Former Rep. Pat Schroeder and Amy McGrath agree on the one thing that must change in politics
Former Rep. Pat Schroeder, who served in the House for 24 years before retiring in 1997, is fed up with one aspect of politics today: the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allowing corporations and labor unions and other associations to make independent expenditures advocating for or against a political candidate on the basis of free speech.
"Not that I have anything against millionaires, but it's become a hobby for millionaires now because they can self-fund. Someone else has to go out with their tin can," she said at the 2018 MAKERS Conference. "When I finally stopped running, I remember my brother being so excited he could come to my birthday without paying."
Amy McGrath, Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, agreed with Schroeder, arguing that the post-Citizens United is "absolutely corrupting our democracy."
"You can literally buy elections if you're on the side that agrees with special interests, and it's really sad," she said. "And so today, we have to have leaders that one, believe this is a public service again, and two, campaign on the backs of actual people."
McGrath's emphasis on public service doesn't ring hollow. She served for 20 years in Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, during which she flew 89 combat missions bombing al Qaeda and the Taliban. She was also the first female marine to fly a F/A-18 on a combat mission. And it was actually Schroeder's work in repealing the ban on women in combat in the early 1990s that allowed her serve her country.
Now seeking to represent her home district in the House, McGrath recently went viral for her campaign ad, "Told Me," highlighting her defeating the odds to pursue a military career unheard of for a woman at the time -- and put both fellow Kentuckyan Sen. Mitch McConnell and incumbent Rep. Andy Barr on blast for taking health care away from Kentuckyans. Health care, she said at the conference, is the No. 1 issue in her district.
"This is my new mission. To take on a Congress full of career politicians who treat the people of Kentucky like they're disposable. Some are telling me that a Democrat can't win that battle in Kentucky. That we can't take back our country for my kids and yours. We'll see about that," she said in her ad.
Part of McGrath's idea of "taking back our country" includes more women and veterans in office. Veterans, she told NPR, "really put the country first" through sacrifice and knowing "how to get a mission done." Women also play an integral role in politics, especially given recent high-profile sexual misconduct scandals.
"The culture does not change until women rise in the ranks whether it's in the military, or whether it's in a company, into positions where they're respected peers or positions of power," she said.
"The key is to be someone who isn't afraid to stand up, and I know that's hard. I've been in squadrants of all men when I was a young officer, and I did not have the ability -- I did not feel like I had the ability -- to stand up when I should have."
Today, don't be surprised to see McGrath continue to "stand up" to the status quo, whether it be Citizens United, health care or more career politicians.
Learn more about Amy McGrath, her combat background and her campaign in Kentucky: