PETER’S VISION: GOVERNMENT
Non-negotiable: Government’s job is to serve the people first.
In a democracy, the government has legitimacy because we the people give it willingly. Week after week, 2020 has shown us that it is more important now than ever that we know the government is working for us. Yet, polls show that nearly 75% of Americans say that trust in government is shrinking and that low trust makes it difficult to solve our country’s problems, caused by corruption and corporate control of the political process. When members of Congress profit from trading stocks after confidential Coronavirus briefings or leave office to work for the same companies that lobbied them, it becomes more difficult to believe that our elected officials serve the interests of the people first.
What do you think is most important to ensure that members of Congress are responsible first to the people?
Government officials must divest from their businesses and privately-held assets that represent conflicts of interests. Congresspeople would not be allowed to trade or own individual stocks. Candidates and government officials’ previous eight years of tax information should be publicly accessible, as well as the major donors and fundraisers to their campaigns and administrations. Limits should be in place for the time between being a lobbyist and holding elected office. Lobbying meetings should be public information and not carried out by foreign governments.
Government officials must divest from their businesses and privately-held assets that represent conflicts of interests. Congresspeople would not be allowed to trade or own individual stocks.
Candidates and government officials’ previous eight years of tax information should be publicly accessible, as well as the major donors and fundraisers to their campaigns and administrations.
Limits should be in place for the time between being a lobbyist and holding elected office. Lobbying meetings should be public information and not carried out by foreign governments.
SOME SPECIFICS ON THE PLANS:
- Stock Market Participation:
- Senior government officials, paid or unpaid, should not be able to continue to have a hand in their businesses or privately-held assets. Officials will also have to sell all of their stocks in favor of purchasing neutral assets like mutual funds. Advocates say these sorts of reforms prevent the ethical conflicts and financial incentives of senior level officials.
- Critics of these plans say that it will discourage successful businesspeople from running for office, leading to deeper entrenchment of political insiders. They also say it will drive bad behavior underground.
- Financial Transparency:
- The IRS should automatically release the tax records of candidates and government officials for the previous eight years. Similar transparency should also apply to the major donors and fundraisers for their campaigns, down to the organizations and individuals who contribute to Super PACs. Advocates suggest that people will have greater trust in government when they know that their elected officials have nothing to hide.
- Others feel that the personal financial records of elected representatives are not the public’s business, and that financial success should not be penalized. In addition, they argue that as long as individuals and corporations are following campaign donation guidelines, their political donations should also be private.
- In order to close the revolving door between elected office and lobbying firms, government officials should not be allowed to lobby for five years after holding office. A three-year limit will also be in place before lobbyists can run for elected office. To further improve transparency and mutual accountability, the Federal government should create a public database of lobbyists and lobbying meetings. Advocates of this plan also support forbidding foreign governments from lobbying our government, restricting those interactions to diplomatic settings.
- Those opposed to these reforms are concerned about the ability of elected officials to get the high-quality information that lobbyists provide, and see nothing inherently wrong with lobbying for one’s beliefs.
The government should prioritize protecting people and democracy over property.
In the months since George Floyd’s murder, we’ve seen democracy in action as Americans of all walks of life have taken to the streets, advocating for change in their communities and waving the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. While local leaders have worked to engage with protestors, in many cases making public commitments to empower communities with the trust and tools to re-imagine public safety systems, our Federal government’s response has primarily been one of escalation and force.
Fueled by a brazen executive branch, the President has sent federal agents into American cities like Portland and as a result human rights violations have been enacted on American citizens. Trump’s June 26th Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence shows that this presidency is prioritizing property over protecting its people and democracy.
The destruction of property we’ve seen across the country has certainly created harm, often in historically underfunded and marginalized communities. There will be millions of dollars of repairs and revitalization required and accountability for that is important. However, property crimes deserve property-based consequences, not assault by unidentified agents. It is the responsibility of those in power, in this case officers of the law, to act with restraint and to execute justice with the least amount of personal harm. As a teacher I know the importance of responding to pain with solutions, not additional hurt.
In light of these abuses, advocates have called for a limit to the President’s ability to send resources from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security into American cities. While beneficial in this moment, it was federal agents going into places like Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s that forced local leaders to allow African Americans to vote and peacefully protest. Checks and balances between the branches of government and its levels are important, and can always be wielded inappropriately. However, we should be cautious with policies that interrupt the Federal’s government’s ability to protect civilians.
At its root, we need leaders who commit to serving the people first, before property or their own chance of re-election. That should be the bar to evaluate Federal use of force. When we do that, we can enable the Federal government to intercede in local matters when necessary, while holding trust and support of individual rights at the core of its actions. Right now, that means prohibiting funds from being used for Operation Legend or Operation Relentless Pursuit as these programs have been used to infringe on people’s rights. In the future, it might mean authorizing Federal intervention. Democracy is about being nimble yet steadfast in our values.
How do we ensure that all Louisianans are able to participate in our democracy?
At its core, our country is built on the idea of free and fair elections. It is the reason some of our ancestors fought for independence from England, it’s why others risked their lives marching in Selma. To be able to vote and elect neighbors to represent us is of paramount importance to a healthy democracy.
As our next U.S. Senator, I am committed to empowering Louisianans with the tools they need to find creative solutions to our challenges. One tool we already have in our disposal is access to the ballot box – this is one I will fight to expand and protect. I will strive toward the bold target of voter turnout in Louisiana increasing by 30% in 2022, 2024, and 2026 in comparison to 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Automatic Voter Registration
End Felony Disenfranchisement
Pass the Voting Rights Act of 2020
Voters across the country are automatically, electronically registered to vote when they interact with government agencies.
A nationwide ban on felony disenfranchisement would ensure that once people complete their sentences, they will be able to vote.
The provisions in this bill would provide oversight to states with histories voter discrimination.
SOME SPECIFICS ON THE PLANS:
- Automatic Voter Registration:
- Sixteen states and Washington D.C. have already passed automatic voter registration policies, which turn registration practices from “opt-in” to “opt-out.” In these places, there have been significant increases in registration rates, in some places as high as 62% in six months.
- Supporters of this plan see it as an important tool for reducing redundancies and errors in voter registration, while simultaneously increasing access. Critics, however, raise concerns about the infrastructure requirements to make this feasible.
- End Felony Disenfranchisement:
- Our nation’s patchwork of disenfranchisement rules prevent approximately 5.9 million Americans with misdemeanor and felony convictions from being able to vote. The complicated rules around voting with a criminal record also keep millions of others from voting.
- Supporters of this solution say that after you serve your time, you should have your rights restored, not unlike absolution after confession and penance. Supporters also recognize the disparate impact of felony disenfranchisement on communities of color. Critics of this proposal are afraid that ex-felons may vote against law and order, though there is no evidence of this.
- Voting Rights Act:
- Renamed in honor of John Lewis’ legacy, this bill would require certain states to obtain “preclearance” from the Federal government before they could make any changes in voting policies.
- Supporters of the solution point to measures across the country that make it harder to vote, and they argue that democracy is stronger when more people vote. Critics, however, worry about fairness when certain states are required to abide by this policy while others aren’t, and also seek to preserve states’ rights.