THE BLOG
05/31/2016 12:19 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

Dear Donald Trump: Do something huge. Fix money in politics.

Dear Donald,

You have already made history. Now you want to make it to the White House.

Here's a suggestion: Lead on the issue of money in politics. The public gets it.
When asked late last year by the Pew Research Center "what is the biggest problem with elected officials in Washington," the number one response was they are "influenced by special interest money."

It's time to start showing people, with specific ideas, how the influence of special interests would be different under President Trump.

I've heard from a few friends of yours that you like short memos and bullet points, so I'll be brief.

Four ideas: 1) Create ways of funding politics that empower the little guys. 2) Reduce the influence of lobbyists. 3) Make it all transparent. 4) Put a cop back on the beat.

The point of these ideas is not to "get money out of politics," but to have politics funded by more people--middle class people--instead of by very few people. When we all fund politics, then we all have more power over politicians. And we all stay more engaged in the process of governing. That's what we call American democracy.

Here we go:

First: New ways of funding politics. You have said, "I have friends who are in Congress and they run every two years...All they do is fundraise. They don't really govern...Their whole life is raising money." You even said, "We can think about different forms of campaign finance laws."

The good news is that different models for funding elections already exist. The Government by the People Act sponsored by Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Walter Jones (R-NC), is based on the high-functioning system in your hometown of NYC. It would help get politicians off the old fundraising treadmills--20-30 hours a week of dialing for dollars and attending lunches and dinners hosted by lobbyist "bundlers"--and incentivize them to reach out to everyday Americans who can give $25 or $50, but not $2,700.

You could combine this with the bill proposed by Representatives David Jolly (R-FL) and Rick Nolan (D-MN), which would ban politicians from directly asking donors for money, either on the phone or in person. If they can't do the asking, it would help trigger them to make the transition to online small-donor fundraising.

Second: Reduce the power of lobbyists. You: "These are lobbyists, these are people that don't necessarily love our country. We have to stop it. We have to stop it."

Well, how about stopping lobbyists from using money to get what they want. Legislative decisions should be made based on merit, not money. In South Carolina lobbyists can't donate to politicians' campaigns. Straightforward. In Connecticut, lobbyists can't donate more than $100 to a campaign or a PAC. And they can't make any contributions during legislative sessions.

Third: Transparency. Complete and immediate. You've said: "I want transparency. I don't mind money coming in. Let it be transparent." Unfortunately, "dark money" is going through the roof. Since 2004, it's increased by 5000%. Most of it is being run through nonprofits. If such groups are involved in electing or defeating candidates for office, they should be required to disclose their donors, just like candidates' campaigns and PACs. That seems fair enough. And all groups that spend money to influence elections should have to disclose their donors immediately, not months after the elections have passed.

Fourth: Put a cop back on the beat. You: "Super PACs are a disaster...it's only going to get worse." They are a disaster in part because they're flouting the laws. So how about passing the bipartisan Restoring Integrity to America's Elections Act, aimed at overhauling the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission. This legislation would end the gridlock that has paralyzed the agency. It would also ensure our tax dollars--its budget is about $60 million a year--do not go to waste.

That's it. Four pretty simple ideas to address a big, big problem that's been getting much worse in recent years. All viable. All constitutional. All ready for the kind of attention that only you can bring to them.

As a businessman and former political donor, you understand better than most how average Americans are getting a raw deal because of this rigged system. Some voters have already flocked to you because of that. But you need to keep it up.

If you lead more aggressively on de-rigging the system, it could be huge.