During his latest trip to Iowa, Beto O’Rourke emphasized how the federal government should redirect its focus to the needs of individual Americans.
On the trip, the former Texas congressman pointed out failings like the country’s lack of gun control and the unchecked spread of the opioid epidemic. He also noted the through line between America’s varying issues: special interest groups.
Lobbying, Special Interest Influence
When he visited the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition in Cedar Rapids, a group working to help Iowans with drug addictions, O’Rourke acknowledged how pharmaceutical lobbyists helped fuel the drug crisis in America.
“Why have we not taken action as a country against these pharmaceutical corporations, despite the hundreds of thousands who have died as a result of their marketing and their failure to disclose the consequences of opioid use?” he asked.
O’Rourke connected that to the broader influence interest groups enjoy in the federal government.
“They’re able to purchase access and influence and, increasingly, outcomes, when it comes to public policy and legislation and our elections,” he said.
As president, O’Rourke said he would champion policies preventing federal officeholders and candidates from taking money from special interests. He said it was crucial to achieving any of the policy goals presidential candidates discuss in an effort to make a better nation for its people.
“It is only then that there is something approaching a level playing field and where the average American has a true voice in their government,” O’Rourke said.
The Commitment And The Field
The Democratic primary field is full of promises to avoid or reject special interest lobbying groups, Political Action Committees and big money donors.
Many candidates also have addressed how those groups influence politics in Washington, D.C. Anti-corruption plans are common, too.
Since he announced his candidacy in March, O’Rourke has been one of the candidates to take the anti-PAC pledge.
Shortly after he launched his campaign, when confronted at an event in New Hampshire about receiving money from coal lobbyists, O’Rourke said he would return the check his campaign received.
During his trip to Iowa, the former representative repeated that commitment.
“I’m not gonna take any PAC money at all because I don’t want there to be any real or perceived conflict of interest or conflict in what my focus and priorities are,” O’Rourke said. “They’re going to be with people in meetings just like this one or at Cornell College.”
During his event in Mount Vernon, O’Rourke gave some remarks before answering questions from the audience. After the event, he spent time taking pictures and talking to people one-on-one.
Beyond Dark Money
O’Rourke wants to look for Supreme Court justices who support every American’s civil rights regardless of race, gender identity, sex or sexual orientation. That criteria includes support for Roe v. Wade, he said, and guarding against corporations influencing the government.
“We want to make sure that we have the best possible jurists serving on the Supreme Court,” he said. “I think it might be nice to look outside of the usual places to find those people and to make sure that the court looks like America and represents the lived experiences of our fellow Americans.”
Because of how much a Supreme Court decision can matter, O’Rourke said he’s taking that question seriously.
“They have the most consequential decisions, not just in this generation, but every generation that follows, coming up before them,” he said. “So, this election matters that much more.”
In light of concerns the government’s priorities have shifted away from everyday Americans during the Trump Administration, O’Rourke said there’s a clear path forward.
“I think that if we’re going to get our democracy back, we have to be very clear that it has to be returned to the people.”
By Nikoel Hytrek