Rejected Sac Bee Opinion Essay 1
Submitted June 15, 2019
For democracy to work, Sacramento voters need
real choice and voice
By Jeff Burdick
According to The Wall Street Journal, the advertising industry predicts nearly $10 billion will be raised and spent on political advertising during the 2020 elections.(1) Given that 40% of Americans lack the savings to handle a $400 emergency(2), this will only further in-debt our political system to the super-rich donors, corporations and special interests who control so much of it already.
Locally the news isn’t much better. For example, U.S. Rep. Ami Bera represents California’s 7th Congressional District (CA-7) that covers eastern Sacramento County. But according to OpenSecrets.org, 80% of his nearly $20 million in career donations comes from outside his district.(3) He’s even raised more money from Chicago ($292,633) than neighboring Yolo County ($279,464).(4)
All of this outsized, outside money severely diminishes the voice and influence of average voters. It also fuels the gridlock in Congress that strangles everything except the tax cuts, regulatory exemptions and pet legislation pushed by a moneyed minority.
Another result is it has so inflated the cost to run that voters often must choose between two well-funded but flawed candidates. See 2016 when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave us the two least popular major-party presidential candidates in U.S. history. Similarly that year, CA-7 voters got their choice of controversy-plagued Sheriff Scott Jones and Bera, whose father was just convicted of campaign finance fraud.
For these reasons and more, I have declared my candidacy for Congress against Ami Bera in the March 3 primary. My goal is to restore a real choice and voice for voters.
I can achieve the first of these – real choice – simply by appearing on the ballot. Surprisingly, Bera has never been primaried by another Democrat in his five previous Congressional elections. This underscores what a weapon Bera wields with his huge, outside-funded war chest – which for the 2018 midterm election totaled nearly $3 million.(5)
And to give voters their voice in government back, I am running on a non-partisan Election Reform Constitutional Amendment. Its central provision would ban federal candidates from accepting donations from any source not eligible to vote for them. This means no PACs, no corporate donations and no wealthy outside donors to dilute the voters’ representation.
The rightness of this principle is so plain I’ve already applied it to my Congressional campaign. Yes, this limits me financially against Bera’s millions. But when I tell voters, “I want to represent only the CA-7, funded solely by the CA-7,” they’ll know I mean it. And when they see Bera’s many expensive ads and mailers, they’ll know where all the money came from to pay for it.
I know it won’t be easy to pass an Election Reform Amendment through Congress for ratification by the states. But it’s also not impossible. I personally believe it can be as possible as millions of women marching the day after Trump’s inauguration. Or as possible as an armada of wheelchairs filling Congressional offices to block repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Or as possible as defeating an incumbent Congressman.
Ultimately, my campaign will provide the best evidence of what is possible and impossible. Either the Goliath-sized fundraising machine of Bera’s outside-sponsored campaign prevails again. Or the voters of the CA-7 prove that a smart, principled, people-powered campaign can finally Free Our Vote.
And when we win this contest, then the true starting bell will sound on the nationwide race to restore representative democracy via Constitutional Amendment.
So Sacramento, got your running shoes on? I do.
Arden-Arcade resident Jeff Burdick is a Progressive Democrat running for the U.S. House. See BurdickForCongress.com. Contact jeff@BurdickForCongress.com.