Jim, California

Dear America,

I am an 85 year old retiree living on Social Security. I feel very vulnerable to the actions of uncontrolled big donating political groups interested only in increasing their wealth at our expense. The Supreme Court seems uninterested here for they have removed the protection we once had.

Sincerely,

Jim, California

William, Washington

Dear America,

Greed is where our country’s path has gone as far as our government goes. our elected officials have put money ahead of peoples lives. Our officials are primarily millionaires if not billionaires. and the less fortunate people suffer, because their don’t want to cut into their pockets by doing the right things and helping the less fortunate. Most of us worked 40 to 50 years or more and paid into social security to get a retirement that would possibly help them make it through their retirement, struggling some. However our government put to use our money and then told us we don’t have money to fund social security and medicare. Instead of helping make it better, they keep cutting it every year, so now people who put money into this program gets less and less money (nowhere near keeping up with inflation costs). So most of our seniors are below poverty levels and now you want to cut that money even more. You politicians have taken our rights to a fair retirement to what give more money to the rich and big business in tax breaks. Shame on you as a whole. As you seem to believe in the out of sight, out of mind concepts, because it doesn’t affect you. I’m more fortunate then most, but it sickens me how our government doesn’t govern most of American people, but just the top 5% of our super rich people seem to enjoy the fruits of retirement.

Sincerely,

William, Washington

James, Texas

Dear America,

We no longer have a country by the people, for the people but a country who’s greed is way out of hand. When a corporation is considered a human entity and billionaire special interests can by any political system or individual they want, something has really gone wrong. I served my country for 25 years in the Army, now I’m a disabled veteran. That was my choice. We must start change by eliminating the antiquated electoral college and let the people elect our leaders, not special interests! In order to do this the dark money tap has got to be stopped. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, liberty, and above all truth, must be part of our foundation.

Sincerely,

James, Texas

Ellen, New Hampshire

Dear America,

I am an asthmatic, like millions of other Americans, and need a rescue inhaler. The propellant that used to be in these inhalers, CFC, was very effective in sending the medicine deep into the lungs. In the early 2000s, GlaxoSmithKline saw their opportunity, and lobbied Congress to make CFCs in inhalers illegal, because they had developed a proprietary alternative, and far inferior, propellant, HFA. Not only is this propellant insufficient to deliver medication deep into the lungs, and in fact causes clogging of the inhaler which was never before a problem, but generic rescue inhalers disappeared overnight, sending the price of an inhaler from around $5 to over $50, and in some cases hundreds of dollars. Millions of asthmatics lungs, and pockets, are suffering…all so Glaxo could make an extra buck. Our ‘democracy’ at work.

Sincerely,

Ellen, New Hampshire

Bob, Minnesota

Dear America,

I was very grateful when Minnesota passed the voucher legislation. I felt helpless that I could not financially support candidates that shared my values. Candidates that I did not support often were receiving financial support form individuals and corporations. It was not fair to sometimes have people win elections simply by outspending their opponent. The vouchers created a more level playing field that is vital to a true democracy.

I would like for this to go even further. I support every candidate being held to a specified amount that can be spent an election. The money that goes into political campaigns could feed every child/family in this country that goes with no or little food each day.

Sincerely,

Bob, Minnesota

James, Texas

Dear America,

We as a nation are in dire need of fundamental campaign finance reform measures. Numerous pressing issues (climate change, food labeling, gun safety, immigration reform, prison reform, education reform, short-term lending regulation, healthcare reform, banking regulation, opioid regulation) remain vexing problems primarily due to corporations’ ability to curry favor with elected officials. The corrupting influence of money in our political system is undermining our democratic traditions and discouraging Americans from voting and/or running for office. This ominous development may well end our experiment in representative democracy unless we alter this decades-long trend. For the sake of the republic, we must amend the US Constitution to state that corporations are not people (and do not have constitutional rights) and money is not speech (and thus can be regulated by state and/or federal campaign finance laws). Short of accomplishing this, no other reform of significance will be achieved. The moneyed interests will turn any reform to their benefit, often at the expense of the nation as a whole.

Sincerely,

James, Texas

Paul, Massachusetts

Dear America,

Massachusetts has a bottle deposit law, but it only covers carbonated beverages. The state legislature declined for 10 years to vote on our bill to include bottled water, so we gathered 150,000 signatures and put it on the ballot. At first, polls showed a significant majority in favor of the bill. Then came $8 million in misleading attack ads from the food and beverage industry, and we lost in November. Score: Powerful Special Interests – 1, We the People – 0.

Sincerely,

Paul, Massachusetts

Gina, Washington

Gina Owens

“It feels like I’m more a part of the system. People like me can contribute in ways that we never have before. We can participate in ways that Big Money always has.”

Gina Owens, a longtime voter and low-income resident, contributed to a political campaign for the first time using Seattle’s innovative democracy voucher program.

Participating in a more inclusive local democracy
Gina Owens is a born-and-raised Seattleite, public housing resident, activist, volunteer, grandmother, and committed voter. She is raising her grandchildren after her only daughter passed away from health complications. The decisions of those in office greatly impact her life, and while she is engaged in her community and advocates for policy changes that work for everyday people like herself, her income has always created a barrier for her to contribute to the candidates she supported. That is, until Seattle created its innovative democracy voucher program.

Using her democracy vouchers, Gina contributed to a political campaign for the first time. She said, “It feels like I more a part of the system. People like me can contribute in ways that we never have before. We can participate in ways that Big Money always has.”

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Paul, Pennsylvania

Paul Perry

By telling us his story, we were able to work with Paul to get an op-ed published. Read it here.

“Until we put our feet down and say ‘enough,’ we’re going to keep being victimized by the system. I think it’s really on us. It’s for us to decide.”

Paul Perry, a former teacher and long-time public servant, dropped out of a Pennsylvania Congressional race after being outspent by his opponents. Unlike his opponents, he rejected large and corporate donations and did not self-fund.

“I was tired of seeing kids come to school hungry, guys having their lives thrown away by the criminal justice system, or people in my own family struggling with addiction and inequality…I was sick and tired of being sick and tired” – On why he ran for office

Paul Perry has long devoted his adult life to public service. By any objective standard, he is qualified to serve the people of Pennsylvania in Congress.

Perry holds an MEd in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters of Public Policy from Berkeley and a Doctor in Education Leadership from Harvard. He’s been a Legislative Assistant for the NAACP, an intern for then-Senator Barack Obama, a Policy Analyst at the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at Berkeley, a regional Executive Director of the Reset Foundation, which helps young people involved in the criminal justice system, Executive Director of COLAGE, which unites those with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents to become leaders in their communities, the Founder and CEO of PDP, LLC, a social impact leadership firm, Director of Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, and worked for schools in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and Denver – all before age 35.

And yet seven months before the primary, he was forced to drop out of the running.

“People are like ‘we need more black candidates, we need more women candidates.’ What are you going to do to make sure that woman moves from 70 cents on the dollar to a dollar on the dollar so she can even afford to think about running. That’s the debt we owe to women. Same for candidates of color…How are we going to help them actually see and feel that they can run for office.”

In the crowded Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Republican Patrick Meehan, Perry’s opponents outspent him 6-to-1. It was clear that despite his qualifications, winning his race was not realistic.

When asked about whether he felt like the door was open to people like himself to run for office, he said the door was open, but “it’s a question of what weights on your back when you walk through the door…and also how steep the steps are once you walk through.” Perry committed himself to rejecting large and corporate donations, and to not self-fund. He did not have family members writing him large checks, nor did he have a network of those who could. During the day, he was the Executive Director of a non-profit, spending his limited free time talking to voters and fundraising. His opponents do not share these barriers, and proved early on to benefit from a system that unfairly favors the wealthy and well-connected. He stated, “we were at the same door, but what was before the door and after the door was very different.” He also believes that in order to have more people of color and women in office, we need to make sure they can afford to run. With public financing, he says the steepness of that metaphorical stairwell is more level.

After donors continued to fundraise for him even after unsuccessful attempts to convince him to change his policy positions “As a candidate I thought ‘this is interesting, they want a foothold on me.’ Even if they initially can’t get ahold of you, they still want to latch on. Maybe you’ll think twice…its all about power. I don’t see that changing until fundraising changes. There’s no such thing as a self-directing system, that’s how a system works, it maintains itself. There’s going to need to be greater upheaval that changes this.”

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