Congressional Reform

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Dear Fellow Kansans:

My name is Greg Orman, and I’m running as an Independent to represent Kansas in the United States Senate.

As a businessman, I understand from experience that progress happens when you listen to all opinions and use the best ideas to solve difficult problems. It is with that same spirit of collaborative, common-sense leadership, and a strong desire to fix the polarized political system in Washington, that I announced my candidacy in June.

Washington is broken, and we all know it. The news headlines remind us every day that Congress no longer works for us, the American people. Partisan extremism and political dysfunction have paralyzed our nation’s capital, with Members of the House and Senate from both parties more interested in their own reelection and hold on power than the public interest.

But there’s a path we can choose this November right here in Kansas that will force Washington to act on our behalf. It starts with electing leaders of courage and conviction who are committed to enacting key reforms that will fundamentally change the influence of special interests on Congress.

Toward that end, I’ve developed a Congressional Reform Plan that I believe will have a dramatic effect on the way Washington operates. My Plan includes the following four elements: (1) Enact a constitutional amendment creating term limits; (2) An end to congressional pensions; (3) A lifetime ban on lobbying for Members of Congress; and (4) Elimination of Leadership PACs.

The intent of this Congressional Reform Plan is to change Congress by encouraging true public servants to run for elected office, and to eliminate incentives for people to stay in Congress for extended periods of time. 

The pages that follow include specific details on these Congressional reforms. I invite you to take a closer look and pass along any feedback you feel would be helpful. If you agree with me that these are a constructive way to change the political climate in Washington, I ask that you email a copy to your family and friends and share it on your social media channels.

Through my travels across the state, I’ve heard from a great many Kansans who are hungry for fundamental reform of the Congress. They believe, as I do, that the time is right for sweeping change and that the partisan extremists in Washington are on the wrong side of the coming electoral revolution.

 Sincerely,

 sig.png

Greg Orman

Independent candidate for U.S. Senate

1.    Enact a Constitutional Amendment Creating Term Limits

Public service is supposed to intersect your life for a brief period of time, not become a life unto itself.  For far too many elected officials this isn’t the case. When someone spends decades in Congress they become part of Washington and lose their connection to the people they were elected to serve. Even Governor Brownback noted this when he left the Senate after two terms, saying “you ought to have a change of blood and a change of ideas.”[1]

 If elected I will propose a constitutional amendment to limit service in the U.S. Congress to 12 years. In addition, I will lead by example and pledge to serve no more than two terms in the Senate.

 2.    End Congressional Pensions

Congressional pensions only encourage Members of Congress to stay in office for extended periods of time. In fact, Congress is one of the only jobs in this country where you can be fired and still get paid for the rest of your life.  My view is pretty simple: Congress isn’t a career, and Members shouldn’t get retirement benefits that aren’t generally available to every American.

 It has been 30 years since there has been any action to address this issue. In 1984, Congress made an indefensible system slightly less egregious by lowering the total benefits Members received. As a result of these changes, Members elected after 1984 get $42,048 a year in average benefits, compared to $71,644 for those in the previous system.[2]  The longest serving Members can receive benefits in excess of $139,000 annually. For comparison, the average per capita income in Kansas is $26,845.[3]           

 When asked, many Members defend their pension by noting that they are in the same system as other federal workers. While this isn’t exactly a strong defense, it also isn’t true. As the Annenberg Public Policy Center noted, “Members of Congress get more pension credit for each year of service”[4] than regular federal workers.

 A 2005 study by the National Taxpayer Union Foundation noted three key facts about congressional pensions[5]:

  • Lawmakers enjoy better pension formulas and eligibility rules than rank-and-file workers
  • Congressional pensions are two to three times more generous than those offered to similarly-paid executives in the private sector
  • Individual pension amounts for Members of Congress are not a matter of public record.

 This system costs the taxpayer more than $36 million[6] a year and must end. If elected I will decline my congressional pension and sponsor legislation to abolish pensions for Members of Congress.

 3.    Institute a Lifetime Ban on Lobbying for Members of Congress

Congress should not be a stepping-stone to a six or seven figure job lobbying your former colleagues to get money from the federal government. Holding elected office should be about public service not self-service. Yet for nearly half of all elected officials this is no longer the case.

 In 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. Today, half of all senators and more than 40 percent of congressmen do.[7] In fact, there are more than 415 former Members of Congress lobbying today.[8] One report estimates that taxpayers pay nearly $25 million a year in pensions to former members registered as lobbyists.[9]

 If elected I will sponsor legislation to enact a lifetime ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress who are elected after 2014. In addition, after serving I will not become a lobbyist, “strategic advisor,” “historian”[10] or any other job that involves someone paying me to get more taxpayer money for their employer.

 4.    Eliminate Congressional Leadership PACs

Following the historic political scandal in 2006 involving former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Members of Congress, the U.S. House and Senate passed legislation in an attempt to reform the cozy relationship between Capitol Hill lobbyists, Washington special interests and Members of Congress from both parties. While these were important reforms at the time, they left a major loophole: Congressional Leadership PACs.[11]

 Leadership PACs were initially created as a tool for Members of the House and Senate leadership to dole out favors and use cash to help maintain their positions. Not exactly a noble beginning, but since then things have gotten worse. These so-called “leadership” accounts have essentially become political slush funds that help Members “advance their political agendas, their careers and, in many cases, their lifestyle.” Donations made from a leadership PAC can “be used for literally anything.” [12] 

 John Edwards, the disgraced former presidential candidate who also served in the U.S. Senate, used a leadership PAC to pay a mistress $114,000. A California Republican used $32,000 from a leadership PAC to pay for tours of California wineries with representatives of the defense industry. In the last few cycles lobbyists and other special interests have poured more than $355 million into leadership PACs. [13] Donations by lobbyists to these leadership PACs shouldn’t be used to maintain the special lifestyles of Members of Congress, and if elected I will propose legislation to ban these committees.

 In the event an outright ban isn’t possible, I will propose to limit the definition of acceptable uses to the same limitations imposed on federal campaign committees so that these accounts aren’t used to enhance the lifestyles of Members of Congress.



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