I have been in the room where it all happens.
Most of the time it’s a boardroom, conference room or club room, where a politician’s big political donors line up for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and, for an extra charge, a personal photograph.
As a successful businessman, I was invited to countless functions like this over the past 20 years. And with each invitation, my frustration grew.
Politicians shouldn’t be giving special treatment to people like me. In an enlightened democracy, the red carpet should be rolled out for everybody, not just a privileged few.
A campaign check should not be your ticket to representation. Our politicians should be listening to the folks who really matter, the ones who work hard to make ends meet, to provide for their families and give their children a future of possibilities.
That’s why the first bill introduced by our new House Majority — and the first bill I co-sponsored — was H.R. 1, the For The People Act. It passed the House last Friday and represents the first step in our mission to make government more transparent and accountable to you.
Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it up for a vote in the Senate, attacking it as a “power grab.” Well, it is a power grab — a power grab for you.
Our new Democratic Majority was ushered in with a promise to put power into your hands and earn back your trust by working for the common interest, not special interests.
H.R. 1 takes direct action to put government back in your hands and reduce the influence of big money in our politics.
It shines a light on dark money by requiring super PACs and other special interest groups to disclose their large donors. The American people deserve to know who is spending the money to influence elections and why.
It creates a system that amplifies small-dollar donations to political candidates, rewarding candidates who build their campaigns on grassroots support rather than large donors and political action committee checks.
It protects and expands access to voting by making Election Day a national holiday, establishing automatic registration and early voting options, and guaranteeing the right to vote for felons who have completed their sentences.
It creates redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering and ensure our congressional districts are designed for voters to choose their politicians, rather than politicians to choose their voters. More competitive, diverse districts will result in more reasonable, respectful members of Congress and better outcomes for America.
Lastly, it begins to address the culture of corruption in Washington that’s fueled by the relentless pursuit of campaign money. Most members of Congress spend hours per day “dialing for dollars,” attending fancy fundraising events and giving meetings to lobbyists who, in turn, share campaign contributions from their PACs. Money buys access. Money buys influence. And money buys the services of former members of Congress who choose to become lobbyists after leaving public service.
H.R. 1 closes loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, slows the revolving door between Congress and K Street, prevents members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, and strengthens the Federal Election Commission and Office of Government Ethics to ensure both have the people and resources to protect the integrity of our politics.
I’ve seen our system from the outside, and now from the inside. That’s why I made the decision to walk the talk as the only member of Congress who refuses all special interest PAC money, all federal lobbyist money and all money from current members of Congress and their committees. The American electorate has been taken hostage by political fundraising, special interest influence and an “angertainment” industry that promotes division over collaboration.
H.R. 1 lays the foundation for Congress to level the political playing field and create a path to addressing the important issues we should be focused on. So whatever your number one priority might be, I ask that you make ethics, election and campaign finance reform your number two priority. Because we can never truly get to work on the issues that matter to you unless we unrig the system and invite you to the room where it all happens.
Dean Phillips, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House.