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Joe Costello has been involved in communications, energy and political economy for three decades.  He was Communications Director for Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign and a Senior Adviser for Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. 

Here is his guest post for our ongoing series “Get Money Out.”

“Our founders’ greatest fear was the danger posed by the merger of economic and political power. Indeed, when 200 years ago Jefferson started the Democratic Party, he proclaimed its purpose thus: “We must put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labors of the many.” The calamity which our forefathers feared most has, in our time, come to pass–an unholy alliance of private greed and corrupt politics. Our deteriorating economy, our collapsing political process, and our eroding system of common values, are the direct consequences of a few allowed to satisfy their appetites for greed and privilege.

The triumph of the forces of special privilege with its devastating consequences to the entire nation, was engineered with the complicity of Washington’s entrenched politicians, Democrat and Republican alike. Our democratic system has been the object of a hostile takeover engineered by a confederacy of corruption, careerism and campaign consulting. And money has been the lubricant greasing the deal. Incredible sums–literally hundreds of millions of dollars–from political action committees (PACs), lobbyists, and wealthy patrons have flooded into the campaign war chests of Washington’s entrenched political elite–Democrats and Republicans alike.”

— California Governor Jerry Brown, 1992 Presidential Announcement

In 1992, I was Communications Director for Jerry Brown’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. We conceived the campaign as a wake-up call for the American people, a truth telling, and hopefully a vessel to be used for reform. We warned the election system was becoming swamped with money and it was beginning to tear the very fabric of self-government. Unfortunately, nothing has changed since then, except what was hundreds of millions of dollars is now billions, and the deterioration of our politics, government, and economy has become all that much worse.

Over the last few years, we have seen just how grossly distorted, corrupt, and dysfunctional our politics have become, and most importantly, the impact this has had on each and everyone of us. We’ve seen Wall Street and the banks throw hundreds of millions of dollars into the system, changing the laws to game the system so fewer could reap ever bigger profits, and when they couldn’t change the law, buying regulators to look the other way.

We’ve seen this corrupted financial system throw our economy into a vicious downward spiral, millions are thrown out of work, housing prices plummet, while the instigators — the big banks and Wall Street — walk away with billions more in bailouts.

However, it’s not just the few in finance who buy what they want in DC, it’s every industry. Oil and fossil fuels halt the future of renewables, efficiency, and better transit. Big Agriculture fights any change to a food system creating a generation of obesity. Massive new payouts to health insurance and big drug corporations are now labeled “reform.” The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan spew obscene profits for military and other corporate contractors. The list goes on and on.

We can no longer turn our heads, something must be done.

Fortunately, the solution today is the same as it was in 1992. The only way our political economy is going to be fixed is for the American people to reclaim their politics and their government, reclaim their future. We need to unite and tell the corrupt duopoly of incumbent Washington that we have for what is rightfully ours, a system of self-government bestowed to us by our ancestors and which we intend to leave to our children and their children.

We must cast aside the empty labels of Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, left and right, and discuss and act upon reforming and building a political economy for the 21st century. This is our heritage. This is our tradition.

We all must become citizens.