The line of the press conference? I didn't have to fly in from New York to save the middle class.
Barkley Unveils 'Voter Empowerment' Campaign Finance, Ethics Reform Proposal
Big Interests Expect 'Something in Return' for Their Contributions
For Immediate Release
Contact: Christopher Truscott
ST. PAUL (Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008)—Dean Barkley, the Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, unveiled a new plan today to make elections funding more transparent and reduce the influence of special interest groups.
Dubbed the "Voter Empowerment Act," Barkley's plan would bar incumbent representatives and senators from taking money from industries they regulate and would give each registered voter a $100 voucher to be put toward the federal candidate(s) of his/her choosing.
"Political contributions can represent a huge conflict of interest for elected officials," Barkley said at a press conference at the State Capitol. "My goal is to simply remove this conflict by returning the power directly to the people."
Barkley, who served in the Senate following the death of Paul Wellstone in 2002, acknowledged his plan won't initially win him a lot of new friends on Capitol Hill.
"It's more important to do the right thing," Barkley said. "I don't imagine Amy Klobuchar was the most popular person in the Senate for introducing legislation to ban privately funded travel, but it's time for us to get our priorities in order. That's what I've been hearing over and over from people across the state."
Special interest contributions come at a high cost to American taxpayers. The recent Wall Street bailout, with a price tag of $700 billion, came after a decade in which both parties failed to exercise responsible oversight.
Finance, insurance, and real estate employees and political action committees have contributed more than $241 million to House and Senate candidates in this election cycle, including more than $180 million to incumbents.
"This is exactly why the American people don't trust Congress," Barkley said. "These groups don't just give money out of the goodness of their hearts; they expect something in return."
In the Minnesota Senate race, Norm Coleman has received $3 million from finance, insurance, and real estate interests and Al Franken has taken in $473,000 from these groups.
"These large contributions send the wrong message to voters," Barkley said. "How can we trust these guys to provide effective oversight when they are being funded by the very industries they are supposed to regulate? We must do better than that if we're going to restore people's confidence in government."
 Opensecrets.org (Finance/Insurance/Real Estate: Money to Congress page): http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2008&ind=F
 Opensecrets.org (Contributions by Industry page): http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cid=N00013870&cycle=2008 Note: Includes PAC and individual contributions.
 Opensecrets.org (Contributions by Industry page): http://www.opensecrets.org/races/indus.php?cycle=2008&id=MNS1