America is the richest country in the world. We have the resources to improve our education system, reduce pollution, feed the hungry, and more. Instead we spend $1.4 trillion for fighter planes like the F-35 that "can't turn, can't climb, can't run."
Washington's long streak of bad decision-making often comes down to big money's influence in our political system. Our representatives are fettered to well-heeled special interest groups who help fund their campaigns in America's pricey elections. As a result, they spend more time representing the one percent and less time representing 'We the People.' To address Washington's corrupt dependency on big money head-on, public pressure for change needs to grow into an avalanche -- or a stampede.
That's why I started the non-profit StampStampede.org to provide a way for people to demand an end to pay-to-play politics. All over the country, people are legally rubber-stamping their money with messages like "Stamp Money Out of Politics" and "Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians" to catapult this issue into the public discourse.
We're creating a 'petition on steroids.' About 900 people see every dollar bill while in circulation. With over 30,000 stampers turning their dollars into mini-billboards on behalf of this issue, the campaign is creating a mass visual demand for common sense reforms to get big money out of politics. And the Stampede is only one part of a larger effort to get big money out of politics, which involves over 140 organizations.
Currently more than 50 groups have called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order demanding more transparency from government contractors in terms of their political contributions. In one quick glance at the United States' federal contracting process, you will find years of quid pro quo corruption with contractors flooding money into political campaigns and gaining big paybacks.
Recently, the Sunlight Foundation reported that corporations in business with the federal government spent a generous $5.8 billion on campaign contributions and lobbying from 2007 to 2012. In return, the government handed out a total of $4.4 trillion in contracts and business to these corporations. For instance, Lockheed Martin, the nation's top defense contractor, was most likely very pleased to accept millions of dollars to build more useless F-35s after spending over $28 million last year on political donations and lobbying.
A study from the nonpartisan watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, reports that from 1997 to 2004, the nation's top 20 federal contractors got back $100 in contract money for every eight cents spent on lobbying and campaign contributions -- that's a 1,250 percent return on investment. Companies are spending billions of dollars on political expenditures to secure these lucrative government contracts, and their shrewd investments are working beautifully.
Adding to this current pay-to-play landscape, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 has allowed these corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections.
Unfortunately, the one safeguard in Citizens United, the "prompt disclosure of expenditures," that was meant to empower citizens so they could have the "information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters" has been largely neglected. Only a fourth of the largest government contractors disclose their contributions to outside electioneering groups.
President Obama, in his State of the Union this year, said, "A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money." Over two hundred thousand Americans have already signed on to a petition requesting the president put some action behind his words, starting with an executive order that sheds light on contractors' secretive political spending.
As contracts are paid for by taxpayer dollars, Americans have the right to know they are being awarded to the most deserving businesses and not the most bootlicking, dishonest one. Federal contractors will most-assuredly spend millions of dollars influencing next year's election, and we need to urge the Obama administration to ensure "We the People" know which political candidates have problematic ties with companies that bank on federal contracts.
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