Today, The Hill named Issue One Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy Meredith McGehee a top grassroots lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the tenth year. In her statement below, Meredith explains why she joined Issue One to lead its fight for robust ethics and political reform regulations.
Folk wisdom in Washington is that, after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, trying to address the role of money in politics — in turn, the way Washington works — is a fool’s errand. “Congress won’t address the issue,” advocates and experts are told, “so why bother?”
But this mantra did not stop the decades-long fight for civil rights and should not stop us today.
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, the American people have demonstrated that they are fed up with business as usual from our elected officials. It’s time politicians were either part of the solution, or part of the problem. That’s why I’ve joined Issue One — we’re working to bring the largest body of former elected leaders ever united behind the cause to address the overriding power of money in our politics and government.
We are uniquely positioned to make the case for new policy in Washington that allows lawmakers to be elected and serve based on ability, experience and character rather than fundraising prowess; where Americans know exactly who is trying to purchase influence and access to their government; where transactional giving and pay-to-play politics are practices only read about in history books, not breaking news stories.
While the court’s 2010 decision overturned more than a century’s worth of jurisprudence, the truth is that Congress and the new President should take the first steps to make our politics and government more functional. Laws should strengthen lobbying disclosure. They should address coordination by super PACs — an area where bipartisan agreement is possible, as members from both sides see unprecedented amounts of unaccountable money being dumped into races — sometimes at the last moment. The next president should put forth new nominees to replace the holdovers whose terms have long expired at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) but who are allowed to stay in office. Given the public’s abysmally low levels of trust in government, our elected leaders must treat these as urgent priorities next year, not simply talking points and messaging bills as cudgels to bludgeon the other party in attack ads and the press.
A new important resource in our fight is the ReFormers Caucus, the growing coalition of more than 150 former members of Congress and governors from across the political spectrum. Though they disagree on many things, they are united by their dedication to reducing the power of money in politics.
Issue One is committed to building on the work I did with members from both parties that resulted in the introduction of bipartisan legislation to address the dysfunction at the FEC. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act, a bipartisan bill to rescue the chronically gridlocked agency and enable it to enforce the law, was introduced by Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jim Renacci (R-OH), John Carney (D-DE) and Lou Barletta (R-PA).
The final, critical part of making significant change in the way Washington works is the development of a new jurisprudence that fully embraces the value of the First Amendment. We continue to recruit and solicit advice from current and former members of Congress, Governors, Federal Election Commission chairs, ethics counsels for Republican and Democratic presidents, Supreme Court Justices, First Amendment experts, campaign-finance specialists, lobbyists, business leaders and political donors from both parties.
While focusing on “process” or “good government” issues requires patience, the reality is that the first good government group was our nation’s Founding Fathers. They spent months in a hot, humid room in Philadelphia focused not on setting policy positions but coming to consensus on the processes that had the best chance of producing wise and publicly supported policies. They understood that the processes embedded in the Constitution were the keys to creating a robust democracy that would weather the test of time.
Issue One believes the work of fixing democracy is a citizen’s highest calling. And we are committed to that work in ways that engage both sides of the aisle. This is not a left or right cause, but an American one. Issue One embraces the First Amendment and working for solutions that further these interests and promote the robust marketplace of ideas that is essential to the success of our experiment in self-government.
Democracy is not a static state. Rather, it is an on-going struggle in self-government that continually seeks a “more perfect union.” This is a fight that no American can ignore or abandon, and Issue One relishes being part of this undertaking.