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Clinton's Corruption Problem and Saturday's Debate

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 12/11/2015 Zephyr Teachout
HILLARY CLINTON © Shutterstock HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary Clinton has some corruption problems. And this is a corruption election.
She can address it head on, but so far she hasn't done nearly enough. The last debate she was completely silent on the issue. To show she's serious, she needs a total commitment to the issue in Saturday's debate.
You can't have a serious conversation with any voter, left or right, without talking about money in politics. It is in every breath. Eighty-four percent of Americans believe money has too much influence over our political system and elected officials. The despair on the left and right, the excitement about Sanders, the almost desperate desire for anyone who will break up the current machine, the thirst for revolution, not just policy. That this is a corruption election is evidenced in Donald Trump's appeal: the voters I've met who support Trump even accept that he lacks credibility, but argue he doesn't lack independence - unlike the other candidates. They are fleeing to him in droves not because he represents something positive, but because the corruption of the modern private financing model makes the other candidates feel like servants, instead of leaders.
And into this corruption moment comes Hillary Clinton, who has four big corruption problems. None of them have to do with Benghazi. The first is that she is intimately related to a foundation that raises millions of dollars on a daily basis from the most powerful corporations in the world. The second is that she and her husband have made millions of dollars in speaking fees from the most powerful corporations in the world. The third is that a Super PAC supporting her has raised money from individuals representing the most powerful corporations in the world. And the fourth is that shared by all candidates - her fundraising relies on donations from the most powerful wealthy individuals in America.
If Hillary Clinton wants to light up the country in either the general election or the primary, she needs to take a leadership role - not a lip service role - in a basic, in the guts overhaul of how politics works in this country.
So far, she's come out against Citizens United, and in favor of publicly financed elections.
But she hasn't taken a leadership role. She's merely used the phrase "Citizens United" as an applause line. And her support for publicly financed elections occurred on one day, two months ago, and she hasn't mentioned it since. That's not leadership. That's just saying what she thinks reformers want to hear, and then acting in the opposite way.
Clinton should endorse the Government by the People Act and the Fair Elections Now Act, or one of the other proposals already introduced in Congress. And she should talk about it - not just on reform day - but on every day. Talking about corruption without talking about fundamental shift from private to public financing is like talking about lung cancer and refusing to mention smoking.
Here are four things she could do to show she's serious:

  • Announce and release a plan that lays out what she intends to accomplish on this issue in her first 100 days in office.
  • Work to recruit a prominent champion on money-in-politics reform, such as U.S. Representative John Sarbanes who has already endorsed your campaign, as her surrogate on campaign finance.
  • Incorporate her platform into your regular stump speech remarks.
  • Give a prominent speech laying out her vision for a more balanced system and why she is committed to solving this challenge.

Recently, we saw huge victories across the country where voters made clear they wanted citizen funded elections. And Hillary Clinton remained silent.
In Maine, we saw a successful effort led by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections where voters overwhelmingly supported citizen funded elections. A coalition of groups in Washington State called Honest Elections Seattle led the fight for citizen funded elections and stronger anti-corruption laws. And Every Voice provided tremendous support and national coordination to both fights.
The country is moving towards a complete overhaul - right now Clinton is behind the curve. She seems to think that sympathy with our anger about corporate power is enough - but it's not. I hope she changes her mind. The house is on fire in our democracy, and before we can do anything - fix the roof, update the plumbing - we need to put out the fire. And she needs to show that she's with us, with more than a few words.

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