Barkley introduces Voter Empowerment Act

Minnesota Senate candidate Dean Barkley wants to give registered voters $100. At a Wednesday press conference, Barkley, the former senator who Gov. Jesse Ventura tapped to replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, announced his two-part Voter Empowerment Act. The plan, which Barkley called a âÄúclean money optionâÄù would prohibit incumbent state legislators from taking money from industries they regulate, and would give each registered voter a $100 voucher to put toward the candidate of their choosing. With the nearly 700,000 registered voters in the state, Barkley said nearly $70 million would be available for distribution, a high enough number for a candidate to compete in the political arena. The new ethics rule would prohibit a company from giving money to a senator sitting on a committee that regulates their industry. Barkley said offering gifts, travel and dinners have already been banned for candidates. Allowing committees to fund candidates who sit on the committee is a direct conflict of interest, Barkley said. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., currently sits on committees for small business, foreign relations and government reform, among others. Mark Drake, a spokesman for ColemanâÄôs campaign, said in difficult economic times, BarkleyâÄôs plan isnâÄôt in the best interest of citizens. âÄúThe last thing we should be doing is telling the taxpayers they should pay for politicians to run negative attack ads,âÄù Drake said. It would cost $5 billion to $7 billion to set up the voucher system, Drake said, and with 435 congressional districts in the country, it isnâÄôt the best option. âÄúBusinesses that operate lawfully and follow the rulesâÄù should be able to give candidates money, Drake said. Democratic Senate candidate Al FrankenâÄôs campaign aid Andy Barr said Franken has supported public financing and would most likely support BarkleyâÄôs idea. âÄúAl has long believed that we need fundamental change in the way that Washington works,âÄù Barr said. âÄúFor years heâÄôs supported public financing of congressional elections.âÄù According to new Quinnipiac University poll numbers released Tuesday, Franken, with 38 percent of the vote, holds a slight lead over Coleman, with 36 percent, and Barkley at 18 percent. The poll has a 3.1 percent margin of error, however, putting Franken and Coleman in a statistical dead heat. MinnesotaâÄôs Independence Party is scheduled to announce which presidential candidate they will support at an endorsing convention Oct. 25th, but Barkley said he wonâÄôt be attending the convention. He said he probably wonâÄôt know who heâÄôs voting for until he steps into the voting booth. âÄúThe party can do what they want,âÄù Barkley said. âÄúIâÄôm not going to take a day out of my time to go to a convention to endorse a presidential candidate. I donâÄôt have time for it,âÄù he said. A debate between the three senate candidates is scheduled for this evening at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.