Keeping Our Promise to the Valley, Starting Day 1

By Josh Harder | The Modesto Bee
Jan 3, 2019
Editorials

Last year, I promised that if elected to Congress, I’d put the needs of the Central Valley first.

It’s why I committed to refusing all corporate PAC (political action committee) campaign donations. It’s also why I helped lead a charge to make anti-corruption legislation a top priority in the new Congress.

I am proud that one of the first bills introduced in the new Congress will be the sweeping anti-corruption legislation we pushed for. There are a lot of issues we need to tackle in the new Congress, but year after year the corrupting influence of big money in politics has been the single biggest obstacle to getting things done.

For instance, just about everyone agrees we need to address the absurd costs of prescription drugs in America. But in the last decade, pharmaceutical companies have spent $79 million in political donations ... and prices for their drugs keep rising.

Most Americans agree we can do more to advance cleaner, renewable energy sources and create jobs in those industries. But lobbyists for oil and coal companies write big checks to politicians ... and nothing gets done.

These troubling examples show how business gets done in Washington. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This anti-corruption bill reins in money in politics by requiring Super-PACs and “dark money” groups to disclose their donors. It institutes stricter rules for lobbying and forbids members of Congress from spending public money on first-class airfare. It also stops members from using taxpayer money to pay judgments in sexual harassment cases. This bill strengthens our democracy by restoring the Voting Rights Act and investing in election security.

This is an ambitious list, but it’s what the moment calls for. It’s what the Central Valley deserves. Because at the end of the day, our democracy should be open to every American, not just special interests.

Of course, this bill is just the start. The new Congress has an incredible opportunity to push for other sensible solutions to stem the tide of dark money infesting our system. We can pass legislation that overturns Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that classified corporations as “people” and removed any limits on how much corporations could spend to elect a favored candidate. Special interests often use that money to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans.

We can strengthen the right to vote and make it easier for everyone to participate in our democracy.

These are goals worth pursuing, true to our country’s founding ideals and central to the kind of representative I wish to be for the Central Valley.

I’m thrilled we’re moving on this legislation, but it’s a first step. Before this bill becomes law, it must pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump. I sincerely hope this issue will have the same bipartisan support that previous efforts against political corruption have received.

Our current system hurts both Republicans and Democrats’ the only way to fix it will require both parties working together. We must put aside our differences and unify on the common-sense values that help the people who elected us to Congress.

We all have a role in renewing our Democracy. I hope you’ll join me in calling for bipartisanship as we work to make this the law of the land. Our country’s democratic ideals demand it.