On one of my first nights as a representative in DC, I was invited to dinner with some freshmen colleagues. I thought it was going to be a chance to talk about the issues we care about — healthcare, jobs, education. Instead, it was a room full of lobbyists with very different priorities, the priorities of their wealthy clients.
That room is how Washington has worked for far too long — the voices of everyday Americans being drowned out by the voices of the wealthy corporations who can buy access. If we actually want to bring drug prices down or bring paychecks up, then we have to change rooms like this into town halls and open office hours with our constituents.
It’s time for a change, and I’ve decided to lead by example. From the start, I’ve never accepted corporate PAC money — and because of that, I can spend my time listening to who really matters: our families in the Central Valley. Because I don’t rely on corporate PAC money, I can lead the fight against the system that keeps them in power.
I don’t think this should be a voluntary move; we have to change the rules of the game for all elected officials. Last week, we took a bold step toward making that a reality.
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On Friday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the most sweeping piece of anti-corruption legislation since Watergate.
I am proud that this bill contains an important amendment I wrote to directly combat that room full of lobbyists — it says that if you are a lobbyist you must disclose to any elected official or staff member who you are and who you are paid to actually work for. It’s common sense.
I’ve also decided to do something completely new. I am opening up one of the most important but least transparent processes in DC — the appropriations process. Billions of dollars are appropriated each year to programs that directly affect our lives, but you know who has the largest say in where the money goes? Lobbyists. The process is done behind closed doors in rooms like the one I described. That’s not what my office is going to do. If you have ideas on where I should be advocating we spend money, you can go right to my website at harder.house.gov/appropriations-requests and let me know.
If we want to make real change to help our families, if we want to make sure the Central Valley gets our fair shot, we have to start by changing the corruption in DC. I’m ready to do my part, and I hope you’ll join me.
Josh Harder, D-Turlock, represents the 10th District in the US House of Representatives.