This is a column about campaign finance reform.
And your eyes glazed over just then, didn’t they?
That’s the problem with this problem. Americans know that government truly of, by and for the people is unlikely if not impossible so long as the system is polluted by billions of dollars in contributions from corporations and individual billionaires. Half of us, according to Gallup, would like to see public financing of campaigns; nearly 80 percent want to limit campaign fundraising.
And yet somehow, the issue seems to lack a visceral urgency in the public mind. William Ostrander understands that all too well.
“There are people that will go nuts over the Second Amendment,” he says in a telephone interview. And not to diminish the importance of self-defense, he adds, but “when you look at the practical character of it, what’s going on in campaign finance corruption is far more injurious to their lives, their well-being and their children’s lives than anything most people have had to deal with with the Second Amendment.”
Ostrander is a farmer in tiny San Luis Obispo, CA, and the director of something called Citizens Congress 2014. Its members include a schoolteacher, a small-business man, a firefighter, a general contractor and a doctor — your basic average Americans — who have collectively invested thousands of volunteer hours to set up a summit (June 2-5) of lawyers, lawmakers, academics, advocacy groups and other experts.
Their aim: to brainstorm strategies and craft a plan of action to eliminate the influence of big money in politics.
Quixotic? Perhaps. But Ostrander says he has commitments from a number of high-profile individuals, including: former labor secretary Robert Reich, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig; and Trevor Potter, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, who is probably best known for his appearances on The Colbert Report, where he helped Stephen Colbert set up a SuperPAC.