We should take this moment to pursue fundamental reform. We must reconstitute what it means to run for office and to serve in office. We need to ban outside income for elected officials. Transparency alone is not enough; it doesn’t solve the problem of creating outside dependencies.
We should reject the private financing of campaigns as the only model.
We need to provide enough public funding for campaigns so that anyone with a broad base of support can run for office, and respond effectively to attacks, without becoming dependent on private patrons.
Running for office shouldn’t be a job defined by permanent begging at the feet of the wealthiest donors in the country.
Those two reforms would be transformational. We will never eradicate every shady deal, but we can make politics more about serving the public and less like legalized bribery.
There’s one last thing we should do: ban corporate spending and limit total campaign spending.
Anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court decided that outside corporate spending was in no way corrupting. We will have to revisit that decision, but we don’t need to wait for the court to act.
Corruption is about greed and private interests put ahead of the public good. Whether influence is bought through a bribe, outside spending, outside income or campaign contributions, the public suffers in the same way. Until we move past scandals toward structural change, our democracy will suffer, too.
Zephyr Teachout, an associate professor of law at Fordham, is the author of “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”