Soapbox

Citizens must take back their government

People protest during oral arguments in a campaign finance case at the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2013.
People protest during oral arguments in a campaign finance case at the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2013. Abaca Press/MCT

Too often, our elected officials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., put the private interests of wealthy individuals, unions and corporations ahead of our public interest.

 
Opinion

For example, there is a bill to reform California’s criminal justice system by eliminating cash bail for nonviolent offenders, but Democrats in the Assembly who have received significant contributions from bail and bail insurance companies are fighting the plan, according to MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks political money.

Recently in Washington, the House passed a bill to weaken the Clean Air Act by delaying ozone regulations until 2025. The lawmakers who voted in favor received two and half times more campaign money from chemical, oil and gas interests.

It’s awfully tempting to blame the wealthy interests for undue political influence. We shouldn’t. Businesses can’t be expected to work on behalf of the public. It is up to us as citizens to protect the integrity of our laws.

Our problem can be traced back to 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in elections, money is the same as speech, and thus it’s unconstitutional for the government to limit election spending. That decision opened the door to corporations, unions and the super-wealthy to wield immense influence.

The only way to secure free and fair elections is to amend the Constitution to limit the influence of money in politics. Last year, California voters passed Proposition 59, calling on our members of Congress to support the 28th Amendment.

Now it’s time to hold their feet to the fire. Join me and AmericanPromise in urging lawmakers to pledge to advance the 28th Amendment.

It’s not an exaggeration to say what is at stake is the loss of self-government, allowing our republic to be replaced with an oligarchy. Democrats, Republicans and independents need to exercise our “people power” to end the rule of big money and secure a government of, by and for the people.

Jack Doty is a director of the San Francisco Chamber Foundation and president of Metro Pacific Business Development Services. He can be contacted at jed@metropac.us.

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