Sometimes someone tells a truth that shatters our denial and suddenly explains a lot of things. Suddenly things make sense. Perhaps someone tells you that his wife or her husband is an alcoholic. You knew that there had been something odd for years, but now their behavior suddenly makes sense.
Congress has been like that. Over 90% of us do not trust Congress, but we’ve not quite known why. We’ve blamed “the other guy” or just given up and walked away in frustration. We didn’t know what was wrong but the media and others have been pointing out the reality of how Washington is really a place where money has its way and democracy comes in second.
It is becoming clearer and clearer what the problem is.
This shattering truth, this madness that permeates Washington, was again presented on NPR last week on This American Life with Ira Glass. Highly recommended. (http://podcast.thisamericanlife.org/podcast/461.mp3)
“Our elected officials – all of them — go to Washington and step behind the curtain and trade their integrity for access to cash.”
We are getting reports that nearly all members of Congress are corrupt and immoral, because they are “on the take.” They sell their power for cash. We are seeing that they, like addicts, will lie, cheat, and steal to stay in power. And we are seeing that they, like psychopaths, are destroying our environment, perverting our democracy, and even leaving their own children with a terrible debt, all because of their soulless need for more money and power.
Those who know me and have read my books know my position.
But I want to tell you about an event that was held last Friday. It was amazing! The event was a forum for the 2nd District’s congressional candidates sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Eureka. All but two of the candidates were present. It was an amazing group of folks. One candidate, Andy Caffrey, has spent his life traveling the world trying to save the planet.
I had a chance to state my position and to tell my truth. I challenged Norman Solomon when he said he doesn’t take PAC money. But he does. When I pointed out this truth, Solomon replied that he would not take “Corporate PAC money.” I had to laugh. That would be like a Republican saying, “I won’t take Union PAC money.” Why won’t politicians tell the truth? It makes me crazy.
The audience was instructed to be quiet during the forum, but I was watching how they responded and, to tell the truth, if they had voted, I think I would have won!
Several people came up to me afterwards and said, “Thank you Larry. You get it. You get the fact that our political system is dysfunctional. You are the only candidate here today who is pointing out the elephant in the room. You are the only one who is saying that money in politics has corrupted Washington. You are the only Democrat who is saying that the Democratic Party is corrupt. And you are the only candidate here today who will not take a dime from PAC’s or businesses and end up becoming apart of this corrupt system.” And, “Your platform makes sense. You will get my vote.”
But, in the mean time, we are still on the Titanic and we have not yet seized the helm and we are still headed for the iceberg that could possible sink our democracy and our planet.
We all know it. Our democracy has been hijacked by money: special interests (corporations, Big Oil, Big Union, etc.) and the hyper-wealthy.
As Bill Moyers puts it:
“Let’s name this for what it is: hypocrisy made worse, the further perversion of democracy. Democratic deviancy defined further downward. Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy – fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.” 1
These are the words of Leon Panetta, a former democratic congressman, then Director of the CIA,, who currently is serving as Secretary of Defense under President Obama:
“Legalized bribery has become a part of the culture of how this place operates.”
Our political system is corrupt. Good men and women enter this corrupt system of “exchanging money for favors” and become inducted into a corrupted system.
“Almost a hairline’s difference separates bribes and contributions.”
—Russell B. Long
Huffman, Solomon, and the other candidates have their hands out and will take hundreds of thousands of dollars from folks who expect something in return.
In order for a politician to win, they must compromise. They engage in an unethical dual relationship where they take money from those they regulate and legislate. Good people enter a corrupt system. These politicians begin by saying, “I need money! Give me money! If you just give me money, I promise to go to Washington and change things. I promise that I won’t do what the other guys have done”. But what they end up meaning, if not saying, is, “Nearly all of my money is from someone who has paid me to ‘go along’).”
Solomon, Huffman, and others if elected, will put their hand out and get their share of the 3.5 billion that was paid to them by lobbyists. If I am wrong about what I am saying about them, I will publically apologize. I pledge to take zero, nothing from any entity other than individuals and then only $100 or less.
In my book, Intervention On America, I point out the striking reality of how these politicians’ behavior ends up closely resembling an addict’s behavior. To me, the way politicians behave looks like addiction:
- Craving (the politician will lie, will say anything to get power and money)
- Loss of control (the politician will be unable to be ethical, moral, honest. “How do you tell if a politician is lying?” “Their lips are moving.”)
- Adverse consequences (They are screwing up our environment, perverting democracy, ignoring children’s needs, can’t balance a budget, and are incapable of sane leadership)
- Chronic (They have been doing this for decades, they’re still doing it, and there’s no sign that they’re going to stop)
So, don’t they sound like alcoholics? “Give me more money, I promise I will be different! I really will change. Trust me! I’ll never do that again. Really. I promise.”
But here is the really annoying reality. If they are addicts – who is enabling them? (Every addict is propped up by the clueless, enabling codependent, who is also in denial – if the codependent stopped enabling, the addictive system would fall apart and things would change).
It turns out that we, you and I, are the clueless, enabling codependents that prop up the corrupt system that has produced the current crop of politicians that we so distrust.
We, the enlightened and educated, the voters of District 2 (Marin, Sonoma, Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino and Del Norte Counties), have been inducted into this corrupt system. We are the Clueless Enablers who prop up the corruption. And it is we, the voters of District 2 who need to take responsibility for choosing yet one more politician who will take the cash, who will blame the other party, and who will lie to us.
Or, perhaps we will chose someone who will not go along, who will not take money, and who will strike at the root cause of the problem.
From Lawrence Lessig’s brilliant book, Republic Lost:
“This book (Republic, Lost) names that root. It aims to inspire “rootstrikers.” The root – not the single cause of everything that ails us, not the one reform that would make democracy hum, but instead, the root, the things that feeds the other ills, and the thing that we must kill first. The cure that would be generative – the single, if impossibly difficult, intervention that would give us the chance to repair the rest.”
This is my position as well. And it was what my book, Intervention On America is about.
We must remove the root cause, which is Washington’s corrupt elected officials who have been bought off by the wealthy, and the connected – the unethical stance of Solomon, Huffman, and some of my other opponents.
Again, from Republic, Lost:
“The great threat to our republic today comes not from the hidden bribery of the Gilded Age, where cash was secreted among members of Congress to buy privilege and secure wealth. The great threat today is instead in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people. A process that distorts our democracy from ends sought by both the Left and the Right: For the single most salient feature of the government that we have evolved is not that it discriminates in favor of one side and against the other. The single most salient feature is that it discriminates against all sides to favor itself. We have created an engine of influence that seeks not some particular strand of political or economic ideology, whether Marx or Hayek. We have created instead an engine of influence that seeks simply to make the most connected rich.”
We, the media, and most other voters in America, fail to see this!
We will fall for the siren song of the politicians. We, the enlightened voters of beautiful coastal Northern California, will be just as clueless as the impoverished and uneducated voters in in the Deep South. We will fall for it. We, like sheep, will pull the lever in the ballot box for the same unethical politician who “promises to be different.”
And then we will blame them, but will fail to see how we, ultimately, enable this.
Do the math.
The latest polls say that 90% of us distrust Congress, and yet we send nearly 100% of the incumbents back – we sent Lynn Woolsey back 9 times! I read somewhere that only one incumbent has ever been ousted from California’s congressional districts in the last 20 years! That’s nearly 500 elections where we, the enabling voters, have fallen for the sweet-talking politician – even though 90% of us claim we don’t trust them!
They lie to us and we, like sheep, continue to vote for them.
As a candidate, I get to tell the truth because I’m not “bought off” by anyone. I’m not accepting ANY money from any source besides individual citizens – and then only $100 or less.
The other guys will have to lie because they have two masters – the voters, who they need to “sell” themselves to in order to get our vote, and the back-room guys with the cash who fund their endless elections. Here are some examples:
- How can President Obama stand up for our biosphere and oppose the Keystone Pipeline, when he has put his hand out and taken millions of dollars from oil companies (who want more money) and unions (who want more jobs)?
- How can Congress and President Obama stand up to Wall Street and replace the regulations designed to protect us, when they have put their hands out and taken over 400 million dollars from Wall Street to rig the system for the 1%?
- How could Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey stand up to the six multi-national food corporations that have mandated a food policy that has led to massive obesity, and that will lead to one third of babies born after the year 2000 developing diabetes, when she has had her hand out and taken thousands of dollars from the Sugar Industry? 3
- And how could Congresswoman Woolsey stand up to the leveling of mountains in Pennsylvania to burn coal, that spews mercury into the air and kills thousands, when she has put her hand out and taken millions from unions – unions like the coal miners’ unions? 4
- And how could Congresswoman Woolsey represent the 99% when, in the 2009-2010 election cycle, she put her hand out and received 77% of her campaign funds from Special Interests and the top 1%? 5 As Lawrence Lessig says, “Only the top 26% of the top 1% give over $200.” 6
- And how can we trust Jared Huffman to stand up against the Fat Cats and Special Interests, when he has put his hand out and asked for money. The vast majority of that money has come from 1% (Corporations, PACs, Special Interests, and the hyper-wealthy)
- And how can Norman Solomon take the position, “I am different, really, I am different,” when he also has put his hand out and accepted money from PACs 7 and Special Interests.8
Are voters in District 2 awake to this rigged game? I am amazed that I meet folks who are otherwise smart and educated, but who fail to see the dysfunctional system right in front of them.
It is unethical to take money from anyone we might regulate or legislate! Plain and simple! Wrong! It is a conflict of interest and it is a dual relationship and it is the root cause of why we don’t trust Congress.
And yet this corruption happens all the time. It is the elephant in the middle of the room that most voters fail to see.
“I was participating in a system of legalized bribery. All of it is bribery, every bit of it.” —Jack Abramoff (well known and convicted lobbyist from his tell-all book, Capitol Punishment)
If you agree with my position, please send this message to other Marin voters. I want to be your Representative in Washington.
And I don’t want Big Money. I believe that good old-fashioned “word of mouth” in this Facebook age can get the job done if it is meant to be. It was, after all, Facebook that brought down Mubarak’s corrupt government in Egypt.
My positions are stated on my website, www.LarryFritzlan.com, and expanded in my book, We Are the 99% And We Are Running for Office: Washington’s Worst Nightmare. Who I am and what I stand for is public information. You can Google me. For nearly 20 years I have been an active force in helping adolescents and young adults suffering from Substance Related Disorders.
Basically, I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative.
Yes to ending corruption in government, getting our financial house in order, protecting our environment, ending the Drug War, creating more protection for children, developing universal health care, reducing the reach of federal government, overhauling tax law, etc.
I am in favor of common-sense solutions. Solutions that are impossible when Washington has been bought off by the corporations and the 1%. Solutions that are impossible as long as our elected officials are frantically running around, just like an addict asking for money.
My position is simple. It is stated in my Money Out of Politics Pledge:
“I agree to accept no money from any corporation, lobby, PAC or entity other than a person, and I agree to accept no more than $100 from any individual.”
The voters of District 2 deserve ethical and honest leadership in Washington.
Please pass this around. If ten people tell ten people to tell ten people, we all have a chance to have our district represented by a true patriot who will stand up to the Washington Establishment.
6 Lawrence Lessig, Interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, December 13, 2011.