legislative issue discussed. The Federal Communications Commission has successfully imposed a similar rule for communications with FCC decision-makers about pending regulatory issues. This public disclosure has given the public valuable insights about the special interests and their issues at the FCC. We should expect as good, if not better, disclosure from the lobbyists influencing public policy on Capitol Hill.

The 2004 races for the U.S. House of Representatives are illustrative of these problems:

Today, more than 85 percent of Congressional incumbents elected officials won by landslide. Only seven incumbents, of 399 running, lost their seats in 2004. That's a 98.2% re-election rate. Outside of Texas, where a mid-cycle Republican redistricting effort led to the defeat of four targeted incumbent Democrats, only three incumbents lost their seats -- a greater than 99 percent incumbent re-election rate for House members in 49 states.

Redistricting Reform

The dominant system allowing Congressional and legislative districts to be drawn by state legislatures does more to protect the interests of incumbents than serve voters. For decades partisan wrangling has led to gerrymandered redistricting maps, collusion among the major political parties to create safe Congressional and state legislative districts, and the packing and splitting of concentrations of voters to weaken or strengthen their influence to gain partisan advantage. In recent years, advances in information and mapping technology has enabled a level of precision in district drawing that in effect, enables legislators to choose the voters they wish to represent and makes it difficult for voters to hold their elected officials accountable.

In order to make American's votes truly count in legislative and congressional elections, to create more accountability among elected officials and to put citizens, not elected officials, in charge of who gets elected, we must remove redistricting decisions from the purview of partisan legislators and establish fair criteria that guide the development of state and congressional districting plans. By taking these steps to achieve a process based on fairness, not on the struggle for partisan advantage, Americans will see the benefit of better representation at the state and federal level.

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