Removing the Influence of Money from Elections
The rising cost of political campaigns is a serious cause for concern in the United States, as some qualified candidates are discouraged from running for office because they do not have the financial means to do so. Furthermore, the exorbitant cost of campaigns has increased the role of political action committees, interest groups, and political parties through unregulated soft money donations. We must ensure that national policy decisions are based on the power of ideas and not the power of money.
Changing the way business in Washington is done and making our government more transparent and accountable to the public is one of my highest priorities. I am proud of Congress' strides in instituting sweeping ethics reforms intended to curtail the influence of lobbyists on the legislative process. I have supported Congressional efforts to impose disclosure requirements on lobbyists who raise funds for lawmakers, prevent lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, and significantly increase penalties for violations of the rules. I hailed President Obama's efforts to mitigate the "revolving door" effect by instituting a waiting period between employment in his Administration and by lobbying firms and I support similar requirements for Members of Congress and their staff. The President and Congress have also worked to reform the appropriations process to expose potential conflicts of interest, requiring that Members post all project requests publicly and certify that they have no financial interest in the projects.
Protecting Voting for All Citizens
Maintaining confidence in our voting system is the cornerstone of a strong democracy. Ever since my tenure as Rhode Island's Secretary of State, I have made it a priority to ensure that our elections are accurate, fair, and accessible to all. After the contested election of 2000, I fought in Congress to improve our nation's voting system. I was an original cosponsor of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a significant election reform measure that became law in 2002. In addition to establishing national standards for voting equipment and providing funding for election officials to purchase machine upgrades, HAVA included language that I advocated guaranteeing one fully accessible voting machine in each polling place.
Since HAVA became law, concerns have been raised about the accuracy of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which allow voters to make their selections on touch screens or via other methods and which tally the votes electronically. While DRE machines have provided enhanced access to voters with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency, critics have noted that some machines lack the ability to provide a voter-verified paper trail to establish a record of voter intent. I support requirements that election equipment provide voter-verified paper trails, and I have worked to promote reforms that protect the integrity of our elections while maintaining accessibility of voting equipment to people with special needs.
Updated July 29, 2011