Is Carly Fiorina a champion of campaign finance reform?

Matt Nosco on April 23, 2015
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will be throwing her name in the Presidential hopeful ring in the coming weeks. When I asked her about the excessive corporate influence from Pentagon contractors like Northrop Grumman in the political system during her rally in Ames, she responded, "Here's my formula: Either everyone gets to play or no one gets to play."

Carly Fiorina is one of the many GOP candidates hanging in the ‘probably running but not yet announced’ field.  That status will soon change, as she disclosed to a group of Story County residents at her April 23rd appearance in the Ames’ Pizza Ranch.  The former Hewlett-Packard CEO told the attendees that she will be making her candidacy official in the coming weeks, a decision which will bring her a new level of scrutiny as the public demands answers.

Having attended the Story County Republican hosted event, I was curious to know more about Fiorina’s stances on campaign finance and its potential reform.  Her only other run at office, an unsuccessful bid in 2010 for a United States Senate seat in California, was largely self-funded to the tune of a $5.5 million donation as well as an additional $1 million loan to her campaign which ended up raising $22 million in total.  The remainder of her campaign funds came from a wide range of industries, although there was strong representation from the financial and tech sectors.

During her opening address to the group, Fiorina spent a significant amount of time focusing on foreign policy, specifically in Iran and the Middle East.  She advocated for further armament of our potential allies in the region, saying that although we don’t have to fight the wars for ourselves that we have a moral obligation to put American weapons into the hands of those who would stand with us.

At the end of the day, that means investing U.S. taxpayers’ money into proxy wars in another part of the world, a stance with many externalized costs beyond the substantial bill we’d foot.  It’s also a stance that the military industrial complex is highly invested in, with campaign contributions totaling well more than $20 million in each election cycle since 2008.

Taking into account her hawkish foreign policy views, a number of comments she had made about cronyism in the political system, and my interest in her take on campaign finance, I asked her this:

 

Me: Thank you for joining us today. You continue to speak out about corporate cronyism. My question for you is with Pentagon contractors like Northrop Grumman continually using their money and influence in our political system, throwing it around, and dictating what happens oftentimes at the expense of the American taxpayer, what will you do to return the power to us, and the voice to us, we the people?

Ms. Fiorina: You know it’s so interesting because, and first of all that’s a great question, thank you. There’s no question that special interests of all kinds have a lot of influence in politics. What I find interesting is that every time we start talking about campaign finance reform of any kind, politicians of both parties start carving out exceptions.

[Politicians say] “Well we don’t want these people to have money in the process but these guys we’re going to grandfather.”

Let’s be honest, both sides do it. Here’s my formula here: we’ve got to have a level playing field so either everyone gets to play or nobody gets to play. You can’t say that companies don’t get to play but unions do.

You can’t say that EMILY’s list doesn’t get to play but the NRA does. I mean, both sides have done this. And so if we’re going to clean it up, and I have no problem with cleaning it up, we’ve got to clean it up for everybody so that the playing field is level.

……… (She moved away from the topic for a minute, focusing in small government and bureaucracy.)

The point is, let’s have the same rules apply to everybody, and the only way for that to be true, they’ve got to be simple so we can understand them.

 

All in all I was satisfied with her answer that she was very much open to campaign finance reform, so long as it was done equally across the board.  Although I would’ve liked to hear a stronger commitment to the issue and some concrete steps she might take were she elected President, she expressed a willingness to look at the issue that many politicians avoid altogether.

My remaining question to Ms. Fiorina would be this: What steps are YOU prepared to take to ensure that we have a more equitable political system, and that the voice of the country may return to the people rather than large corporate interests?

(Photo attributed to Gage Skidmore at 2014 CPAC)

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