Monday, July 30, 2007

"Obama touts himself as reformer"

Des Moines Register:
Cedar Rapids -- Barack Obama wants to be known as the president of political reform, he told a crowd of about 600 people here Monday.

Specifically, the U.S. senator from Illinois took another swing at political action committees and lobbyists who he says have derailed America˙s politics.
One example Obama used is the $1.1 billion in farm subsidies to 172,801 dead people given to people by the federal government between 1999 and 2005, according to a federal report released this month.

"That˙s a problem when your tax dollars are going to dead people," Obama said to the cheering at Roosevelt Middle School. "That˙s not just crazy, it˙s wrong."

Obama told the crowd that, as president, he would be like Theodore Roosevelt, in which the school is named for. Roosevelt, more than 100 years ago, helped break apart powerful monopolies "to give the American people a shot at the American dream," Obama said.

Obama emphasized his plan for healthcare, ending the war in Iraq and improving education, which he said can be more easily accomplished with campaign reforms, making "The White House the people˙s house."

"That's the reason I've offered the most far-reaching ethics and lobbying reform plan of any candidate in this race right now," Obama said.

Lobbyists are important in that they advocate and speak for, sometimes, hundreds of thousands of people, said Brian Pallasch, the president of the All American League of Lobbyists, based in Alexandria, Va. He cautioned against candidates or people stereotyping the profession and dismissing the good they do and have done for the country.

"The reality is, professional lobbyists, are pledged to abide by their code of ethics and we feel strongly that the lobbying profession provides a vital role in democracy," Pallasch said.

Obama does not accept campaign contributions from political action committees or federal lobbyists. Even so, his campaign reported raising at least $31 million between April and June for the general election, roughly $10 million more than national Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

"We don't take PAC money, we don't take money from federally registered lobbyists and you know what? It turns out the American people will lift you up when you do the right thing. We've raised some money," Obama said.

Obama said, as president, he would forbid anyone from his administration to lobby his administration after they leave the White House. He also vowed to end no-bid contracts and make ways for federal government to be more transparent.

Obama noted his work in Illinois, where he helped shape campaign finance laws that had previously allowed politicians to use campaign accounts for personal use.

Cedar Rapids resident Brad Kiburz asked Obama what would prevent him from becoming just like many other politicians, who make promises but are changed by Washington, D.C., politics.

Obama responded by reiterating key points in his speech. He also took aim at criticism that he is inexperienced, telling the crowd that "what Washington oftentimes means as experience is simply reciting the convention wisdom that's developed in Washington, even if it doesn't work," and that he is a candidate for change.

Kiburz, after the meeting, said he was a Republican until about four months ago. He now considers himself an independent voter.

"I listen to all the candidates and the more I hear him speak I see him being a real genuine, honest person who is trying to make positive change for his country," Kiburz said.



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