Paul Hodes: Our Desperate Need for Campaign Finance Reform


For as long as I can remember, complaints about “dysfunctional” government have permeated the public dialogue about Washington.


I was swept into congress in 2006 on a tide of “change” and swept out in 2011 as the pendulum swung the other way. During my time as a candidate and as a member I was enmeshed in a system that prized raising money above all as the key to credibility, power and effectiveness.


I was good at raising money. I set fundraising records in my small home state both as a candidate for the House and during my Senate run. I loved my work and my colleagues. I worked with high-minded people who wanted to do the best they could for the American people.


I also saw that or campaign financing system had developed into a system which was often at odds with the best interests of the people who we served. “Money talks, nobody walks” was an advertisement from my youth. In our system, money talks and those with it ride comfortably while those without walk behind. The power of money gives disproportionate power to those who have it and threatens the fabric of our democracy.


I felt first hand the deleterious effects of the abhorrent Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case as unnamed corporate interests barraged my state’s airwaves with millions of dollars in ads tearing me down. The money and the pursuit of it subtly corrode even the most principaled representative. The first time a member thinks to him or herself “If I vote this way, I’ll lose X”, that subtle corrosion is at work.


I was privileged the other day to sit on a panel with former Republican Senator Larry Pressler at the screening of a film titled “Priceless”. Go see the film. Think about how much easier it would be to get things done with a change in our campaign finance system.


Visit the website of Americans for Campaign Reform. I believe changing the way we finance elections is at the core of ensuring the future of our representative democracy.


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