Author and advocate, Derek Cressman has been a voice in the campaign finance reform movement for more than 20 years. He has long supported a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and address how elections are financed. In his newly released book, When Money TalksCressman explains how our current political system is broken and what can be done to fix it.

In a recent Q&A, John Light of Moyers & Company  interviews Derek about his book and the growing awareness among Americans that money in politics is a major issue threatening our democracy.  The original article is available, here.

On Support for a Constitutional Amendment 

You’ve been a longtime supporter of the idea of a constitutional amendment to regulate money in politics. Why?

Derek Cressman: I started working on money in politics issues in 1995 in Washington, DC, and I was working with the Public Interest Research Group [PIRG] passing ballot measures to limit campaign contributions. And I was then stunned to see several courts throwing those out despite Supreme Court precedents that upheld limits on contributions. And it just became evident to me at an early time that if courts could willy-nilly disregard their own precedents and start making policy from the bench on something as fundamental as how we run our elections, then we had not just a money in politics problem but a checks and balances problem that needed to be addressed through standing up to the court through a constitutional amendment. So that’s something I’d been focused on long before Citizens United.

On Bi-Partisan Support 

In theory, this is an issue that one would expect to be more bipartisan, but in practice it seems to be one that progressive activists take up. Your book tells a number of stories of big money Republicans backed by Wall Street interests who get elected to office ignoring or not talking about issues that are important to the base. How can reformers better pitch this issue to conservative activists like tea partiers?

Derek Cressman: I think there’s a lot of evidence that conservative activists agree with progressives and independents and all across the political spectrum that money in politics is a problem. What I think has happened is that the powerful interests, corporations and billionaires, have influence in both political parties, but particularly right now the Republican politicians in Washington, DC, have chosen to ignore the wishes of their own voters on this issue. And that’s a solution that Republican voters need to take up with their own candidates. That’s not a solution that reformers are going to be able to make come about, it falls to the voters themselves.

It seems we’re seeing some of that in this election.

Derek Cressman: Well, we’re certainly seeing signs of it. I think Donald Trump’s tapping into a lot of different anger out there in the electorate but part of that anger is aimed at a Washington establishment that voters on both sides of the aisle think is out of touch with ordinary people, and the reason it’s out of touch is that politicians spend most of their time talking to wealthy people asking them for money or talking to the lobbyists that wealthy people have hired. So of course they’re out of touch, and I think that’s fueling anger on both sides of the aisle in the presidential race. And look at what happened to Eric Cantor, a big money, powerful politician unseated by angry activists within his own party. I think we’ll continue to see more of that on both the Democratic and Republican sides and that’s what needs to happen.