Congressional candidate Randy Yale is telling Democratic town committees across the sprawling Fifth District that, if elected, he won’t be influenced by the money circulating through Washington.
He has pledged that neither he nor any of his staff members would work as a lobbyist for at least five years after leaving office unless it was for an education or non-profit organization.
Yale, who moved to Cheshire six years ago, said that OpenSecrets.org has reported that, “60 percent of those who left Congress in 2011 either went to a lobby firm, became a lobbyist or worked for a PAC.”
“We have to convince people that it’s about representing them and not about making millions of dollars for yourself,” he told the Woodbury Democratic town committee last week.
Yale said one recent poll reported that, “53 percent of the people said they didn’t feel they would be represented in the next Congress. When 53 percent of the people say it doesn’t matter who gets elected, something is terribly wrong.”
“Until we stop the revolving door, the 53 percent is going to become, 55, 58 and then 60 percent,” he said. “People are going to feel they have no representation.”
Yale, who works as a commercial insurance underwriter, also has told about 30 Democratic Town Committees in the congressional district, which stretches through the western part of the state, that any campaign contributor that gives him more than $100 must agree not to contact him regarding any legislation that they have a direct financial interest in.
“If someone gives $1,000 to your campaign, they’re making an investment, they’re not making a contribution,” he said.
“I don’t know of anybody else in the country that has done this,” Yale said regarding his two pledges.
“Think of the power if every Democrat said, ‘Congress is not for sale,’ ” he said. “If we start doing this, we will win every election that is close.”
“I liked his message that, ‘You can’t buy me.’ ” Richard Snider, a Woodbury Democratic Town Committee member, said. “I think money is a real serious issue in Washington. “I think [congressmen] will not think about their constituents when they’re concerned with their careers.”
“I think he could be an excellent congressman,” he said. “He has my support.”
Robert Marconi of Brookfield, who was briefly the Democratic nominee in the Fifth District in 2004, said in a phone interview that he likes “the spirit of what Yale is doing,” but questions how “practical his pledge is.”
“I think it is difficult when you bring in staff members and say they won’t be able to work for lobbyists and try to make sure that actually happens when they have a right to earn a good living,” he said.
“You also could have a problem with having campaign contributors pledge not to lobby you when they have a financial interest in legislation,” Marconi, who is a state assistant attorney general, added. “Someone could give him a $200 contribution and then a year later has a new financial interest in a project that would benefit the district. Under this pledge, it would take away their constitutional right to lobby their congressman.”
Yale, who is chairman of the Cheshire Environment Commission, is running for the Democratic nomination against public relations consultant Dan Roberti of Kent, state House Speaker Chris Donovan of Meriden and former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire. Wesleyan professor Mike Williams withdrew from the race last October.
The seat is being vacated by three-term U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, who is running for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate.
Yale’s only other run for elective office came 24 years ago when he unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in North Carolina.
He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina State and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Duke.
Yale said he will not even seek campaign contributions until he is on the primary ballot. He said he used his own money to pay for his website.
He has told Democratic town committees that he doesn’t have the resources to collect petition signatures from the two percent of the registered Democrats in the district that would be needed to run in the Aug. 14 primary if he fails to take at least 15 percent of the delegates at the May 14 convention to qualify for the ballot.
Instead, Yale is focused solely on the delegates to the convention. But thus far, none of the 41 Democratic town committees has stepped forward.
“I think a lot of people are saying, ‘Yes, Randy, you’re right, but we have better candidates.’ ” Yale said.
“I think the problem is that I don’t think anyone wants to go first,” he said. “I think the fear is that no town committee wants to be the only one,” he said. “I need somebody to go first.” “
“I like his message very message very much,” Lesa Peters, chairman of the Woodbury Democratic Town Committee, said.
However, she said that she also has “mixed feelings” about his pledge on campaign contributors’ influence since it would probably leave him with less money for advertising.
“We all know that without money it’s very difficult to run,” Peters said. “That’s reality.”
She said the Woodbury Democratic Town Committee plans to discuss the merits of each candidate at its May meeting and decide which of them will get their delegates’ support at the convention.
“When Randy spoke to us, I think the Brookfield Democratic Town Committee members were receptive to his message, but recognize that you need money to win a primary and then take the fight to the Republicans,” Marconi said.
“I think there isn’t a lot of difference between the Democratic candidates in the Fifth District on the economic and social issues that are going to be prominently discussed in the campaign,” he said. “So, for us, it mostly comes down to who has the experience, the electability and the organization to keep this as a Democratic seat.”
“When you say, ‘Yes, and,’ instead of, ‘Yes, but,’ everything changes,” Yale said regarding his pledge.
He said five years ago “a lot of people questioned whether Barack Obama was a serious candidate for president. Instead of saying ‘Yes, but,’ we said, “Yes we can.’ ”
On other issues, Yale, who was unemployed for about two months last year, said he has been disappointed with Washington’s response to the economic recession.
“It amazed me that we weren’t talking more about unemployment,” he said in an interview. “I just couldn’t imagine that representatives weren’t doing more to help. I was surprised that we were already pivoting toward the deficit.”
Yale said the federal government should continue to provide economic stimulus until the national unemployment rate declines from the current 8.3 percent to 6.5 percent.
He said when former President Franklin Roosevelt interrupted the stimulus in 1937 during the Great Depression, the economy began to stagnate.
Yale said, for example, federal grants to homeowners making energy-efficient improvements to their homes would provide jobs for construction workers and address the increase in greenhouse emissions.
He said the stimulus that Obama signed three years ago “should have been larger than” than $787 billion. He said $1.2 or $1.3 trillion may have helped more.
He praised Obama and congressional Democrats for seeking health care reform immediately after approving the stimulus.
“I think health care reform is the thing that will help us with the deficit,” Yale said.
He said he although the plan doesn’t have a public option, it might be added later.
“There is a historical precedent for this, which is Social Security,” Yale said.” It was only to cover a certain amount of folks and they kept expanding it.”
“I think that’s going to happen with health care reform, as people see their successes, it will be expanded,” he said. “It may not become a public option, but it will be closer to the public option.”