fresh voices from the front lines of change







“In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.” Ah yes, the immortal words of philosopher Antonio Montana in his seminal work, “Scarface.”

Unfortunately, he has a point. Those who have the money in America do have the power. This is a real problem for those of us making more money from our own labor than from capital gains. A recent Demos report found that not only do the wealthy have different priorities than the rest of America, but also that their policy preferences carry vastly more weight than the preferences of the middle class, while the bottom third of Americans have essentially no influence over the preferences of their representative.

But is it not just individuals who have this power; by and large it is the corporations and their interests that drive the debates and outcomes on Capitol Hill.

Last year, the top 10 lobbying industries spent $1.3 billion in their efforts to pass favorable legislation and block the unfavorable. These groups subvert democracy by purchasing our legislators, and they are making major gains in killing efforts to make our country more open and fair. In Transparency International’s recent report ranking nations based on perceived corruption, the United States, the beacon of freedom for the world, placed 19th, behind nations like Singapore and Barbados, and just ahead of Chile, Uruguay, and the Bahamas.

Is it fair that you must make a large donation just to get a seat at the table, and that the largest donations get the most speaking time? No. Is there something we can do about it to voice our displeasure? Yes!

On April 13, the C-notes will be flowing from K Street to the Capitol. Cynics among you will say, “Thousands of dollars go from K Street to our members of Congress every day. What makes April 13th so special?” Well, for one thing, you’ll actually be able to see it, and for another, one of those Benjamins could be you.

United Republic has set up a 5k on April 13 to highlight the corruption of our elected officials and anyone who wants to keep money out of the Capitol is welcome to join. Runners will be wearing $100 bill costumes provided by United Republic.

Josh Silver, the CEO of United Republic, said that this race is “to bring attention to the fact that money runs Washington, and we are literally going to see money run Washington.”

United Republic is a group that shines a light on the corrupting influence of money in politics, and envisions a nation “where political decisions are made on principle, without the distorting effect of lobbyists.” One of its efforts currently is seeking passage of the American Anti-Corruption Act. According to its website, “The Act would transform how elections are financed, how lobbyists influence politics, and how political money is disclosed. It’s a sweeping proposal that would reshape the rules of American politics, and restore ordinary Americans as the most important stakeholders instead of major donors.”

This act was drawn up by former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter and has the support of Jack Abramoff, the infamous lobbyist who knows as much about the ins and outs of bribery on Capitol Hill as anyone, and the disproportionate power money has in politics.

To participate in the K Street 5k, all you need to do is sign up here. The race begins at 2 p.m. on April 13, starting at Lafayette Park and ending on the Capitol steps. Once there, a medal will be offered to the Capitol Police for preventing money from entering the Capitol.

Participants are able to sign up as a team or individually, and receive some swag from sponsors such as soap from Dr. Bronner’s, because this is dirty (and if the weather permits, sweaty) money, energy bars from Raw Revolution, to provide the money with the energy to go to Congress, and ice cream to celebrate the end from Ben and Jerry’s.

Following the end of the race, there will be a rally to try to win the fight against the corporate interests on K Street. “There are going to be hundreds of grassroots activists from all different ideologies, liberal, independent and conservative, unifying on an issue they agree on, that democracy should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder,” said Silver.

So, amidst the cherry blossom events that will be going on that weekend, if you would like to make a statement about money in politics, receive some swag, dress up as a $100 bill and get some exercise to boot, sign up for the K Street 5k.

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