Campaign Finance Victory In Philadelphia

Two weeks ago, I told you how the Philadelphia City Council introduced a bill to repeal campaign donation limits in municipal elections. As if eliminating campaign finance reform wasn't bad enough, the particularly egregious part about this action was that it was a major setback for a city still heavily struggling with pay to play government (another major local politician was recently indicted, for example), and that it was introduced within hours of a poll showing self-financed, "outsider," candidate Tom Know pulling into a close second in the upcoming election for Mayor. It was, in short, a naked power play that strongly suggested our elected officials here have no principles except staying in power and closing ranks around "their own."

Today, I am pleased to report that the concerted efforts of activists in the city have managed to get the machine to reverse course, and withdraw attempts to rescind Philadelphia's new campaign finance laws. Young Philly Politics writes:
Last night, Jim Kenney did what we wanted him to do all along: He pulled his two bills that would effectively eliminate the donation limits for the Mayoral race. I will get to Kenney in a second, but, let's just talk about this for a second:

When the first bill was announced, it already had enough SPONSORS to give it a majority of votes to fly through the Council chamber, and on to Mayor Street (who said he would sign it.) So, you know, people could have argued that we were tilting at windmills and all that.

But, then something happened. People were outraged. Groups and associations were outraged. Through emails, phone calls, posts on blogs, statements from candidates, statements from groups like Philly Forward, Kenney being a part of this community, and an election for City Council being 90 days away, the bill will not even be heard.

That, my friends, is a big deal.

Does anyone think that if this law came up in February of 1999 or 2003 that it would have been pulled? A lot of things are changing in the City these days. I am not so egotistical as to claim that this blog is about to magically change Philly. But the ability of concerned citizens, all over Philly, to connect using technology is starting to have real, measured effects in the City. That ability, and a real sense that people in Philly are ready for a Government that they believe in, gives me hope.
This is a surprising and remarkable victory. It isn't the only positive development out of Philadelphia this week, either.. On Saturday, there was another state committee meeting in Harrisburg. It was entirely unlike the previous meetings I had attended, which you can read about here. I'll have more on that later on today.

Oregon Campaign Finance Reform

Now's the chance for real change in Oregon.

Yes on Measures 46 and 47

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Candidates hate it. Voters, too. So why can't we fix it?

I'm talking about the special interest money-drenched campaign finance system, which seems to act like a corruption-magnet, while shutting people and good candidates out.

Today's Washington Post story points out that this election is characterized by an unusually large number of races with corruption or personal scandals - perhaps as many as 15 races, according to the story. Fifteen is the Democrats magic number. If you're a Republican, I guess you could say that at least the corruption story has been localized. Isn't that what Tom Reynolds - who running in one of those 15 races impacted by scandal - wanted? Races to be determined not by the news of a corrupt Washington, but 435 individualized elections?

For more than a year, Democrats have tried to gain political advantage from what they called "a culture of corruption" in Republican-controlled Washington. Republican campaign officials insist the theme has not caught on with the public, but even they concede that many individual races have been hit hard.

Though it is clear that the war in Iraq is the dominant nationalized issue of the election, I do think there's a larger theme at work here that invokes the corruption at a national level: this Republican Congress is not listening to the people - they are out of touch, too cozy in Washington, and are stuck defending the status quo mess of their own making. So far, the Democrats have succeeded campaigning on change - change the course in Iraq and change politics-as-usual in Washington.

Should the Congress change hands in January, the Democratic leadership has promised to pass ethics and lobbying reform in the very first 100 hours of running the House to break the nexus of lobbying and lawmaking, in their words. The policy they're suggesting at this point -- Pelosi has pointed to a mixture of lobbying and ethics reforms -- are fine on the surface but don't go to the root of the problem: the pay-to-play, privately-financed campaign finance system that privileges those with money over those with ideas.

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A reform agenda for 2007

Update: Can't believe I missed it: The Washington Post reported this morning that Pelosi will offer legislation that will "break the link between lobbyists and legislation" as the first order of business on the first day. What will they propose?

Money is pouring into races all over the country. Abramoff has his own "desk" at the FBI. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Land Deal) is the latest to be under federal investigation. Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Slap-Happy) threatens bodily harm to her Libertarian opponent (who has MS and is in a wheelchair) after he brought up her contributions from Tom DeLay in a televised debate. Then there's the Lieberman loophole: $387,000 in unaccounted for petty cash.

And we haven't even experienced the malfunctioning voting machines yet (at least in the general).

Democrats, should they take back Congress, will need a real plan to clean up Congress, and put voters first -- an agenda that is deep, broad, and systemic. No more bandaids, or narrow process reform masquerading as big ideas.

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To take or not to take lobbyist contributions? Is that the question?

Jonathan's post yesterday raised a good question. After 12 years of Republican efforts to take over K Street as their own ATM, will Democrats hamper a bold agenda by raising money from scrambling lobbyists who see a Democratic takeover of Congress coming?

He argued that Democrats ought to reject that money. They don't need it, and shouldn't take it. Others, like Nancy Pelosi's spokesperson, say, everyone knows the Democratic agenda and that agenda won't be influenced by the money.

I think there's another bigger issue here... Instead of asking if the House Democrats will bite the hands that feed them on their issue agenda if they retake the House, we should ask this question:

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