From the comments I’m reading where my “Pledges: Candidate Contracts” idea has been published online, I can see there is a gross misunderstanding of what this strategy entails.
Yes, they are officially called ‘pledges’ for reasons I will get into in a minute.
And yes, they indeed are pledges. But they are not wimpy-ass pretty-please promises to try to do better. They are much more.
Much much more!
These are legally binding contracts between an individual taking public office and the class of citizens who comprise his or her constituents. As you will see in the pledge on oil industry subsidies below, there are severe repercussions if a candidate does not fulfill the requirements of the pledge.
These pledges will leave no wiggle room, no margin for error, and offer no opportunity for misunderstanding or negotiation. They bind a candidate to do what we, the majority of the voting public, want them to do.
So why would an incumbent sign such a pledge?
Frankly, I don’t expect them to. Not at first anyway.
They will refuse because this is not playing the game by their rules. We’re not allowing them to just make more empty campaign promises, then go into the legislature, ignore us __ the gullible voters who elected them __ and vote the way their big buck campaign donors tell them to.
Yes, they will refuse. And for once they’ll actually be being honest. Recall that according to the public record, when a vote came up on the same policy proposed the pledge, they voted against it. Now they are refusing to sign a very unambiguous pledge __ literally a demand __ to do what we’re electing them to do. They are being forced to come clean for once with the voting public and admit they are not willing to represent us.
Which is the point!
We’re calling their bluff.
We have put them in a position where they are refusing to commit to do something the majority of their constituents want __ protect Social Security, leave Medicare alone, end the war and bring home the troops, tax the rich, eliminate big corporate giveaways of our tax dollars in the form of unnecessary subsidies __ and putting their defiance on public display. We are letting them malign themselves!
Halleluja! Some reality into electoral politics.
Okay. We spread the word. We let the voters know where these two-faced puppets of the rich and powerful corporate elite really stand on the issues.
We take it to the media.
We take it to the streets.
We Facebook it.
We Twitter it.
Incumbent [name of toady] will not sign pledge to protect Social Security!
Senator Warmonger refuses to sign a pledge to end war in Afghanistan and immediately bring our troops home!
Congressman Warbucks refuses to sign a pledge for fair taxes on the rich!
This explains why they’re called ‘pledges’. The average voter wouldn’t know what we were talking about if we called them ‘candidate contracts’. Pledges have been in the news, from the Iowa caucuses to the notorious Grover Norquist with his paralyzing anti-tax pledge.
So . . . are we being truthful here?
We presented a pledge which actually had some teeth, the candidate refused to sign it, and now the candidate must own up to the people he wants to vote for him. Let him wiggle and do his dance with the dictionary. Let him try to explain why he won’t sign a pledge which commits him to positive, decisive action on an issue which has huge popular support.
Remember this: The candidate’s own voting record is why we’ve been forced to this brutal and desperate tactic. We’ve been forced to insult and threaten these elected officials into doing what they are supposed to be doing all along.
So be it.
If these incumbents don’t sign the pledge, they risk losing the election.
If they sign the pledge and violate its terms, they are subject to a huge cash settlement and required under further penalties to resign from office.
Are the penalties too severe? Lawsuits in the millions of dollars? Resignation from office?
I shouldn’t even have to answer these questions but I will. Frankly, I think it’s really very obvious. If a car manufacturer designs a car that injures people, they get sued. If a person does not do their job, they’re either fired or asked to resign.
I shouldn’t have to remind you of the kind of damage these legislators have caused to the lives of good people like you and I by toadying to their rich campaign donors and their country club corporate masters. Look at our economy. Look at how many young people have been buried fighting completely pointless wars. Look at the fear we all live in and look at the horrible reputation our once-great, once-respected nation has in the world. Just look at the plans they’re now drawing up to hack to pieces Social Security and put Medicare on the chopping block as well.
Moreover, I certainly shouldn’t have to point out to you that the current crop of so-called legislators aren’t doing their job. Gridlock, divisiveness, polarization, confusion, lies, lies, and more lies. This is practically all they’ve been good at over the past decade.
Severe? I don’t think so.
So let’s move on here to a simple pledge to end the oil industry subsidies, and example of corporate welfare at its worst.
This pledge should be presented to any incumbent senator running for re-election this November, who voted against cloture on March 26th on a bill to end the unnecessary gas and oil industry subsidies. A vote for cloture was a vote for eliminating the oil subsidies, because it was a vote to end the filibuster and bring it up before the full Senate to enact it into law. The 47 votes against cloture that day tossed the bill into the trashcan of history until someone else is courageous enough to introduce it again. Don’t hold your breath.
I’ve done the homework for you. Here are the senators who are running again for election who voted for continuing the giveaway of our tax dollars to oil companies that are making enormous profits right now __ literally the largest profits in recorded history:
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Scott Brown (R-MA)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Jim Webb (D-VA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Recall now that an impressive number of voter signatures will have been collected on a petition in favor of ending oil industry subsidies.
Further recall that another candidate has signed the pledge, either the incumbent’s major-party opponent, a minor-party opponent, or an independent candidate.
It’s the first week of October. Preferably in a highly public forum __ town hall meeting, campaign stump speech, photo-op, etc. __ we present the candidate the opportunity to sign the pledge . . .
Dear Mr. [name of incumbent senator]:
Find attached copies of petitions bearing the signatures of [number] registered voters in this state who have expressed their clear intentions on oil subsidies. This declaration of voter intent reads as follows:
I am a registered voter and will only vote for a candidate for public office who will end the giveaways of our tax dollars to the oil industry. If a candidate in the coming election guarantees unequivocally to end these unnecessary and wasteful subsidies, I will give that candidate my unqualified support.
The voting public both nationally and here in [name of state] has expressed its views on oil industry subsidies loud and clear. It wants them done away with immediately!
We also believe it is fair and proper to inform you that another candidate who is seeking this same office has already signed a commitment in the form of a pledge __ a duplicate of the document we are offering you here today __ to end these oil industry subsidies.
We respectfully request that you sign the following pledge so that we, your constituents should you are returned to your seat as our senator in the upcoming election, can invest our full confidence in your willingness and ability to perform the duties of that office.
I, [candidate name], if re-elected to my seat in the Senate, hereby commit to co-sponsor and vote in favor of legislation to end all existing subsidies to the oil industry, whether they be direct credits, tax incentives, tax rebates, or any form of transfer of public funds to the corporations and individuals who are involved in both the exploration for and processing of petroleum. I will offer no resistance to, put up no impediment to, and in fact will publicly and on the floor of the Senate, actively promote any and all legislation in support of this measure. If no other legislator comes forth to offer such a moratorium, I will create and introduce by my own initiative, within 90 days of taking office, such a legislative act.
I further understand and fully agree to the following: If I violate the above-stated terms of this pledge, I will tender on the 91st day after taking an oath of office for my legislative seat, my full and unqualified resignation from this elected position. Moreover, within one year of my resignation, I will refund all contributions made from individual donors in support of my candidacy for this office.
This entire pledge constitutes a legally binding contract between myself and that class of citizens who will be my constituents, should I win the upcoming election. In the event that I fail to perform any of the above-required actions, redress may be sought by those same citizens in the form of a class-action suit in a civil court of law, and I will be liable for a minimum of $10,000,000 damages for breach of contract. If I fail to resign from office due to my failure to fulfill the other requirements of this contract, I may be liable for an additional class-action settlement in the amount of $50,000,000. No portion of these specified settlements may be paid from campaign donations, PACs or SuperPACs.
I take this pledge voluntarily and with full appreciation of my responsibility to those citizens I will be representing in my capacity as elected representative from [name of state]. I accept the terms of this pledge with a thorough and lucid understanding of its requirements and consequences.
Signed: _____________________________ Date: __________________
If the candidate actually takes the time to read the entire pledge, be gracious and humble. Smile and offer him or her a pen. Maybe we’ll get lucky, eh?
Realistically that probably won’t happen. So be prepared to duck.
The more likely event is that he or she will take a swing at you.