This is my first post for the Rootstrikers campus team blog. Rootstrikers is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that strives to reduce the influence of dirty money in politics. Led by the efforts of the campus teams, Rootstrikers is currently working in conjunction with the huffington post to get politicians “On the Record” about the corrupting influence of money big money in politics. Here I discuss Congressman Scott Garrett’s (NJ-5) response to my attempts to get him “On the Record”. FYI, Congressman Garrett, I will not cease my efforts.
Anyone who has ever listened to a hard-hitting interview with a politician, comes to realize that there is no other profession in the world whose members are quite so adept at evading the tough questions with circuitous rambling and ultimately inconclusive answers. But can you really blame them? Thanks, in no small part, to our nation’s corrupt system of funding elections, America’s lawmakers remain caught right in the center of the endless tug of war being waged on Capitol Hill between the interests of the “funders” and the interests of the people. So despite the fact that nearly 90% of Americans think decisive action needs to be taken to eliminate corruption in our political system, I sympathize with the fact that Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey’s 5th District is just not yet willing to give the American people his straightforward opinion on this defining issue of our time. Representative Garrett’s response to my requests for a brief phone interview to discuss this urgent threat to the survival of our democracy was short, sweet, and to the point.
He chose to frame the issue of the corrupting influence of money in politics around the recent referral of the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 269) to the House Administration Committee where it is currently undergoing review. If this piece of legislation was to become law, it would allow federal candidates to run competitive campaigns for office without having to depend on large contributions, big money bundlers, or lobbyist donations. They would do this by raising a larger number of small contributions, no more than $100 per contribution, from their local communities. Once a House member has amassed 1500 contributions or $50,000 he or she will receive $1,125,000 from the fair elections fund. Forty percent of that amount is earmarked for the primary, while sixty percent is reserved for use in the general election. In addition, candidates who reach the sought number of 1500 contributions qualify for additional matching Fair Elections Funds as long as they are able to continue raising small dollar donations from their home state. Five dollars is matched from the Fair Elections Fund for every dollar House candidates raise from small-time contributors. The formula for determining Fair Elections funding for Senate candidates is slightly more complex, but nonetheless works towards the same goal of eliminating Congress’ dependence upon the funders and restoring political power solely to the people.
After pointing out that he is not a member of the House Administration Committee, Representative Garrett concludes his response by saying that if the H.R. 269 is able to make it out of committee and to the House floor for a vote, he will consider it with the concerns of one New Jersey Rootstriker fresh in his mind. I will say that even if this bill comes out of committee with modifications, there is no concrete reason why Representative Garrett should be dead set against taking a stand on it right now. If this bill does make it to a vote on the House floor, I can guarantee you one thing Congressman Garrett. My fellow Rootstrikers and I, along with the people of the fifth district of New Jersey, and the rest of the American people will be watching and you will be held accountable. That is a promise.