OPINION: A government that works for ‘we the people’

Trust in our government is at near record lows, and the one thing that Democrats, Republicans and independents can all agree on is that the system is neither working the way it should nor for whom it should: the American people.

For a decade and a half, I served our country as an FBI special agent and federal prosecutor, serving as a national supervisor for the FBI’s Political Corruption Unit, where I worked to promote democracy and restore integrity to governmental institutions, both domestically and internationally. The common thread in all of these cases was that, when the system was broken, career partisan politicians lacked both the desire and the ability to fix it.

Today, I’m running for Congress to take my FBI anti-corruption experiences to Capitol Hill as a political outsider focused on solutions. But it doesn’t end there.

While changing those we send to Washington to represent us will advance the cause of reform for a time, a broken, corrupting system will continue to break and corrupt even those with the best of intentions. Accordingly, the process itself must be reformed, too.

That’s why I’m the only candidate in this race with a detailed plan to truly reform Congress and weed out corruption at its roots, so that our government works for the people, not for the politicians or special interests:

  • Enact term limits for all members of Congress to return to our Founder’s vision of a citizen-legislator led government.
  • Abolish congressional pensions.
  • Pass “no budget, no pay” legislation so that lawmakers who fail to pass a budget on time do not get paid.
  • End the cynical process of filling bills up with non-related items, requiring each vote to be on a single issue.
  • Force the bureaucrats to defend every taxpayer dollar they spend by enacting “zero-based” budgeting.
  • Support a balanced-budget amendment to our Constitution to end the limitless borrowing that is crippling our future.
  • End political “gerrymandering” once and for all by ensuring that congressional districts are drawn by independent citizen commissions, not politicians.
  • Reform the VA to allow veterans to see the physicians of their choice, as opposed to being forced to endure an inconvenient and impractical VA system.
  • End the federal government’s duplication of agencies and programs, a practice that costs our economy billions of dollars.
  • Bolster and empower the Office of Inspectors General to aggressively investigate and prosecute all instances of fraud, waste and abuse in federal agencies, which cost taxpayers billions annually.

Likewise, Congress as an institution must embrace these changes. To facilitate that process, I am calling for the creation of a bipartisan commission to develop best practices for the Congress of tomorrow. This reform is not without precedent.

In the 20th century alone, Congress undertook the creation and execution of three of these bipartisan “joint committees” aimed at examining how our legislative body and its processes could be reformed to encourage modernization, increase efficiency and embrace transparency. It’s no wonder that these efforts took place, roughly, once per generation (1945-1946, 1965-1966, 1992-1993).

While changes from the early 1990s certainly helped reform the committee system and staffing needs, there is little doubt we are long overdue for a change. Since 1995, when many of the last joint committee’s reforms were realized, our nation has undergone a transformation in every aspect — from business and industry to our means of communication and interaction. The internet age has taken us to a new frontier, yet unlike our past, our government has (so far) been unwilling to modernize itself to meet our challenges. This must change.

While government reform might not be the top issue for many voters at a time of economic uncertainty and global instability, the fact is our government needs to fix its own problems before it can go about tackling the very serious problems that face our nation, from our massive national debt to the persistent threat of terrorism.

I am running for Congress because I believe that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules deserves a fair shot at their American dream. Our government, because of forces of corruption or a stubborn refusal to meet our nation’s changing needs, must not act as a roadblock to this goal.

And this much is clear: The change we need to ensure security and opportunity for all can only come from outside of the system. It cannot and will not come from career partisan politicians who represent perpetual gridlock and a continuation of the broken status quo.

Originally ran 8/22 – The Intelligencer