Editor’s note: Sen. Michael Bennet’s campaign responded after the original version of this story posted at 11:24 a.m. Wednesday. That response has been now been included.
DENVER – Standing on the capitol steps Monday, former Colorado state Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff said he was lonely as he became the sole signer in the Colorado U.S. Senate race of Moveon.org’s The Other 98-percent Pledge.
The pledge formally obligates him to work to overturn the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling, support the Fair Elections Now Act and push a lobbyist reform bill through if elected. Romanoff said that if his opponents want to fight corruption in Washington, they too should sign on to the pledge and drop corporate donations.
“It is a little lonely … to be the only candidate apparently in the race for U.S. Senate in Colorado and one of the very few in the country who believes that people ought to govern a democracy,” Romanoff said. “The government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Not a government of Aetna, by Exxon, for Goldman Sachs.”
If legislation from the 98-percent Pledge was all passed, corporations would end corporate person-hood, small candidates would be able to be publicly funded for elections, lobbyists would no longer be able to provide gifts or trips to elected officials, and congressional delegates would be unable to lobby for five years after stepping down from office.
Romanoff said that it was going to take not just his own campaign but a movement in the country to bring back the power of the people. And he noted that without fundamental change to campaign financing, politics will continue to be influenced in a way that crowds out the American voter and puts corporate interests ahead of human ones.
Sen. Michael Bennet is co-sponsoring legislation that would curtail the Citizens United ruling by keeping foreign companies out of the election process, prevent government contractors and TARP recipients from “us[ing] big money to influence our elections,” require corporate CEOs to stand by their advertisements, and ensure timely reporting of campaign finance disclosures, among other things.
Pointing to the Senate banking committee as a “wholly owned subsidiary,” Romanoff said the banking industry destroyed consideration of the Glass-Steagall law and convinced Congress that they were too big to fail. Meanwhile, other lobbyists worked equally as hard to remove the public option and a single-payer system from consideration.
“You can certainly see [corporate influence] now in the most important debate the Senate is not having – the debate over revolutionizing our addiction to fossil fuels and accelerating our transition to a new, cleaner energy economy.”
Romanoff called on his primary opponent, Sen. Michael Bennet, to both sign on to the pledge and to work on a bill that failed in the Senate that would have removed $35 billion of tax breaks for oil and gas companies and re-focused those funds on reducing the deficit and investing in energy efficiency and energy conservation.
Both Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall said the Bernie Sanders-sponsored bill was one which had good intentions but would have negatively effected smaller oil and gas companies in the state.
Romanoff, however, said that he did not buy into their reasoning. He pointed to a New York Times op-ed that cited a U.S. Treasury analysis that showed removing those tax breaks and exemptions would reduce production in the U.S. by 1 percent and a separate study conducted by Congress’s Joint Economic Committee that showed ending the biggest deductions would have little or no effect on the price to consumers.
“My opponent is running ads on TV funded in part by BP and other oil companies. He is one of the top recipients of big oil money in the U.S. Congress – actually number two among Senate Democrats on the ballot this year – behind Blanche Lincoln,” Romanoff told the Colorado Independent.
“So when you run ads on TV bragging about having taken on big oil, it is a little hard to separate fact from fiction. If Sen. Bennet shares my desire to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate our transition to the new energy economy, then he ought to introduce legislation on the amendment that he voted against that was inadequate and he has a chance, and I will too next year, to do something about it.”
According to OpenSecrets.org, Bennet, along with Udall and four other senators, have each received $1,000 from British Petroleum. Lincoln, D-Ark., received $4,000 in campaign donations, while Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who announced he would not be running for reelection, received $2,000.
Bennet’s campaign was unaware of the 98-percent Pledge when contacted Tuesday and did not respond directly when asked about it. However, Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid Wednesday told the Colorado Independent that the senator donated BP’s campaign contribution to charity a few weeks ago. He went on to note that Bennet is not among the top 20 members of congress to receive money from the oil and gas industry, and said he is the 20th amongst sitting senators, with 10 receiving more money that Bennet.
Kincaid added that Romanoff also has taken oil and gas money before pledging not to take on PAC dollars. He said that while in the Colorado House Romanoff received money from oil and gas PACs as well.