Yesterday, long-time incumbent Rep. Bob Ney announced he wasn’t going to run for reelection after all. The results of his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff finally registered on the political Richter scale (e.g. his polls) and he withdrew. (And maybe there are some other reasons too.)
It wasn’t any great surprise to me, though it did take a little longer than I thought. I really believe that information is power and, as important, that as soon as people are armed with the data that it can have consequences. In short, give people the facts and let them decide. The notion that citizens could care less when it comes to political scandal is a myth perpetuated by Washington insiders. I just can’t help but feel a little bit gleeful to see another member of Congress (think former Rep. Tom DeLay) finally see the handwriting on the wall. (Though it would be better for them to see it on the Internet in the form of searchable databases.)
In June of last year the Institute for America’s Future (I was Deputy Director of IAF at the time) and Public Campaign Action Fund (I founded that organization in 1997) decided to make sure that a number of members of Congress felt the heat at home for what they do here in DC. In Ney’s district we ran print ads, then TV ads, and even mounted a billboard along a freeway in the heart of his district to talk about the ethical challenges and charges he was facing here. We got lots of attention from the local press. There’s no way a citizen in Ney’s district missed the stories of what he was doing in Washington.
So I want to declare victory on the part of the people. America is a stronger place when citizens use information to tell their representatives what they like and what they don’t — we have a stronger democracy when information gives people the ammunition they need so they can speak truth to power.