On the upcoming Winnebago County ballot, you will see what is known as a ‘non-binding’ question. The premise is simple: are you okay with the way things are now? Are you okay with politicians being bought and sold, as you and your family continue to pay for the rich to get richer by exercising extreme wealth to steer political, social, and economic decisions?
You might be okay with it. That’s your right.
Me? Not so much.
About two years ago, I decided to get off of my kiester and became a Precinct Committeeman in the Republican Party. I got involved. I learned, listened, and preached. The more I learned, the more I felt that there were some inherent issues in the political machine that went far deeper than matters of party politics. Specifically, the old Boss Tweed adage of, “I don’t care who the public votes for, so long as I can choose the nominees!” was blaring in my mind. Instead of apathy, I chose action.
The more I learned, the more appalled I became. I felt helpless. I felt like a tiny voice in a sea of money and bullhorns. I actually used to get depressed, because it just felt hopeless Then, I met Elizabeth.
Many of you might be familiar with the name ‘Elizabeth Lindquist’. If you’re not, then I encourage you to take the time to be. Among other things, she is the current leader of the Represent.Us movement chapter in the Rockford, Illinois area (click here for the local chapter). They’re a grassroots movement that collects all of those single voices into a national gestalt. And it’s working. Their entire motivation is to remove the corrupting influence of moneyed companies and individuals from obliterating political competition, and leveling the playing field so that politicians of the future can focus on one thing: serving us, and our needs, in light of the greater good.
If you think this is happening now, then you need to be more politically active. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it’s more alarming and depressing the deeper one delves. Still, I choose to use my voice, whether it be heard or no. At least then I can sleep at night, and know I tried to bring this country back from the precipice (scratch that – from OVER the precipice).
I asked Elizabeth to do something I could not: formulate a statement outlining the movement’s initiative and ballot question. She has graciously agreed, and her response is below. I would encourage you all to read it, digest it, and before you permit the myriad naysayers from dissuading you, do your own homework.
The future of this country is – and always has been – in the hands of the citizenry. Yet we’ve been led to believe that our voices don’t matter, and that change does not begin with us. I tell you now: it does, and it does. Get angry, get informed, and take back what the founding fathers provided for you so very long ago. This was never meant to be a country where a bank bailout made sense, where corporations were people, where our rights were curtailed and eroded, where tax dollars are paid only by those who cannot afford to dodge them, only to bring those revenues back under the auspices of amnesties. I could go on about all of the injustices that you – YOU – have had perpetrated upon you. I’ll leave that to you.
Finally, I want to say a sincere thank you to Elizabeth, and those around her, and like her. Without you, apathy would be even more prevalent, and our country would only erode more quickly. Let’s vow today to take back what’s rightfully ours, and question those who decry measures out of hand. Hell, question everything. Your voice is a powerful weapon – wield it.
“Represent.Us is a grassroots corruption fighting organization leading a fiercely cross-partisan campaign to fix America’s broken political system. In an effort to gain support for a comprehensive reform plan known as the American Anti-Corruption Act, we were able to place a non-binding advisory question, based on the act, on the ballot in DeKalb and Winnebago Counties.
It seems several entrenched interests in our community have been lining up against this anti-corruption reform advisory referendum. Knowing that the current corrupt system does benefit some local people, we should not be surprised. They have said that the question is ‘confusing’. They have said that it is ‘partisan’. However, when we are out talking to people about the question, most folks find it to be neither. We are confident that voters who take the time to read the question will clearly comprehend the meaning of the question.
The items below, in italics, comprise the ballot question, labeled as ‘confusing’ and ‘partisan’:
“Do you support reducing the corrupting influence of money on our political system by prohibiting politicians from taking campaign money from the special interests they regulate;“
People inherently understand this is a problem. They might not know exactly how implementing this idea will manifest itself for any particular public office, but we are not asking them about specifics. We are asking them if they support this general reform principle.
“increasing transparency for campaign funding;“
It is hard to imagine that this portion is even remotely confusing (as many news outlets are reporting). Should all political money be disclosed in a manner readily accessible to the public?
“empowering all voters through a tax rebate voucher to contribute to the candidates they support;“
The language is clear here. A “tax rebate” is your tax money being given back to you. A ‘voucher’ is like a coupon. It is your own money being given back to you to support a candidate of your choice. We are asking, do you support this general idea? Yes or no. The idea is simple. The exact mechanism of implementing a system like this is more complicated, but again we’re not asking about specifics, we’re asking if you support this general reform idea.
“prohibiting representatives and senior staff from all lobbying activity for five years after they leave office;“
Another no-brainer. Should a representative or senior staff member be allowed to leave office and get a job the next day influencing his old buddies?
“and placing limits on superPAC-campaign coordination?“
We are confident that after two superPAC dominated election cycles, the average voter has heard of superPACs and the problems associated with them.
Is there a chance a voter will read the first thirteen words, ignore the rest, and answer Yes? Of course. But that voter must think the corrupting influence is a pretty severe problem if they don’t care how it stops, just that it stops.
What if a voter agrees with several parts of the question, but not all? Well, then that voter makes a decision as to whether voicing his or her support for all of the reforms is worth erroneously acknowledging support for the part he or she does not like. We are advocating for comprehensive reform, not piecemeal reform. Individual voters can make a decision for themselves whether they want to join in on supporting the whole thing or not. If they chose to vote no, that’s fine. It means they do not support our comprehensive plan.
The question is long, but not difficult to understand.
Are people confused as to why the question is on the ballot, since it is ‘non-binding’? No. From Ballotpedia.org:
“Advisory questions are most commonly used at the local level, often to voice the opinions of a region to higher levels of government.”
Our goal is to raise awareness, generate support, and document that support to those above. People are accustomed to seeing these ballot questions. The November 2014 Illinois ballot had three advisory questions on it. So, no, the voters are not confused as to why it is there.
Is it partisan? Again, no. There is no principled conservative or liberal argument against these reforms. This measure passed with 89% support in Genoa Township in November 2014. Rauner beat Quinn in Genoa Township 57% to 39%. Oberweis beat Durbin 50% to 44%. It seems this set of reforms is the only thing voters in Genoa Township agree on.
We fear many local leaders entrenched in the current corrupt system do not want real reform. For whatever reason, they like the partisan divide. They thrive on it and do not want to build consensus. In their minds, each side is rendered guilty by their association with the other side.
Fortunately, the DeKalb and Winnebago County Boards did not feel that way when they passed the referendums placing this measure on the ballots. The thirteen Democrats and eleven Republicans on the DeKalb County Board voted unanimously to place the question on the ballot. In Winnebago County, the vote was 15-3, with two Republicans and one Democrat voting against it. That does not mean all those members support all the provisions of the question, but if they saw it as partisan, I doubt they would have voted to place it on the ballot. In Winnebago County, when we first approached Republican County Board member Kyle Logan with the request to place the measure on the ballot, we were a group of two conservatives and three progressives, all his constituents. Indeed, we believe cross-partisan constituent support was the main factor in our success.
In fact, we don’t see this as political at all. It’s not about the political game. It’s civics, not politics. We are simply a group of engaged citizens who see our country going to hell and are setting aside our differences to work together to change the rules of the game to make them more in line with what the founders intended. To quote James Madison, our government was to be dependent “upon the people alone” and “not the rich more than the poor.” It is to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We never had that perfectly, but today we are moving farther from that ideal than ever.
This group of average citizens wants the corrupting influence of money in our politics to end, and we hope you will ignore the naysayers and vote ‘Yes’ Tuesday to help us make that happen.”
– Elizabeth Lindquist, Represent.Us, Rockford
Heath D. Alberts – Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Author of: ‘Terminal Beginning‘ (2010) | ‘Guerrilla Business‘ (2012) | ‘The Battery Man‘ (2013) | ‘Last Rights‘ (2013) | “Deeper” (2014) | ‘Photographic Memory‘ (2014) | ‘Guerrilla Business 2.0‘ (2015) | ‘Not On The List‘ (2015)
Categories: Economy & Government