GIANNOULIAS REFUSES MONEY FROM CORPORATE PACS & FEDERAL LOBBYISTS
As most of you know, I've formed an Exploratory Committee to consider running for the U.S. Senate seat once held by my friend and political mentor, President Barack Obama. Inspired by his example, I'm announcing today that if I ultimately decide to run, I will not accept any contributions from corporate PACs or Washington lobbyists.
I announce this decision as we witness today the disastrous aftermath of the golden age of corporate special interests and lobbyists. George W. Bush's policies, implemented at the insistence of a few and at the expense of many, have plundered our treasury, bankrupted our future, and poisoned our politics.
The election of Barack Obama signaled that this age of skewed policies is coming to an end. The change Americans voted for in the 2008 election was a call to take back our government from those few, narrow interests that dominated Washington for far too long.
Today, in that spirit, I am taking a step that no major Illinois candidate from either party has ever taken in a run for the U.S. Senate. It is a decision that advances us one step closer to that change that we all fought for and believed in last November. I will simply say "NO" to contributions from all federal lobbyists and corporate PACs.
These special interests do not represent the interests of most Americans, and they should not be allowed to buy a seat at the table when it comes to deciding critical issues or determining the direction of our nation, especially in the midst of our current financial crisis.
Others are free to criticize the stand I take today. They can dust off the rhetoric of cynicism or quibble with the details. They may attack this idea as a tepid half-step or a radical leap that will only strengthen a Republican nominee fattened with lobbyist cash and PAC dollars. To them, I say the citizens of Illinois have voted against Washington's conventional wisdom before, and I am willing to put my faith in their wisdom again.
Striving to earn the trust of thousands of Illinois residents who made my 2006 election possible, my first act as Illinois State Treasurer was to end pay-to-play politics and ethics abuses by issuing an executive order prohibiting political contributions to my campaign accounts from any banks, contractors and office employees. In addition, I banned gifts from lobbyists to anyone who worked in my office, and prohibited former employees from lobbying the office.
That act was the toughest ethics measure in state government to date. It signaled the start of a daunting task of curbing the influence of lobbyists and insiders in our state government. As we know in Illinois, that road has been a long and hard one indeed.
I make this decision because such a government should not be merely an ideal - it should be a reality. And while I am realistic about the fact that the efforts of one person won't stop lobbyists in their tracks or magically deliver government back to the people, I believe that if everyone considering a run for the U.S. Senate or any public office would take a similar pledge, the influence of federal lobbyists and corporate special interests would slowly but certainly recede. Simply put, the tide of change grows more powerful with every candidate who refuses to play politics by the old rules.
As such a potential candidate, I choose this path because I firmly believe that our government isn't an exclusive club open only to the well-connected, and that politics shouldn't be about special access to a privileged few. For far too long, we've grown accustomed to politics-as-usual and have forgotten that our political process is meant to empower all people to improve their communities, their states, and their nation for themselves and their families.
The historic 2008 election reminded us that when such ordinary citizens band together, their collective power can change communities and nations. Unlike the corporate entities that bankroll the status quo, I believe that citizens' committees of nurses, teachers, workers, police officers, firefighters, veterans, environmentalists, and others who band together to protect our constitutional rights are true agents of change. I will proudly accept their support if they deem my cause worthy.
My refusal to accept corporate PAC and lobbyist donations is not a slap at those who are now trapped in a flawed campaign finance system and have made their best efforts to make change happen from within. It is, however, the acknowledgment of a simple truth: Americans deserve better than the status quo. They deserve a government free of interference by Washington and corporate insiders. They deserve a candidate who will run a campaign worthy of their vote.
In the face of political scandal after political scandal, the citizens of the great State of Illinois have never lost their faith in the ideal of just and ethical government. Now, more than ever, it is up to all of us to bring integrity back to the process here in Illinois. Should I eventually choose to become a candidate for U.S. Senate, I will be not the candidate of corporations or lobbyists, but I will be their candidate, joining with them as we transform our government from the ground up.
Published on Alexi Giannoulias for Illinois (http://www.alexiforillinois.com/)