Op-Eds

Voting on side of Central Virginians—not special interests—never a difficult decision

Washington, March 9, 2019
Tags: H.R. 1

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER

As I campaigned across Central Virginia last year, I met constituents who readily shared their concerns with me. They spoke of issues as varied as the cost of prescription drugs to the lack of rural infrastructure to the impact of climate change. They spoke of a desire to see Congress work to solve problems for the people, and yet far too many also expressed a resignation that Congress wouldn’t serve their interests or solve any real problems.

Constituents wondered out loud whether corporate dollars or special interests, rather than the needs of the American people, were driving policies. What else explained Congress’ inaction as prescription drug prices escalated? What else could keep Congress from taking up a bipartisan background check bill that languished in committee, though the vast majority of citizens, most gun owners, and a substantial number of law enforcement officers supported it? What else could explain a tax bill that exploded the nation’s deficit, while giving record tax breaks to corporations, including more than $42 billion in savings to the five largest pharmaceutical companies?

These misplaced priorities and motivations, real or perceived, shake the faith that so many constituents have in our system of government—and it is up to us, members of Congress, to change it.

The U.S. House just passed a major reform package to begin this process. HR 1 would require greater disclosures of campaign funding, prohibit foreign money from flowing into our elections, allow the American people to know who is trying to influence them, break down unnecessary barriers that keep our citizens from the ballot box, and require the highest standards of ethics from members of Congress.

I cosponsored this legislation during my first week in office, because Congress needs to show our commitment to accountability through actions, not just campaign promises.

HR 1, the For the People Act of 2019, would help end the reign of special interest money in American politics by requiring mega-donors to properly disclose their donations and by expanding online political ad disclosure. Our legislation would also slow the revolving door between Capitol Hill and corporations, and members of Congress would be barred from serving on corporate boards following their public service.

Our legislation would also endeavor to safeguard our elections from foreign influence or attack. To this end, I introduced and led an amendment that would address the threat of possible foreign cyber attacks against our elections by requiring the director of national intelligence to assess and identify potential threats to state voting systems.

My bipartisan amendment would permit states to mitigate these threats in advance of general elections. The integrity and security of our elections—the bedrock of our democracy—should never be a partisan issue, and I was pleased to see my amendment pass.

In passing this legislation, we are one step closer to limiting the influence of special interests, making it easier for citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and restoring a higher standard of ethics and transparency across our federal government.

Public servants should be focused on serving the public—not any special interest group, and good governance should be an expectation—not an exception.

As the U.S. representative for Virginia’s 7th District, I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents. I’m proud to have helped introduce, amend, and pass HR 1—and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.