LANSING – Today the Midwest Democracy Network (MDN) – a nonpartisan alliance of 20 civic and public interest groups from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin – released former U.S. Senator John Edwards’ and U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s full and unedited responses to a detailed questionnaire on federal political and government reform issues. The questionnaire, sent to all the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates on September 11, covers campaign finance, government ethics, communications policy, election laws, voting rights, and congressional redistricting.
“Voters deserve to know where candidates for our nation’s highest office stand on issues fundamental to the health of our democracy,” said John Chamberlin, chairman of Common Cause in Michigan. “The nation’s political system has suffered repeated shocks in recent years. We’ve seen serious breakdowns in election administration, an upsurge in government secrecy, a succession of high profile political scandals, partisan mid-decade congressional redistricting, and brazen violations of campaign finance laws. The 2006 election results and opinion polls since then have consistently shown that Americans are fed up with politics-as-usual and yearn for competent, fair and honest government. But getting there will not be easy, and without presidential leadership it may not happen at all.”
“Senators Edwards and Obama are to be commended for laying out their visions and specific proposals for strengthening the nation’s political system,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “We are disappointed that the other candidates did not choose to do the same, and the American people have every right to feel let down. During the remaining weeks before the 2008 caucuses and primary elections,” Robinson added, “we hope voters everywhere—Republicans, Democrats and Independents—will continue to press all the candidates to explain how they would clean up our politics and reinforce our democracy.”
“The MDN questionnaire represents the most ambitious effort this year by the nation’s civic community to provide the presidential candidates with a forum for discussing political reform,” said Patricia Donath of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. Although the Network and its affiliates focus primarily on state governance issues, federal laws and regulations – such as the Voting Rights Act, the Federal Election Campaign Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the more recent Help America Vote Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act – have and will continue to affect both the substance and implementation of state laws. “And for that reason,” according to Donath, “we believe it is essential that the presidential candidates reveal their positions on issues that are likely to influence the shape of political reform at the state level in the future.”
“All the presidential candidates deserve credit this year for laying out their views on many issues of concern to voters,” said Robinson. “There is no question that all of us have benefited from this year’s debates over the Iraq War, immigration policy, health care, education, homeland security, and the economy. But a serious debate about effective and practical ways of ensuring the health of our own democracy has not yet gotten underway. Senators Edwards and Obama have now provided all the contenders with an opening. So let the debate begin.”
The full questionnaire, background materials and additional information on the Midwest Democracy Network can be found at http://www.midwestdemocracynetwork.org
ILLINOIS: Illinois Campaign for Political Reform* Sunshine Project* Illinois PIRG* Common Cause Illinois* Citizen Advocacy Center* League of Women Voters of Illinois* Better Government Association* Protestants for the Common Good MICHIGAN: Michigan Campaign Finance Network* Common Cause Michigan* League of Women Voters of Michigan MINNESOTA: TakeAction Minnesota* League of Women Voters of Minnesota* Minnesota Council of Nonprofits OHIO: Ohio Citizen Action* League of Women Voters of Ohio* Common Cause Ohio WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign* League of Women Voters of Wisconsin* Common Cause Wisconsin