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Rita Hart: Reform Washington and Reinvigorate Democracy

Rita Hart
Rita Hart
Jun 16 · 3 min read

My mother spent most of her life with a damaged heart, which weakened her health, as a result, even the ability to talk — allowing her to speak with just a whisper. She raised me and eight brothers and sisters, with that whisper and taught me the importance of listening to everyone. The most important voices in the room aren’t necessarily the loudest or the most powerful. Leaders listen to the voices that they have to lean in to hear. Iowans need a strong, caring, and independent voice, to bring about real change, to provide real solutions to our toughest challenges.

Too often in Washington, the loudest and most powerful voices drown out the rest of us. Special interests are able to use money and influence to stymie progress on all the issues we need action on — lowering the cost of health care, investing in education, and raising wages for everyone. Politics should always be about putting people first and that’s why I want the first bill I vote on to be tackling political corruption in Washington.

· Close the revolving door by banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, permanently.

Congress should be a public service, not an opportunity to cash in. Unfortunately, the single most popular profession for former members of Congress after leaving office is lobbying. A first step to restoring faith in Washington is to close the revolving door between Congress and K Street.

· Prevent conflicts of interest by banning members of Congress from owning individual stocks or serving on corporate boards.

Earlier this year, multiple members of Congress appeared to use inside information to profit off the coronavirus pandemic. The rules on the books to prevent insider trading clearly need to be strengthened. Members of Congress should not be able to take information they get from private briefings and use it to enrich themselves.

· Pass a “No budget, no pay” law so members of Congress are forced to do their job in a timely fashion.

Congress has a constitutional obligation to pass the budget. Unfortunately, in recent years, Congress has taken to relying on massive, confusing “omnibus” legislation filled with special interest carve-outs. If members of Congress fail to do the job voters elected them to do, they should not get paid.

· Get dark, unaccountable money out of politics by reversing the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

There is too much money in politics. I am proud to be endorsed by End Citizens. Ideally, we should pass a constitutional amendment preventing corporations from spending endless amounts of money on our elections.

At a minimum, however, we need more accountability and disclosure like that in the proposals in HR 1: disclose all political spending from dark money groups, make online spending more transparent, and prevent SuperPACs that support only one candidate.

· Let voters pick their representatives instead of letting politicians pick their voters by ending partisan gerrymandering and expanding voting-by-mail.

Voter suppression and rigged lines lead to incumbent members of Congress being elected again and again. Even in the “wave” election of 2018, 91% of members of Congress were returned to office. Iowa has a model of non-partisan re-districting that should be applied to the whole country.

Meanwhile, in the middle of a pandemic, we should be doing everything possible to make it safe and easy to vote. Iowa saw record turnout in the 2020 primary after the Secretary of State mailed ballots to every voter. Congress should provide the money this year to ensure that anyone who wants to vote-by-mail, can do so. Our country is stronger when our democracy is stronger.

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