John Larson: 'Put Elections Back in the Hands of Ordinary Americans'

First District congressman hosts forum on money and politics.


U.S. Rep. John Larson, who is running to retain his seat in Connecticut's First District, hosted a public forum Tuesday night at the West Hartford Town Hall on “Money in Politics,” telling a crowd of about 60 people that there is an urgent need for campaign finance reform in this country.

“The most corrosive element in our political system is that it is inundated with money,” said Larson, who has emerged as a leader in the House of Representatives on this issue.

The co-author of the small donor-based Fair Elections Now Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate, Larson is a supporter of public financing of political campaigns. This initiative would enable a broad range of citizens, such as minorities and women, to run for elected office, Larson said. It would also help restore faith and confidence in government, according to a fact sheet released by the Fair Elections Now Coalition.

Larson, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, spoke of his dismay with the current political climate in Washington, D.C., calling it “one of the most frustrating times I’ve experienced in public life.”

He decried the lack of bipartisan cooperation in Congress and said, “the controlling party [in Congress] would rather see the president fail than the nation succeed,” citing the budget crisis of last summer and the fight about President Obama’s health care law.

Appearing with Larson was Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to “taking big special interest money out of politics.” In a well-received speech, Nyhart strongly criticized the “outsized role played by special interest billionaire donors and super PACS” in this year’s presidential election.

Nyhart cited statistics and published studies that indicate only 47 individuals in the U.S. are donating as much as 90 percent of the total dollars received and allocated by super PACs. This means the donors may be able to control the outcome of the presidential election, Nyhart said.

But it’s not just a problem with super PACs. It’s also a “candidate money and political party money problem,” Nyhart said, noting that small donor funds are just a “tiny percentage of the overall money donated” to political

He asked: “What would it take to go from ‘money to many’? What would it take to give Americans their elections back?”

The American public should demand full disclosure of political money, said Nyhart. We also need “sensible limits on independent expenditures,” he said, adding that the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling, commonly called Citizens United (in which the court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions) “is an invitation to corruption.”

Nyhart offered three solutions: First, develop a broad coalition of the 99 percent of people not writing the checks”; second, elect politicians willing to change politics by stepping outside the status quo and calling for electoral reform; and finally, make this part of a broad political movement — a call to political action by citizens.

“Ask your representatives, which side are they on?” said Nyhart. “Are they for reform or the status quo — where big money talks?”

Larson concluded: “Put elections back in the hands of ordinary Americans.”

According to Opensecrets.org, which bases its data on the Federal Election Commission, Congressman Larson has raised $1.4 million thus far for his 2012 campaign, in which he is being challenged by Republican John Henry Decker. Fifty-eight percent of this fundraising has been obtained from PACs — including the insurance industry — and 41 percent from individual contributions.



Bill August 10, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Barefoot, I thought you disliked anonymous commenting? (that's rhetorical) the media is not in the pocket of corporate America but the pocket of the DNC, so much so that when one tv outlet comes along that isn't (1 out of how many?) they attempt to surround it and vilify it, ever notice how the DNC and the media have the same opinion of Fox? Btw by the libs own admission liberalism is a dirty word, that's why theyre "progressives" now. When ever the libs or their agenda fall out of favor, as they always do with the majority of Americans They change the terminology to make it less offensive, my favorite example is how abortion becomes abortion rights, which became women's right to choose, which became women's reproductive rights. But all this coming from a man like you who thinks Obama, the most blatantly socialistic president in US history, is not liberal enough, should surprise no one.
William Brighenti, CPA August 10, 2012 at 05:03 PM
The media is, in fact, owned by the largest of corporations in America. By definition, that should tell anyone who controls the media. Obama and Romney are both owned by Corporate America. And so are the Democratic and Republican parties. I am for a true democracy--a government of and by and for all of the people, and not just for the 1% and large Corporations. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, opposed the robber barons and under his Presidency, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was spawned. And so did Andrew Jackson oppose this control of government by the elite. I am neither Democrat or Republican. I am for a government of and by and for all of the people. I believe that is a democracy, and not a plutocracy. With the two candidates raising millions of dollars at fundraisers, Romney getting 57% of PAC monies from just 47 individuals, and Obama raising $2 million in Westport over the weekend, I think it is apparent to all that these two candidates are beholden to their contributors and not to small business people like me or the average person in the street.
Harry Sawyer August 11, 2012 at 09:16 AM
Yaa... Sure. Whatever. Should of voted Ron Paul..
Maria Giannuzzi August 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Barefoot, I agree that a severe economic shock is unlikely. Another economic collapse is again possible, but we have various government agencies and measures in place to mitigate any major damage to upper and middle-income Americans and large businesses, including the big banks. For good reason. Americans would never tolerate a second Great Depression. Your scenario about a continued downward spiral seems likely. But there may come a tipping point when Americans understand that the trickle down propaganda is a false choice. Even the robots might wake up when their relatives, friends, and neighbors are out of work and losing their homes and health insurance. I am concerned about efforts to control free speech and dissent. I was very disturbed by the action of the Seattle police last fall against Occupy Seattle. There was a coordinated effort to physically harm peaceful protesters through the use of chemical weapons, rather than arrest them. Police arrest people engaged in illegal behavior. Paramilitary physically harm protesters. So what to do? A shift in values by a majority of the American people--the values of justice, fairness, compassion, peaceful co-existence, and environmental sustainability. This shfit has been underway for a couple of decades, despite major resistance from some corporations and their supporters in government, the media, and ideological think tanks.
Maria Giannuzzi August 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
The shift in values is continuing. Progressives should be actively engaged in helping this shift by living those values.


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