Congressional Reform

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 he intends to participate in the congressional dues system if he is elected.

Importantly, he hasn’t rejected it, nor has he joined me in signing the term limit pledge that I signed a year ago. He first didn’t support Senate term limits at all. After I pointed that out, he has taken the vague position of calling for them but not stating how many terms he believes should be enough. More wishy-washy political talk.

South Dakota can send a ripple across America by electing a person who refuses to participate in the big money campaign process so we can begin to reform Congress. These are the first steps to restoring government of, by, and for the People. If we continue to venerate and elect the candidate who raises the largest war chest and conducts politics as usual, let’s stop decrying big money in politics.


  • Connie Byrne-Olson

    By Connie Byrne-Olson

    I plan to be part of the group walking with you at the Brookings Art’s Festival on Sunday, and hope to be able to visit with you. I support your ideas on improving how Congress operates.

    I am a member of the national group, No Labels. I support their Speaker Project: a proposal to change some of the rules of how the house operates and elects it’s Speaker. These changes are necessary to force the House to operate in a more bipartisan manner and actually enact solutions that the majority of the US citizens agree upon. I would be interested in your thoughts on the Speaker Project and if you can support it.

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