John Larson: 'Put Elections Back in the Hands of Ordinary Americans'

First District congressman hosts forum on money and politics.


U.S. Rep. John Larson, who is running to retain his seat in Connecticut's First District, hosted a public forum Tuesday night at the West Hartford Town Hall on “Money in Politics,” telling a crowd of about 60 people that there is an urgent need for campaign finance reform in this country.

“The most corrosive element in our political system is that it is inundated with money,” said Larson, who has emerged as a leader in the House of Representatives on this issue.

The co-author of the small donor-based Fair Elections Now Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate, Larson is a supporter of public financing of political campaigns. This initiative would enable a broad range of citizens, such as minorities and women, to run for elected office, Larson said. It would also help restore faith and confidence in government, according to a fact sheet released by the Fair Elections Now Coalition.

Larson, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, spoke of his dismay with the current political climate in Washington, D.C., calling it “one of the most frustrating times I’ve experienced in public life.”

He decried the lack of bipartisan cooperation in Congress and said, “the controlling party [in Congress] would rather see the president fail than the nation succeed,” citing the budget crisis of last summer and the fight about President Obama’s health care law.

Appearing with Larson was Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to “taking big special interest money out of politics.” In a well-received speech, Nyhart strongly criticized the “outsized role played by special interest billionaire donors and super PACS” in this year’s presidential election.

Nyhart cited statistics and published studies that indicate only 47 individuals in the U.S. are donating as much as 90 percent of the total dollars received and allocated by super PACs. This means the donors may be able to control the outcome of the presidential election, Nyhart said.

But it’s not just a problem with super PACs. It’s also a “candidate money and political party money problem,” Nyhart said, noting that small donor funds are just a “tiny percentage of the overall money donated” to political

He asked: “What would it take to go from ‘money to many’? What would it take to give Americans their elections back?”

The American public should demand full disclosure of political money, said Nyhart. We also need “sensible limits on independent expenditures,” he said, adding that the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling, commonly called Citizens United (in which the court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions) “is an invitation to corruption.”

Nyhart offered three solutions: First, develop a broad coalition of the 99 percent of people not writing the checks”; second, elect politicians willing to change politics by stepping outside the status quo and calling for electoral reform; and finally, make this part of a broad political movement — a call to political action by citizens.

“Ask your representatives, which side are they on?” said Nyhart. “Are they for reform or the status quo — where big money talks?”

Larson concluded: “Put elections back in the hands of ordinary Americans.”

According to Opensecrets.org, which bases its data on the Federal Election Commission, Congressman Larson has raised $1.4 million thus far for his 2012 campaign, in which he is being challenged by Republican John Henry Decker. Fifty-eight percent of this fundraising has been obtained from PACs — including the insurance industry — and 41 percent from individual contributions.



Kevin Blake August 08, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I just wonder why politicians, (democrats and republicans alike) run for reelection like they haven't been there for 2,4, 20 years? The proposals they raise while running, why haven't they done that while in office? Why no one ever calls them out on it? Would it be refreshing to hear "Congressman so-and-so, you been in office for the last 16 years, why have you not accomplished this yet?" Then sit back and listen to the response.
Paul Bahre August 08, 2012 at 11:41 AM
It's easy for him to talk about reform. He has no credible threats to his seat in congress. Just another fat lazy democrat from CT in congress. What gets me is how, I in Granby, is in his district, oh yeah another contribution from CT Democrats, totally gerrymandered districts, to where anyone with common sense would say these districts do not make sense. Gerrymandering is one more way the democrats in CT stay in power. Other ways they do this are probably illegal, like stealing the gubernatorial election in Bridgeport.
Dick Russell August 08, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Big Coperatioons own Congress.That needs to be changed.
rrtdie August 08, 2012 at 01:28 PM
John Larson, why don't you start working for the american people. Instead of lining your own pockets. By voting for obamacare did nothing for the real american people. Oh by the way do have the same Health insurance you are slaming down our throats??? You don't do you!!!!!
Fred August 08, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Well clearly this is a man who is part of the problem with America, Please vote him out.
Rich August 08, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Our elected officials, at the federal, state and local levels continue to remain politicians as opposed to elected representatives. This country was founded as a democracy, government of, by and for the people. We have not been a democracy in well over 200 years. We tried becoming a republic by electing officials who were supposed to represent the people at federal, state and local levels. As we have seen over the years, our government has transitioned from a democracy to a republic and to, what I feel, is now an oligarchy (def: a government which the supreme power rests with a few). In the case of the U.S. the ‘few” is defined as democrats vs. republicans. I am appalled at what our government has become. I am embarrassed when I hear statements like “the republicans control the house” or “the democrats control the senate.” You cannot read about a political leader without referring to his/her party affiliation. This is one citizen who is sick and tired of this two party system and what is has become. It is time for the U.S. citizens to take back our government. Enough of this bitter feud between D’s & R’s, two letters of the alphabet I am beginning to hate more and more. I can only hope my grandchildren someday will have an opportunity to vote for an individual who truly will represent them and has NO party allegiance. Respectfully, Rich A lifelong independent
Maria Giannuzzi August 08, 2012 at 04:52 PM
People need to understand the corrosive effect that money, especially big money, has on federal and state governance. We are all paying for this. Money equals influence. The only solution is public funding of all campaigns, with spending limits and a certain amount of free advertising in the media.
Dean August 08, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Corporations, banks, and unions are people to my friends. They are each important staples to our society. They are the glue that hold America together. Corporations create jobs. Yes, they use roads and public services like first responders, but their taxes should be excused because they create jobs not just in America, but all over the world. Maybe they would create more jobs if America stopped asking for livable salaries, and safe and civil working conditions like the Indians and Chinese. CEO's deserve a million dollar bonus for each "regulation" they get around. That's how your competitive. And can we stop being so tough on the banks. So what if they knowingly sold toxic mortgages to people they knew would never keep up with payments and then siezed and liquidated all of their assets and then recklessly gambled peoples 401Ks and pensions only to be devasted while money managers collecting bonuses. Can Americans appreciate the fact that at one time they were worth something. And lets leave unions alone. If it wasn't for their bloated salaries, the middle class would be below the poverty line. Yes, they lobby for good working conditions, fair pay, and benefits which ends up hurting everyone because executives and investors pass the cost to the consumer, but we can be comfortable knowing they are not strong enough to affect tax loopholes. Can we please recognize these groups as people and recognize the good they do for America?
Bill August 08, 2012 at 11:12 PM
The unions have been treated for decades the way the law now treats corporations, as people, just leveling the playing field my friend. The unions have pumped billions (that's billions with a B) into elections for decades. If you want to prevent corporations from advertising and contributing to campaigns fine, just do the same for unions.
Dean August 08, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Bill, I agree, a collective group of people is a person. It's a "Superperson". Think of all the TV jobs that have been created with the hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. Actually now, when I watch the news, I like sneaking up behind and scaring my young children when they listen to political ads that have music from horror movies. I will say the ads have made TV fun to watch. Try watching half of a Yankee - Red Sox game on NESN and the other half on YES and then watch democrats and republicans on MSNBC and Fox News the same way. The similarties are amazing.
Bill August 08, 2012 at 11:54 PM
So yo like scaring young children............
Dean August 09, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Yes Bill, I have put a debt clock in each of their rooms and read them the Affordable Care Act every night before bed.
Maria Giannuzzi August 09, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Excellent points, Dean. With more than a touch of irony. And a whole lotta truth.
The Barefoot Accountant August 09, 2012 at 09:09 PM
The politicians will never take money out of politics: they need it to finance their campaigns. We cannot fix our corrupt system because virtually all the politicians are bought and paid for; and they know that 91% of those elected to public office are those who raised the most money. Recall what happened to Ross Feingold when he refused PAC money: he was defeated! 47 people give 57% of PAC money. 50 people essentially run our government. We don't have a democracy: we have a plutocracy - a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. Time to follow the example of Jill Stein, Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi - time for civil disobedience.
Maria Giannuzzi August 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I don't hold out much hope that politicians will establish public funding of political campaigns. The current system is just too entrenched. Civil disobedience on a massive scale could probably only occur if the U.S. was hit by a severe economic or environmental shock. But I suppose such a movement could start small and gain momentum.
The Barefoot Accountant August 10, 2012 at 04:21 PM
"Civil disobedience on a massive scale could probably only occur if the U.S. was hit by a severe economic or environmental shock." Yes, Maria, I agree. But there won't be a severe economic shock: just a continued slide into a less noticeable but deeper unemployment (e.g., people fall off the unemployment statistics after so many months), increased foreclosures, higher property taxes, lower benefits, higher utility and medical and insurance and grocery bills, etc. There is a collusion of government and Wall Street and it is very well orchestrated: all the President's top economic advisors are Wall Streeters. Have you noticed that the police have been preparing for a possible public outcry? Did you see the passage of the NDAA, doing away with habeous corpus? Are you aware of PIPA and SOPA, attempts to control the internet? The six major news media are controlled by Corporate America. Have you heard and seen the propaganda broadcasted daily on the media and repeated over and over again ad nauseum so that listeners accept it as gospel? Most Americans have been brainwashed by all of the propaganda to such a degree that they have been reduced to bots. Yes, we have a country full of bots, who repeat in robot fashion that if we give and give to the rich, it will all trickle down to us in jobs. Bots who curse anyone who thinks by calling them that dirty word, "liberal", defined by dictionary.com as "favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs."
Bill August 10, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Barefoot, I thought you disliked anonymous commenting? (that's rhetorical) the media is not in the pocket of corporate America but the pocket of the DNC, so much so that when one tv outlet comes along that isn't (1 out of how many?) they attempt to surround it and vilify it, ever notice how the DNC and the media have the same opinion of Fox? Btw by the libs own admission liberalism is a dirty word, that's why theyre "progressives" now. When ever the libs or their agenda fall out of favor, as they always do with the majority of Americans They change the terminology to make it less offensive, my favorite example is how abortion becomes abortion rights, which became women's right to choose, which became women's reproductive rights. But all this coming from a man like you who thinks Obama, the most blatantly socialistic president in US history, is not liberal enough, should surprise no one.
William Brighenti, CPA August 10, 2012 at 05:03 PM
The media is, in fact, owned by the largest of corporations in America. By definition, that should tell anyone who controls the media. Obama and Romney are both owned by Corporate America. And so are the Democratic and Republican parties. I am for a true democracy--a government of and by and for all of the people, and not just for the 1% and large Corporations. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, opposed the robber barons and under his Presidency, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was spawned. And so did Andrew Jackson oppose this control of government by the elite. I am neither Democrat or Republican. I am for a government of and by and for all of the people. I believe that is a democracy, and not a plutocracy. With the two candidates raising millions of dollars at fundraisers, Romney getting 57% of PAC monies from just 47 individuals, and Obama raising $2 million in Westport over the weekend, I think it is apparent to all that these two candidates are beholden to their contributors and not to small business people like me or the average person in the street.
Harry Sawyer August 11, 2012 at 09:16 AM
Yaa... Sure. Whatever. Should of voted Ron Paul..
Maria Giannuzzi August 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Barefoot, I agree that a severe economic shock is unlikely. Another economic collapse is again possible, but we have various government agencies and measures in place to mitigate any major damage to upper and middle-income Americans and large businesses, including the big banks. For good reason. Americans would never tolerate a second Great Depression. Your scenario about a continued downward spiral seems likely. But there may come a tipping point when Americans understand that the trickle down propaganda is a false choice. Even the robots might wake up when their relatives, friends, and neighbors are out of work and losing their homes and health insurance. I am concerned about efforts to control free speech and dissent. I was very disturbed by the action of the Seattle police last fall against Occupy Seattle. There was a coordinated effort to physically harm peaceful protesters through the use of chemical weapons, rather than arrest them. Police arrest people engaged in illegal behavior. Paramilitary physically harm protesters. So what to do? A shift in values by a majority of the American people--the values of justice, fairness, compassion, peaceful co-existence, and environmental sustainability. This shfit has been underway for a couple of decades, despite major resistance from some corporations and their supporters in government, the media, and ideological think tanks.
Maria Giannuzzi August 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
The shift in values is continuing. Progressives should be actively engaged in helping this shift by living those values.


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