When I first met Richard Painter some months ago, I thought he must be the loneliest man in the Republican Party. He’s a conservative, and, of course, I’m not. But he believes, as I do, that there’s too much money in politics.
Political insiders know Richard Painter well as President George W. Bush’s White House counselor and chief ethical advisor. He’s now teaching law at the University of Minnesota, and he’s causing heads to turn with a book advocating that we reduce the power of big money in politics. Its title is Taxation Only With Representation: The Conservative Conscience and Campaign Finance Reform. There’s a lot to learn from it, and I urge you to read it, because it is rare today to find a conservative who will admit, as Mr. Painter does, that money corrupts politics, and then makes his case with so much passion and logic.
His book is also timely because the issue has reached a boiling point this year. Thousands of people descended on Washington just last week in a movement they call Democracy Spring, deliberately getting arrested to protest on behalf of cleaner politics and a government liberated from Big Money. Every poll I’ve consulted reveals a deep and substantial support in this country for those objectives. Most Americans agree that rich people should be able to buy more houses than anyone else, buy more cars and more clothes and more gizmos, even take more vacations than any one else — but they don’t think rich people should be able to buy more democracy than anyone else. Richard Painter joins me now to talk about how to rein in the power of big money in politics so that we are indeed, as his book suggests, government of, by and for the people.
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