The Consumerist Interviews Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Presidential Candidate

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is making another run at the Presidency, after a heavily criticized run the Democratic nomination last time, where he was written off as “a Howard Dean without the poll numbers,” whatever that means. Now, he faces a primary in his home state by another Progressive politician upset with Kucinich’s absences from their Ohio district.

We caught up with “The Kuch,” as John Edwards has been known to call him affectionately, after he taped “Late Show with David Letterman” on Monday, although it was hard to think with his 29-year-old statuesque redheaded English wife standing heroically beside him…

CONSUMERIST: Is credit card industry reform doable in a Kucinich first term?

KUCINICH: It has to be… because what’s happening is people are already maxed out on their credit cards. Many people are going into bankruptcy, not being able to afford [to pay their debts.] I think there has to be a restructuring of the bankruptcy laws… and also, raising some questions about raising the limits on interest… because there are some real problems with luxurious interest rates…


and, of course, that’s going to have an effect on our monetary policy. So, we’re going to have to look at our monetary policy as it relates to credit… serious issue… and I intend to do that.

CONSUMERIST: Speaking of bankruptcy. The bankruptcy bill–

KUCINICH: Well, the bankruptcy bill was meant to keep people in bankruptcy. One of the biggest problems is that pensions do not have the same standing as financial institutions. I think pensions should be right up there with the first claims of the banks. I think those are basic rights that people have, they were promised. Those resources, they need them to live.

CONSUMERIST: How much, really, will climate change affect the American economy?

KUCINICH: Greatly. I mean, you’re looking at the potential for rising sea levels that’s gonna wipe out a lot of real estate on the coast. It’s talking about changing migratory patterns, causing certain species that are part of the cycle of life to become extinct. I mean, how do you quantify that? I mean, when you’re destroying the habitat that human beings need to survive, how do you quantify that? I mean, our whole life is at risk with global warming. And so I’m dedicated to creating an alternative with what I call the WGA… the Works Green Administration, organize everything in our economy toward our sustainability. Not just one area, the government and the private sector… move it away from coal, toward sun, wind, and fuel technology.

CONSUMERIST: Do you think our wonderful voting machines are going to play as big a role in ’08?

KUCINICH: I have a bill that I’m about to introduce that will end the role that these electronic voting machines have in Federal elections. I think that voting machines… there’s a lot of questions with that technology… the programming, the software… the Diebold company has not, to my satisfaction, answered the questions about how do they protect against a someone breaking into the software and changing the outcome of the election. I’m for paper ballots in all Federal elections–

CONSUMERIST: Optical scan?

KUCINICH: No, paper ballots, the ol’ mark your ballot and that is the paper trail.

CONSUMERIST: Is campaign finance reform gonna do a damn thing in the immediate future?

KUCINICH: Look what’s happening, these candidates are already raising an excess of 50 million dollars. When you have people that put that kind of money into a campaign, they expect something in return. So, when you look at the kind of money that’s going into the system right now, it’s pretty obvious that interest groups want to buy the government. Well, with me, what people see is what they get, there’s no interest group that’s gonna buy me or tell me that I gotta be more for for-profit healthcare, for war, for the oil industry when I’m not, that I have to be for a lack of oversight be the SEC when I’m not… people have to get the connection between the individuals that give and the impact on the decisions of our government. We need a public finance system… that may mean the Justice Department suing to overturn Buckley v. Valejo, or having a Constitutional amendment that will say all elections have to be publicly financed and end the influence of private interests in our political system.

Obviously, public financing is a major endeavor, with a Constitutional amendment a far off dream for anybody, including a brand-new President with it as his or her top priority. There is also a campaign brewing to publicly finance all Federal elections for $6 per citizen. Your thoughts in the comments… — BRIAN FAIRBANKS

(Photo: Mark Esper)