When our found­ing fathers put togeth­er our plan of gov­ern­ment at the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia, they spent a great deal more time ham­mer­ing out the details that con­cern the leg­isla­tive branch (Con­gress) than the details that describe how the oth­er two branch­es are sup­posed to work.

This was not acci­den­tal — our found­ing fathers believed that the branch of gov­ern­ment charged with mak­ing laws would play the lead­ing role in deter­min­ing the direc­tion of the coun­try. Though gen­er­a­tions of pres­i­dents and judges have increased the stature and impor­tance of their own branch­es of gov­ern­ment, Con­gress has not dimin­ished in importance.

It does­n’t always assert its pow­er, but it is still our only law­mak­ing institution.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Con­gress is sus­cep­ti­ble to corruption.

Our founders did not antic­i­pate the advent of the paid lob­by­ing indus­try, which dom­i­nates the dis­cus­sion in our nation’s cap­i­tal at the expense of the peo­ple mem­bers of Con­gress are sup­posed to rep­re­sent. End­ing cor­rup­tion is what respect­ed pro­fes­sor Lawrence Lessig calls a “first prob­lem”. By that he means a prob­lem that is not nec­es­sar­i­ly more impor­tant than oth­er prob­lems (like the cli­mate cri­sis) but one that must be solved in order for oth­ers to be solved.

We have not made much head­way in solv­ing this “first prob­lem” of cor­rup­tion. In fact, with the Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed rul­ing last year, things have only got­ten worse.

Obvi­ous­ly, amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to reverse Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed and end the prac­tice of equat­ing cor­po­ra­tions as per­sons is of para­mount impor­tance. But what else should be done to change Con­gress and put an end to ram­pant cor­rup­tion? We’re putting togeth­er a list of pos­si­bil­i­ties and we’d like read­er input. What do you think? How would you like to see Con­gress changed?

Please share any sug­ges­tions you have in the comments.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “How do we change Congress and put an end to rampant corruption?”

  1. SO, I’m sure you have seen this email cir­cu­lat­ing, the ques­tion is, how do we change it from an email dis­cus­sion to “action” and get it in place?
    “The 26th amend­ment (grant­i­ng the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be rat­i­fied! Why? Sim­ple! The peo­ple demand­ed it. That was in 1971…before com­put­ers, before e‑mail, before cell phones, etc.

    Of the 27 amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion, sev­en (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of pub­lic pressure.

    I’m ask­ing each addressee to for­ward this email to a min­i­mum of twen­ty peo­ple on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

    In three days, most peo­ple in The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca will have the mes­sage. This is one idea that real­ly should be passed around.

    Con­gres­sion­al Reform Act of 2011 (pro­posed)

    1. Term Limits.
    Twelve (12) years only, one of the pos­si­ble options below:
    A. Two Six-year Sen­ate terms
    B. Six Two-year House terms
    C. One Six-year Sen­ate term and three Two-Year House terms

    2. No Tenure / No Pension.
    A Con­gress­man col­lects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office. 

    3. Con­gress (past, present & future) par­tic­i­pates in Social Security.
    All funds in the Con­gres­sion­al retire­ment fund move to the Social Secu­ri­ty sys­tem imme­di­ate­ly. All future funds flow into the Social Secu­ri­ty sys­tem, and Con­gress par­tic­i­pates with the American

    4. Con­gress can pur­chase their own retire­ment plan, just as all Amer­i­cans do.

    5. Con­gress will no longer vote them­selves a pay raise. Con­gres­sion­al pay will rise by the low­er of CPI (Con­sumer Price Index) or 3%.

    6. Con­gress los­es their cur­rent health care sys­tem and par­tic­i­pates in the same health care sys­tem as the Amer­i­can people.

    7. Con­gress must equal­ly abide by all laws they impose on the Amer­i­can people.

    8. All con­tracts with past and present Con­gress­men are void effec­tive 1/1/12.
    The Amer­i­can peo­ple did not make this con­tract with Con­gress­men. Con­gress­men made all these con­tracts for them­selves. Serv­ing in Con­gress is an hon­or, not a career. The Found­ing Fathers envi­sioned cit­i­zen leg­is­la­tors, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and go back to work.

    If each per­son con­tacts a min­i­mum of twen­ty peo­ple then it will only take three days for most peo­ple (in the U.S. ) to receive the mes­sage. Maybe it is time.

    I passed this on to friends and fam­i­ly, and this is one of the respons­es I got back:I 100% agree with this and will be pass­ing it on to many peo­ple but there is a prob­lem, this will not go any­where unless some­one (like Tim Iman or some­one with self dri­ven ini­tia­tive) will turn this into a for­mal peti­tion with a bunch of sig­na­tures. Unfor­tu­nate­ly this email is a piece of edu­ca­tion not leg­is­la­tion and will be com­plete­ly ignored by any­one with the author­i­ty to change it, espe­cial­ly sense the peo­ple that can change it are the same peo­ple that don’t want any part of chang­ing it. Nev­er the less this is some­thing that the Amer­i­can peo­ple have been voic­ing for many years now and we all need to keep these ideas alive. 

    I’ve always won­dered one thing about this should it ever get imple­ment­ed, If the politi­cians are forced to live under the same pay sys­tem, health care sys­tem, and retire­ment sys­tem that the Amer­i­can peo­ple have to live with will there be any incen­tive for peo­ple to run for office and if so what kind of lead­ers would this new sys­tem attract? Just a thought.

    I would like to hear your thoughts on this…
    Shelly L

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