Carmen's Speech at the “We're Mainers First” Clean Elections Rally
My name is Carmen Lavertu. I live in Thomaston in Knox County. I grew up in Madawaska, in the St. John Valley, on a potato farm with my thirteen brothers and
My senator and representative are Clean Elections legislators. They spend all their work time doing legislative work and not one minute raising money.
Iím here because I believe it is imperative to preserve and strengthen the Maine Clean Elections Act that came about through a Citizens Initiative in 1996. Iím
here to say we must reverse the rising cost of election campaigning and we must insure that the Appropriations Committee turns down any effort to reduce the funding of the Maine Clean elections
Act as is the law.
Iím here because I want this Legislature and the Governor to pass a resolution that instructs our representatives in Washington to reverse the decisions of the
Supreme Court that have allowed unlimited amounts of money to be spent on elections as though money is free speech.
Iím here as a volunteer who asked Voters in my community to sign these petitions if they opposed the new forms of Big Money electioneering that we experienced in
2012. We took these petitions to our Select Board [in Thomaston] who eagerly passed a resolution on January 28.
There are several important reasons why we must have clean elections. I want to focus my remarks on what happens after the election. I admit to not knowing as
much as I would like about what happens in Augusta. I know very that fund-raising goes on everyday in Washington. It doesn't stop on election day.
We have a narrative of what happens in Washington, and that is not where we want our State government to go. I heard Senator Durbin (IL) on the radio last year.
He said, “I think most Americans would be shocked if they knew how much time a United States senator spends raising money. And how much time we spend talking about raising money, and thinking
about raising money, and planning to raise money. And, you know, going off on little retreats and conjuring up new ideas on how to raise money.”
So, I called my representative and asked him how Clean Elections works for him. He doesnít have to raise money after the election, and he said, “I donít have to
think about a funder when I decide how to cast my vote.” I called another hard working representative from Knox County. She said, “I wouldnít have run for office. I wouldn't be able to
But, thatís what elected politicians do who raised private money. Theyíre fund raisers for their elections and for the length of their terms of office. According to
the radio program I heard and downloaded a hard copy, these men and woman are told in their orientation right after the election that they will have to spend a good deal of time raising money. As
much as an average of four hours a day, according to another article.
I find it appalling that after they are elected our representatives spend time raising money--Itís begging. They do it in call centers calling up prospective donors
who could benefit from an issue they are proposing or sponsoring, or reminding previous donors they need to give more. We know what call centers are like. We have them in Maine for customer
services. Theyíre not the best jobs, paying the minimum wage. But, law makers are doing this to amass the large sums of money they will need to keep getting re-elected. I donít think the founding
generation had any idea this could be part of the job description.
In this radio program I am referring to, the reporters found some very shocking things. They landed an interview with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. She was asked about
the number of fundraisers she attends. Her frank reply: “A lot. Yeah. Either on the phone or attending events. But I think theyíve said this year I attended almost 400 fundraisers in nearly 40
cities.” That was the year 2011.
And Senator Durban again “Theyíll have these things called "power hours" several times a week, where a bunch of senators will go into a call center.
We sit at these desks with stacks of names in front of us, and short bios, and histories of giving.” Then there are the socials for breakfast, lunch, dinner at the fanciest restaurants in W
ashington. That would be where the big deals are made between fund raising staff and the lobbyists. Thatís where staffers meet corporate representatives, and thatís where the revolving-door is set
That, my friends, is what has become of our Democratic Republic. It is why we do not trust our government and cynicism is a common attitude. But, all elected
representatives are caught up in this, and this is a SYSTEM. Itís a system because to keep their jobs they have to play by the rules and no single person can get out of it by himself or herself.
They need help, and we can help them here in Maine.
What we are holding up today is a request to our representatives to pass a memorial that advises our Governor, Senators King and Collins and Congress people Pingree
and Michaud that we are a gathering movement of concerned citizens who will not allow this system to continue. We will liberate them from this system. We will close down the call centers, we will
ask them to get lobbyists out of their social life so they can spend more time legislating spending their leisure time with their families and the people who have elected them, each voter casting
one vote, one vote per person.
Our politics may be mostly polarized, but fair campaign finance rules are something on which we can all agree. And Maine can continue to lead the nation, we must
amend our Clean Election law so that it works well for future candidates.
It has worked well for us and we can show other Americans that it is the way for all state government to go. And at the same time we extend our movement to Washington,
where government must be restored to the people.
Listen to WBEZ THIS AMERICAN LIFE “Take the Money and Run for Office”
Originally Aired 03-30-2012 Transcript
Huffington Post article Call Time For Congress Shows How Fundraising Dominates Bleak Work Life