Limit money in politics through a constitutional amendment
By Luke Lorenz Guest Columnist
“Friday is Veterans Day, a national recognition of the extraordinary men and women who kept the watch so that we may live in safety. We thank them for defending our homeland, guarding our shores, and protecting our homes and families. All of this they do, but at the core of their mission is defense of something far more fundamental and profound than physical territory. They swear to defend the U.S. Constitution, which enshrines the highest aspirations of humankind.
As a veteran who served in the U.S. Army, this mission remains close to my heart, as it does for many of my fellow servicemembers. We served, fought, bled and some died in defense of our American democratic traditions that embrace political equality and the right of “one person, one vote.” Yet we see these traditions being increasingly eroded by wealthy donors and deep-pocketed special interest groups that pay for unchecked and unjust political influence.
Each election cycle sets new records for the amount of money influencing our elections, with less and less of that money coming from average citizens. This has profound implications for local, state and national governance. Without equitable influence over our elections and elected officials, the needs of average Americans are drowned out by the demands of wealthy donors. We feel this incongruity in the form of energy monopolies, excessive medical and prescription drug prices, growing income inequality between the wealthy and the middle class, and diminished access to good schools and higher education.
The excessive influence of wealthy individual donors, corporations and single-issue groups contributes to our polarization and political dysfunction. These extreme voices do not represent the views of the vast majority of the American people. However, because we have only two major parties to choose from, we are dragged along as these unrestrained big-money donors pull the parties toward their extreme views and radical policy positions.
This veteran feels that it is time to chart a bold new course for American democracy in the 21st century, and most Americans seem to agree. That new course is set forth in a proposed constitutional amendment, the “For Our Freedom Amendment.” This legislation, supported by American Promise, a non-partisan good governance group, would allow Congress and the states to regain their right to regulate campaign financing and independent expenditures. It protects free speech while also ensuring that states, such as Virginia, have the sovereignty to decide how much special influence they will allow from big money donors.
Does a constitutional amendment sound too ambitious? Better tell that to the suffragettes who faced the same obstacle in securing voting rights for women. Or the Civil Rights advocates who enacted the 15th Amendment. Or the concerned citizens who changed the Constitution to allow individuals to elect their own senators rather than have them chosen by state legislatures (17th Amendment).
We have rectified all manner of injustice through numerous constitutional amendments over the generations. The only question is whether or not our current elected representatives will rise to the challenge. As a veteran who was willing to place his life on the line for our remarkable system of self-governance and individual liberty, I ask our federal legislators to enact the For Our Freedom Amendment and make it the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
` Luke Lorenz of Herndon is the director of legislative affairs for a military-focused nonprofit organization and a volunteer for Money Out Virginia. He served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army with missions in EUCOM and CENTCOM. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.
This article appeared on 11-10-22 in the Virginia Pilot Opinion section.