Shape up or we cut the cash

In the last election cycle, candidates and their campaigns spent approximately $8 billion to secure their offices. Because I live in Virginia and I contribute to the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats, I was under siege by candidates, their surrogates, their parties, their PACS and issue organizations to donate $3.00 or $5.00 or $197.00, and to do it before some silly deadline imposed on me by the caller.

The reality remains: Congress has a 9 percent approval rating, but yet we returned to office 85 percent of those seeking office. Congress continues to be dysfunctional and the White House is no better. So I and a number of my friends and colleagues have launched a grassroots campaign to cut the cash. The mission of Cut the Cash is to promote a climate of service leadership in the work and lives of our elected leaders by insisting on bipartisan cooperation and civility in all public discourse and work.

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Jesse Unruh, Speaker of the California Assembly in 1966 is credited for having said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” It is time we put our congressional leaders and our president on a milk-free diet. They are now on notice: no more money! What if all Americans stopped making campaign contributions to those seeking congressional offices and to the president until they begin acting like responsible adults and make a commitment to exercise their duties with a spirit of service, cooperation and civility? The current political rancor and bipartisan bickering might stop. We can and must cut the cash.

Imagine a “just say no” campaign: no more money. You do the work and we pay you — you bicker and squabble like pre-adolescent teenagers and we cut your allowance. No more $3.00 contributions, no more $197 contributions, no more response to urgent appeals by phone, by email, by direct mail, by commercial — no more contributions until they can show they are leaders that put Americans first.

What if we weaned them from the mother’s milk that sustains them until they signed the following pledge: I pledge to restore civility and statesmanship to the work of my office and to earn the trust of the American people by bringing integrity, transparency and commitment to my public service. I will seek bipartisan solutions to the complex issues that face our country. I pledge to create a climate of service in my efforts to promote the interests of the American people in a global community.

Indicators of success and evidence of changed behavior might include the following:

• Passing a budget without a continuing resolution;
• Holding hearings on all nominations made by the sitting president;
• Avoiding personal attack advertising in characterizing the work and positions of an opposing candidate;
• Lawmakers holding monthly bipartisan leadership meetings to problem solve legislative log-jams;
• The president holding monthly bipartisan leadership meetings with members of Congress;
• The president holding monthly press conferences;
• Members of Congress being more transparent by posting on their websites weekly timesheets that record meetings and the names of corporations, associations or lobbyists that have met with the member in the past week;
• Avoiding block voting by strict party affiliation by encourage members to vote their conscience with impunity from leadership;
• Restoring civility in discourse and debate to demonstrate respect and appreciation of colleagues in public service.

I think they might listen — if we starve them from the money that continues to grow the beast. At least, it might be worth a try. That is our hope with the grassroots campaign. Go to www.cutthecash.org to see how you can become involved.

Copple is the president of Strategic Applications International, a government affairs and training organization that builds capacity in local nonprofits to secure appropriate funding to fulfill their mission.

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