Congressional Leadership

As a way to let voters know what I will fight to accomplish in Washington, I am making a series of promises to you of what I will do and what I won’t do as South Dakota’s lone congressman. I call it my Promises to South Dakota.

This promise has to do with our current Leadership in Congress.  No government can function well without strong leadership, and one of the key reasons that our Congress isn’t functioning well is that the leadership—in both parties—is awful.  Our government lurches from shutdown to shutdown, creating artificial crises, because Congress has mostly abandoned the discipline of enacting appropriations bills to fund government, something that requires compromise.

Major bills that repeal large pieces of the Affordable Care Act and add $1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt are passed without a single hearing, and our leaders have such contempt for each other that they rarely speak.

It’s no wonder that our federal government barely functions! Because of that, little ever gets done, and the American people pay the price for a government that doesn’t work.

So, my first pledge is one I have spoken of since the day I announced my candidacy back in July of last year: that as South Dakota’s lone Congressman, I will not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House or any other leadership position.

Ms. Pelosi has been the Democratic leader for 15 highly contentious years. She represents a wealthy San Francisco district that couldn’t be more unlike South Dakota.

But the biggest reason I can’t support her is that Congress is in need of major reform and it won’t come from our current leadership.  Ms. Pelosi, along with Paul Ryan, chooses to preside over the deeply troubling Congressional Dues system which they could together abolish, but which sustains their leadership. As I’ve stated months ago, I won’t vote for anyone who maintains it.

I’ll vote for someone as leader who reflects our interests and can relate to and will be responsive to our needs.

I’ll be sharing more of my promises to South Dakota over the coming weeks.

Congressional Reform

Congress is dysfunctional.  The House of Representatives averages 138 “legislative days” a year – less than one in three days each week.  They usually begin on Tuesday and adjourn on Thursday afternoon, and spend less than a third of that time actually drafting bills, attending hearings, or voting; in fact, as much as half that time is spent fundraising, beginning their first week in office.

It is a money-dominated system destined to produce the kind of Congress we now have: members who place their re-election above their duty to America. Instead of campaigning face to face with regular citizens, they are elected in the first place by courting wealthy donors. When you ask a person to give thousands of dollars to your campaign, they want something in return, as Donald Trump repeatedly reminded us.  If you play the game, you become owned by your donors, having assured many that you will support their legislation – legislation that all too often protects the wealthy class and works against average Americans.

All this keeps most solid citizens from seeking political office: few willingly subject themselves to the sordid efforts to raise such money. But we implicitly agree to this process when we keep electing them anyway: although Congress has an approval rating around 15%, incumbents have a re-election rate of over 90%.

I reject that kind of campaign. I have committed to running a different kind of race. I’ve spent the past 7 months conducting town halls, and meeting South Dakotans in cafes, homes and places of business. I listen to their concerns, and answer their questions about what I believe and want to accomplish as our next congressman.

I’ve spoken and written repeatedly of the damage wrought by corporate and special interest control of Congress. The recent tax law perfectly demonstrates the power of those forces. In the aftermath of an election that was supposed to “drain the swamp,” this tax law is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come, to the rich and politically connected.

If power is to be restored to the people of this nation, this must change; but change requires leaders of conviction who will risk defeat to bring it about.

So, I have decided I will not take money from any PAC whatsoever.  I have put some of my own money into the campaign and I am relying on regular South Dakotans who will support a candidate who won’t be owned by anyone, and every day will do the business of the people.  I solemnly promise that I will not bow to the big money that controls Washington. If I had to raise money that way in order to win, I’d rather stay home because  I wouldn’t be any more effective for the people than those we now send.

For these reasons I will fight for these fundamental reforms:

1.      Enacting a Congressional Term Limits Amendment;

2.      Ending the deeply troubling Congressional Dues System, in which members pay dues to their parties to serve on committees of their choice;

3.      Prohibiting members from raising money while Congress is in session;

4.      Requiring Congress to live by the same insurance coverage as the average American, eliminating low cost Capitol Hill medical services that the rest of America lacks; and

5.      Prohibiting a member of Congress from employment in firms that employ lobbyists for five years after leaving office.

Dusty has declined to tell the voters whether they intend to participate in the congressional dues system if they are elected.  Neither has rejected it, nor have they signed the term limit pledge that I signed months ago. I invite them to share with us their stances on that and each reform issue I have set out.

South Dakota can send a ripple across America by electing a person who refuses to participate in the big money campaign process. That is the way to restore government of, by, and for the People. If we continue to venerate and elect the candidate who raises the largest war chest, let’s stop decrying big money in politics.