Members of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus — the largest bipartisan coalition of its kind ever assembled to advocate for political reform — today joined national security experts, including former National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones, at a press conference to discuss how a stronger democracy will improve our national security. The event was held in Washington, D.C., at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
During the briefing, Issue One unveiled a profound bipartisan statement signed by more than 160 members of the ReFormers Caucus connecting Washington’s dysfunction, the power of “dark money” and the state of our national security.
“We strongly believe that our country’s national security is being weakened by the dysfunction of our democracy,” stated the ReFormers Caucus open letter.
“The dominance of money in both politics and policymaking has created a crisis … We urge lawmakers of both parties to urgently redevelop the spirit of bipartisanship and change the relationship between money and politics,” continued the letter, whose signatories include former CIA Director Porter Goss (R-FL), former Defense Sec. Leon Panetta (D-CA), former Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), former Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), former Amb. John Danforth (R-MO), former Gov. Tom Kean (R-NJ), former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), former Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD), former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
Goss, who headed the CIA under President George W. Bush, led off the event stressing the critical need to “rebuild confidence in government.”
He specifically cited the bipartisan call to reform the Federal Election Commission, which has failed to enforce existing campaign finance laws.
“My view is that the FEC has been unable to do its job,” Goss said. “Laws are not being enforced.”
Goss added that a flood of money into elections has brought more mischief, more distrust and more disunity to our nation, weakening us at home while undermining our standing abroad.
This sentiment was echoed at the event by ReFormers Caucus co-chairs Roemer, Wamp and Morella.
“Polls show that the American people don’t trust Congress. That causes other countries, including our allies, to believe in our leadership less,” said Roemer.
“Our national security is threatened when our democracy is not functioning,” Roemer continued. “National security is not a partisan issue. You have to work across the aisle.”
Added Morella: “If you can’t take care of your own country, how can you hope to lead internationally?”
Wamp said this dysfunction arises from the addiction that members of Congress — and the leadership of both parties — have to campaigning and fundraising.
“It’s a sickness,” Wamp said.
“The most important thing you can do for your country is protect the Constitution and the people,” Wamp continued. “It’s not about keeping your party’s majority or winning elections. This is a crisis. The American people desire serious change.”
Other speakers at the event included Hamilton, who previously chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Intelligence Committee; Lugar, who previously chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Jones, the former Marine Corps general who served as National Security Adviser under President Barack Obama.
“We need a vibrant Congress that inspires our public and inspires the world,” said Jones. “We cannot afford a third of our government to be dysfunctional.”
Added Hamilton: “We’re not addressing the things we should be addressing.”
Lugar concluded: “Because of events like today, I’m optimistic about the future of our country.”