As Joe Czarnecki ambled through a Colorado corn maze with his family Friday, I couldn’t help but think that’s exactly what he and a friend face as they try to democratize politics.
A year ago, Czarnecki and Peter Ouellette, tired of the corrupting influence of money in politics, decided to do something about it.
The two Luzerne County residents started Clean Money Squad PA, devoted to screening candidates for state and federal office and letting people know the ones willing to vote, if elected, to pledge to change laws to limit money’s influence. Ouellette is the president, Czarnecki the treasurer.
In this election, only three local incumbents signed the pledge to do things like make it illegal for politicians to take money from lobbyists, create tax credits to encourage people to donate to political campaigns, forbid politicians from fundraising during working hours, require immediate online disclosure of contributions and many others. You can read the full list here.
“We spoke to experts who were lobbyists or who were college professors who know what has to be done to fix the system, what laws have to be passed to improve our democracy to the way our forefathers wanted democracy to be,” Czarnecki said. “Our overall goal is to reduce government corruption.”
Among the hundreds of people running for state office, only 82 have signed the pledge. Locally, the three incumbents who signed the pledge are state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., and Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp. The non-incumbents include John Jay Sweeney, a Green seeking the 20th Senate District seat that Republican Sen. Lisa Baker holds; Rebecca Kinney, a Democrat seeking the 111th House District seat that Republican Rep. Jonathan Fritz holds; and Lou Jasikoff, a Libertarian seeking the 117th state House District seat that Republican Rep. Karen Boback holds.
Incredibly, that’s it.
“That’s sad, that’s really sad,” he said. “Everybody received the request, usually to their home and to their office.”
Think about a local state or federal legislator and he or she is probably not on the list.
“They don’t want to change it, that’s the way it is,” Czarnecki said.
In the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump got a lot of votes from people who felt angry about politicians ignoring them for too long.
Anger is one thing, passing laws that make a difference is another.
If you’re angry, call your local legislators, pressure them to sign the pledge and make them them pay if they don’t listen.
That’s as democratic as America gets.