06/27/2006 10:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Restoring the American Revolution Day

Today, thousands of people across the country will be celebrating the first ever Clean Money Day by attending screenings of The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress, participating in discussions about Clean Money and joining conference calls with Jim Hightower, David Sirota, Robert Greenwald and others. It’s now time to focus on how to fix the system-it’s time to talk about Clean Money, rather than corruption. As we have learned, corruption as a political issue does not sell. Why? The public expects it.

Whether we find cold, hard cash in a Congressman’s freezer or Congressmen teeing off on the finest fairways in Scotland, whisked away on private jets courtesy of convicts such as Jack Abramoff, it’s just more of the same. Politics is rotten. The system is broken. Fewer of us vote in each election. Why bother when the big money buys influence and the influence buys tax breaks for those who least need it, while the average American works harder to keep less? The lesson of Tom DeLay that we mark today is not just that he is a corrupt, megalomaniacal scoundrel, which he is. It is that he mastered a system that rewards those who understand how to use corporate money to gain political power.

A few months ago, before Francine Busby lost a $15 million campaign (spent by both sides) against a former lobbyist in a District where the incumbent is now behind bars for accepting bribes, the Democratic Party watchwords were“ end the culture of corruption, But the message of ending the culture of corruption did not work and Busby will not represent California’s 50th this term. Even so, Democrats salivate at the idea of “taking back” one or both of the houses of Congress. Our Congressional leaders jockey for position in the new majority, virtually polishing their furniture for the offices now held by the Republicans.

Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine that we do win back power in Washington. That would be a sort of revolution, a complete change in the way government functions, a political rapture vanquishing evil and restoring the city on the hill for which we all strive. Right?

Think again. Even if we do come back into power, the system will not change fundamentally until we remove corporate money in particular and large contributions in general from the electoral process, replacing it all with publicly financed elections. Advocates call it “Clean Money,” because the money in elections is from a transparent system, not from the dark recesses of lobbyists’ desk drawers.

If we don’t win, we can’t change the laws and make our country a better place. Our elected leaders have to go right to step twelve of the quitters program on addiction to money in politics. They have to decide that for the sake of democracy – and the stakes are that high – they will kick the corporate money habit and pass legislation initiating public financing of Federal elections. The successes of publicly financed campaigns in Maine and Arizona can serve as a guide. After all, it’s a big marketing job. Most people don’t like the idea of using taxpayer dollars to allow politicians to run campaigns. Yet that is precisely what we all need to in order to return democracy to our own hands.

We have to demand that our leaders vote for our interests, not theirs. In house parties across the country today, we will do just that. Clean Money Day begins this year, but we’ll have it every year until the people win.