To the editor:
Over $270 million were spent in the 2016 Illinois election, more than three times the amount of money spent in 2004. And that’s just the money spent in state and local elections. The writing's on the wall: running for public office increasingly depends on a candidate’s ability to court wealthy donors. The effects are disastrous.
I’ve served as an Illinois state representative for the last three years and have watched our state government become increasingly polarized.
The group think or tribalism we’ve seen in both parties is a suffocating force, and it’s driven by money’s outsized political influence. It’s time to turn the ship around. Illinois suffered the longest running budget impasse in U.S. history because of the inability to get past the team mentality. The belief that a win by one side was a lose to the other. It’s simply not true, but leadership could not be convinced to accept compromise in part, because of the fear of retribution that would come from the monied class. And they were correct! Such retribution is happening now. Millions will be spent to take out independent voices of reason by loud mouthed bombasts.
Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010), have made it unconstitutional to regulate campaign contributions in any way. Money is speech, and the few checks and balances which do still exist can be easily circumvented through gaping loopholes.
The good news is that there is a movement of Republicans, Democrats and independents who are finding common ground. People like Dan Coy, Sharon Gander, Don Double and Sue Sitton, constituents of mine, are advocating for a constitutional amendment to ensure people – not money, not corporations or others – govern. Nineteen states have called for this amendment and I’m proud that Illinois is on this list, but a non-binding resolution in support of this amendment is not enough.
Any proposed amendment must be passed with two-thirds vote in both congressional houses before ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures, 38 states or through a constitutional convention.
Getting money out of politics is one of the few issues today which citizens of all political stripes overwhelmingly support. 71 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats, and 81 percent of Independents believe reducing the influence of money in politics is important. Free speech is not free, and it’s no surprise that 75 percent of Americans feel they lack political influence.
It’s the duty of Americans to demand their elected officials take a stance on this foundational issue. That’s exactly what people like Dan, Sharon, Don and Sue asked me to do, and as an elected official responsive to people, not profits, I listened. That’s my job.
State Rep. Steve Andersson
Editor's note: Andersson serves as an attorney for the village of Montgomery