Sen. John Kerry: We Must Address "Corrupting Force" of Money in Politics
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who was approved by the Senate yesterday to be the next U.S. Secretary of State, gave his farewell speech on the Senate floor today. In talking about ways to improve our democracy, Kerry, who has been a long-time support of efforts to raise the voices of everyday people in our political process, spoke eloquently about our corrupting campaign finance system and need to ensure voting rights for all.
The video of his full remarks and transcript of his speech is below. In the video, scroll to 27:34 for his remarks on money in politics.
Transcription of Sen. Kerry's remarks, 27:34 to 30:08:
There’s another challenge that we must address and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself.
I’ve used the word “corrupting” and I want to be very clear about it.
I mean by it not the corruption of individuals but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will: The alliance of money and the interests that it represents, the access that it affords to those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda that it changes or sets by virtue of its power is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing or who can’t compete at all.
The insidious intention of that money is to set the agenda, change the agenda, block the agenda, define the agenda of Washington.
How else could we possible have a US tax code of sum of some 76,000 pages? Ask yourselves how many Americans have their own page, their own tax break, their own self deal? Their own special deal?
We should not resign ourselves, Mr. President, to a distorted system that corrodes our democracy, and this is what is contributing to the justifiable anger of the American people.
They know it. They know we know it. And yet nothing happens.
The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is – it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.
Like the question of comity in the Senate, the influence of money in our politics also influences our credibility around the world. And so, too, does the difficulty, the unacceptable and extraordinary difficulty we have in 2013 operating the machinery of our own democracy here at home.
How extraordinary and how diminishing that more than 40 years after the voting rights act, so many of our fellow citizens still have great difficulty when they show up on election day to cast their vote and have their voice heard.
That, too, is an issue that matters to all of us, because for a country that can and should extol the virtues of democracy around the world, our job is made more difficult when, through long lines and overt voter suppression and efforts to suppress people’s ability to exercise the right that we extol, so many struggle still to exercise that right here at home.