October 6, 2012

How About A Little Action? ~ Dale Steele

Political action that is.

It appears that the few extremely wealthy of us (one percent or fewer) wield significantly more authority in governmental and institutional affairs than the rest of us (99 percent or more). Our democracy has arguably become a plutocracy. For the power to shift back into our hands, it is up to us, we the people, to take action.  Perhaps you are like me, and would consider contributing a little action if you knew what to do that could have some real traction.

Enter Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and activist who seems to have an acute awareness of the actual influences of money in government. He offers a tactic, which strikes at the root of the matter. He opens an @Google talk1 with a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root.” Lessig founded, rootstrikers.org, to hack at the root of the corrupting influence of money in politics. Here are some of the points which catalyzed me into action, followed by an invitation to become a rootstriker.

Fundraising time

An estimated 30 to 70 percent of our Congress members’ time goes into fundraising, according to Lessig. This includes Congress members approaching lobbyists’ for dollars.2 We vote our representatives in to work for us and once they are in the status quo is for them to dedicate about a third to two thirds of their time to soliciting funds to bolster their campaign treasuries.

Revolving door

Many of our representatives and their staff use their government positions as a steppingstone to a highly lucrative lobbying career. “43 percent of Congress members that retired to pursue careers in the private sector went into lobbying.”3 Often, while in office, Congress members are propositioned to become lobbyists after their political term.  With the promise of a significant raise in their future job, the Congress member proceeds to advocate legislation in allegiance to their future employer’s agendas.  “When a congressman becomes a lobbyist, he gets a 1,452 percent raise (on average.)”4

Extender mania

Representatives place expiration dates on legislation just so they can amass funds from lobbyists by promising them they will vote to extend the legislation, when the expiration date nears. Some of these policies were initially passed with an expiration date to give it a trial run. A trial run makes sense. It’s a way to see if the policy actually accomplishes what was originally intended. But even after the policy has proved itself worthy of permanency, legislators insist on including an expiration date. This allows them to collect money from lobbying interests each time the policy comes up for extension. 5

These three congressional tendencies, using significant time fundraising, the revolving door and extender mania are what moved me to the point of action.

I Became a Rootstriker

Lessig’s website, rootstrikers.org, offers an opportunity for action which hacks at the root of the corrupting influence of money in government. He offers two pledges. One for you to sign agreeing you’ll support the cause. The second is for representatives and candidates to sign. The latter states that for  “. . . ten (10) years after I leave Congress, one hundred percent of any compensation . . . that I receive for ‘lobbying services’ shall be donated to a non-political charity.” 6

Here’s a two-minute video with Lessig. It serves as an articulate, concise gateway into the cause. Check it out. It’s hot, in a law professor, rootstriker activist sort of way: http://vimeo.com/rootstrikers/anti-corruption-pledge

I watched the video, signed the pledge, and followed the steps to bring the pledge to my representative’s attention.

How about you?

Are you up for a little action?

Dale Steele throws arbitrary labels at unknown and infuses said labels with meaning, extracting self-hood in the process. He’s a habitual arbiter of yuck and yum, occasionally noticing now is already past. Woohoo, its over! And now . . . ?



Editor: Elysha Anderson

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