WE THE PEOPLE: It is time to choose substance over style

Can a regular citizen break the influence of big money on politics in America? The answer is a simple “No.” However, we cannot countenance a stranglehold on American politics by a powerful few.

The servants of the information/entertainment, financial, defense, manufacturing and power industries are lobbyists and lawyers. They advocate for their masters in the Capital and State Legislature and this must be countered by the power of the people.

How can a small group wield influence over the power of the public? I was asked by an old friend, Rosalee Manitta, a local Democrat, “Why do so many working people identify with Republican policies when the policies actually hurt them in the long run?”

The answer is complex. People want philosophical integrity and consistency when it comes to issues and can be drawn to a position by well-worded argument even though it may not in fact be good for them.

The political professional will do whatever it takes for a person to identify with a hot button issue or emotion. If you have a great idea tied to a great slogan, it will help an advocate produce support for it. The problem is a bad idea tied to a great slogan can also help a lobbyist generate support for it.

When Republicans and Democrats put aside their feelings and conceptions, they agree that our government spends too much, which creates a high tax burden that someone must pay.

Representative Grimm recently announced that he was successful in gaining millions in aid for Staten Island hospitals. If he is against big government and increased spending, then perhaps he should have denounced the grant.

In fact, this funding was provided through President Obama’s Affordable Care Act which his party demonized and he voted against! A first step to assuring real information can get to the people would be state campaign financing reform. The votes of a millionaire’s dollars should never drown out the vote of an individual citizen.

We must remove some of the influence money has assumed in the political process since it does no good for the regular citizen. We need representatives who do good rather than sound good. Governor Cuomo promised action on public campaign financing when elected and it is time for action. Senator Golden has been asked to support public campaign financing reform, too.

The 2010 Citizens Union decision by the Supreme Court overturned federal campaign finance reform law and allowed the super-wealthy to funnel money into PACs which can spend without restriction to sway public opinion.

Mitt Romney is expected to raise more than $600 million through interest groups and PACs. The Koch family is ready to spend a half billion to assure candidates beholden to their social agenda are elected into office.

The principals do not have to defend their agendas while their lawyers and lobbyists sign the checks and create the campaigns to rally opinion. When candidates denounce government spending, they don’t include details that reflect the effect of the cuts.

American Crossroads, a Karl Rove production, will trumpet the need for cuts to entitlements but won’t share how an extended family is forced out of a $1,500-a-month apartment and into homelessness when Section 8 support is slashed.

We need real change and only real leaders will provide such change. Now is the time to look at our choices and choose the people who have the greatest possibility of bringing positive and needed change to Albany and Washington.

Brian Kieran is an attorney who works as a Principal Law Clerk in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Kings County and is a Democrat.

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