• Issues

Fixing Our Broken Political System

Our political system is broken — and Congress is a major part of the problem.

To start, there is too much money in politics. Money has become so essential to running for office that it is access to money from PACs and special interests, rather than responsiveness to constituents, that makes elected members more likely to remain in office year after year. The amount of money a sitting member of Congress can receive from PACs and lobbyists is deeply unsettling. This culture causes many members of Congress to put the interests of their big donors first and damages what little trust Americans still have in their Congress — all at the expense of our working families.

As a result, the worst members of Congress spend their time in Washington rigging the system against us. They get away with deals, schemes, and dishonest behavior that would never be accepted in the military, the private sector, or rural communities across the Southern Tier and Western New York. This broken system is damaging our democracy and our country. We need to hold members of Congress accountable for writing rules that enable this unethical behavior to continue. Just because they have written the rules so that can get away with this behavior doesn’t make it right.

It is time we enact strong reforms that constrain the excessive money in politics and help ensure that our political system more closely reflects our values — like integrity and service. I propose four key policy priorities to serve as guiding principles to fix our broken system and get Congress back to working on behalf of the country like our founding fathers intended.

Key Priorities:

  • Corporations are not People: Enact a Constitutional Amendment that undoes the disastrous Citizens United v. F.E.C ruling and give Congress and the States the power to regulate campaign finance.
  • Increase Transparency: Require members of Congress to publicly disclose bulk mailings paid for at taxpayer expense, and publicly report the amount of hours they spend fundraising while Congress is in session.
  • Crackdown on the Revolving Door: Extend the lobbying ban on former members of Congress after they leave office from one year to five years, and close loopholes that have facilitated underground and unreported lobbying.
  • Strengthen Independent Congressional Ethics Oversight: Stop allowing members of Congress to write their own ethics standards — reform is not in their interest. Establish an Independent Congressional Oversight Board that develops and establishes rigorous, enforceable ethics standards for members of Congress.

Here’s a link to Captain Plumb’s full policy priorities for fixing our broken political system.


Womens Health 1Every American deserves access to quality and affordable health care.  It should be obvious that this includes women.  Unfortunately, this is not obvious to everyone in Congress.  Over and over again, members of Congress have focused on restricting, limiting, or outright preventing women from being able to access quality healthcare, especially reproductive care—doing so in order to score political points, jeopardizing access to essential services such as breast cancer screening, basic OB/GYN healthcare, STD screenings, birth control, and rape crisis care.  Such actions are irresponsible, uninformed, and dangerous.

Women HealthReproductive Rights

I know that abortion is a deeply divisive issue in America.  I believe that such deeply personal decisions, including abortion and other reproductive issues, should remain between a woman, her family, and her doctor.  The government – especially the Congress - should stay the [heck] out.  We must protect health and reproductive rights for all women, and ensure that no matter where an individual lives, they have access to the care they need. 

Contraception Access

I am continually surprised by opposition to birth control access, which is the best way to reduce abortions and protect women’s health. When bosses seek to prevent their employees from having birth control covered by insurance and when politicians try to take away access to family planning services, women’s health is put at risk. I will fight to ensure that all women are able to access birth control in order to make their own decisions, no matter where they live and no matter where they work.



I have devoted my entire life to defending the United States in the Navy, in the Pentagon, and at the National Security Council. I am committed to ensuring that our defense and foreign policies protect our nation against a wide range of security threats, from China to Russia to al-Qaeda to ISIS and other extremist groups. I believe a strong national defense is critically important to protect our citizens from harm both at home and abroad, and that a strong military governed by responsible democratic institutions can truly be a force for good.

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Military Families and Vets 3President Lincoln declared in his second inaugural address that our country shall care for those “who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”[1] The United States forms a lasting compact with our service members and their families from the moment they enter the military. In our Congressional district, which includes the Southern Tier, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes, there are over 50,000 veterans who deserve that full range of support earned through their service to our nation.[2]

Military Families and Vets 2 Too often, our veterans are left with only empty declarations of support. Partisan politics in Congress has resulted in funding cuts and reduced benefits. Additionally, while a number of programs exist to support veterans, it is often too hard to access these programs - especially in rural communities like ours. This means that after serving our country, veterans are often forced between finding a job and moving home. That is not fair to our veterans and not fair to our rural communities who could benefit from the skills and dedication of those who have served.

Military Families and Vets 1I learned in the military that when you say you’re going to do something, it’s results that matter. It’s time we use that approach when it comes to taking care of our veterans. Simply having programs for veterans is not enough—we need to make sure the people who need these programs know about them and can access them. These programs should be integrated in a whole-of-person care model instead of being “stove piped” separately. To keep faith with our veterans by providing the support they need and deserve, I propose we focus on improving access and support for rural veterans in five key areas: economic opportunities; education; healthcare; mental health and well-being; and family programs. Military Families and Vets 1

Key Priorities:

  • Expand Economic Opportunities in Rural Areas: Expedite professional licensing procedures and increase access to capital for veterans so they can come back home to start businesses and build successful civilian careers in rural areas.
  • Align Education Opportunities with Military Experience: Recognize that returning veterans have a range of different life experiences that 18-year olds starting college straight from high school do not. Develop best practices and programs that maximize education success for veterans seeking to use the post-9/11 GI Bill. Protect veterans from predatory for-profit colleges by closing loopholes that allow exploitation of veterans and their families.
  • Improve Access and Quality of Healthcare: Expand collaborations and health information exchanges between VA and non-VA healthcare providers and enhance coverage of telemedicine options when appropriate. Revise 40-mile rule that handcuffs Veterans Choice program users and immediately fix the related billing problems.
  • Revise our approach to Mental Health and Well-being : Improve and streamline access to treatment by increasing the number of covered behavioral health providers and proactively addressing issues of stigma especially in small, rural communities. Streamline paperwork and other delays in care to ensure rapid access to support for those most in need.
  • Support Military Families: Protect family members’ access to key services, like TRICARE and the GI Bill. Provide immediate families and caregivers, especially those in rural communities, with information and training to better identify and respond to potential problems like opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here’s a link to Captain Plumb’s full plan.

Growing Our Rural Economies: Protecting the Jobs We Have and Creating New Ones

The biggest issue we face here in the Southern Tier, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes is jobs. Time and again, Washington and the economy have left our rural communities behind. My top priority in Congress will be protecting the jobs we still have and building the conditions to create new ones. To do so, I will fight every day to prioritize the needs of our workers, while also making sure our entrepreneurs have the resources and conditions to make their business plans a reality.

I will start by opposing bad trade deals that disadvantage our region because any plan to grow our jobs must start by protecting the ones we have. I am proud to stand with our unions in fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Unions are the keepers of the middle class in America – fighting for good jobs and a living wage throughout our district and across New York.

We also need to make sure businesses and entrepreneurs see our region as an area worth taking a risk in. The areas that do best create environments that allow people to take risks. This means championing our region as a hotbed for the next economic wave of creating and installing renewable energy technologies, and making our rural communities more attractive for investments by upgrading infrastructure and promoting true high-speed internet and better cell phone coverage throughout our region. Securing a strong economic future also includes making college more affordable so our students can stay here and pursue new ventures without being chained to decades of debt.

At the same, we need to recognize a fundamental truth: that government is not designed to and is not capable of fixing all of our problems. And without proper research or oversight, government policies can cause as many or more economic problems than they prevent. There are many cases where unnecessary red tape or the passage of bad trade deals have been very harmful to our rural communities. That’s why one key component for boosting our rural economies is reevaluating regulations on a routine basis, cutting excessive interference where it exists, and reversing policies that have unintended negative consequences.

My approach of putting our people first to grow our economy comes from my 22 years of service as a U.S. Navy officer. However, in the military, I also learned that you need to take responsibility. That principle should extend to Congress when it comes to budgeting. If we are smarter about controlling our spending and our budget, investing in our rural communities can be done without passing the buck of increased debt on to our future generations.

I grew up in the Southern Tier. I know that our workers are the lifeblood of our communities and that our small businesses are innovative and resilient. I know that if we are given a fair shot, we can thrive again. That’s a challenging mission - but that is also why I’m running for Congress. Western New York and the Southern Tier have been my family’s home for four generations and I know we can do better with a new representative that puts our people first.

Key Priorities

  • Fight Bad Trade Deals: Fight against bad trade deals – like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – so we can put a stop to our jobs being shipped overseas.
  • Promote Renewable Energy and Upgrade Infrastructure: Champion renewable energy so our rural economies are a part of this growing economic wave, and upgrade our crumbling roads and bridges.
  • Create the Conditions for Entrepreneurs to Succeed: Eliminate damaging, unnecessary red tape and provide resources so our entrepreneurs have a better environment to make their business plans a reality.
  • Improve College Affordability: Help students finance and refinance their student loans at competitive rates or pay them back as a percentage of their income so they can afford to stay and work in our district and take risks while they’re young.
  • Promote True High-Speed Internet for Rural Communities: Connect our rural communities to the free flow of online commerce, customers, and clients with true high-speed internet and improved rural cell phone coverage.
  • Get Spending Under Control: Washington needs to get its spending under control so we can strengthen our economy today and in the future without continuing to pass the buck on to future generations.

Here’s a link to check out my full plan.


Family HikeGrowing up in the Southern Tier, I spent most of my free time enjoying our beautiful outdoors – our parks, woods, lakes and streams. I know how important it is to be a good steward of our environment, and I will support efforts to protect our soil, air, and water.

I know that as we continue to grow, the United States will continue to seek new sources of energy.  An “all of the above” energy strategy is the right solution for the United States for now, but far too often politicians hide behind that slogan as an excuse to do nothing except take more campaign donations from fossil fuel companies.  As a result, our current energy policy relies far too much on foreign sources, and results in far too high a rate of carbon emissions.  The failure of the United States Congress to lead on this issue allows not just the United States to continue down the wrong path, but also gives an “out” to other nations around the world that look to the United States for leadership.  

FishingIn contrast, I support a true “all of the above” strategy that takes into account the need to truly diversify our energy supply.  To do that, we need reliable energy policies that provide the market signals necessary to support the transition to new technologies.  I will support efforts to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, by adopting technology to minimize emissions from these fuels, improving efficiency – which reduces power requirements and therefore reduces emissions, and by encouraging the use of clean energy.  I will fight to accelerate the adoption of clean energy and energy efficient technologies, to include solar, wind, biofuels, hydropower, geothermal, and other types of clean energy technologies.  And I will also support the development of new, safe nuclear power in the United States, which like renewables has zero carbon emissions.


The quality and affordable education I have been fortunate to receive throughout my life has laid the foundation for my entire career serving our country. I graduated from Randolph Central School, a great public school right here in the Southern Tier, and I earned a Navy ROTC scholarship to put myself through college. Education_1.jpgEvery American child deserves to have the opportunity for the same quality and affordable education that I’ve had, but unfortunately we have significant work to do in Congress to make that vision a reality. 

Universal Pre-K

My sister is a public school teacher here in Western New York, and she knows firsthand that early preparation is critical to a student’s success in school.  The evidence is irrefutable – few factors contribute to a student’s future success more than a quality Pre-K education that provides the foundation for later learning.  I will work to ensure high-quality, affordable, and accessible voluntary Pre-K for every student, regardless of their parents’ income level or where they live.

EducationAffordable Access to College

Our country is home to the best colleges and universities in the world. Yet for too many Americans, this higher education system is falling out of reach amidst skyrocketing tuition costs. We need to expand access to college to more Americans from all backgrounds and income levels.  That starts by making the cost of a degree more affordable, and by ensuring that student loans are affordable as well. We should also protect and expand ways for students to attend college and pay back their education through service to our country. In Congress, I’ll work to protect the GI Bill which has provided millions of American veterans with a quality and affordable college education and examine ways in which we can provide similar programs for those serving our country at home.



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John Plumb is a member of the United States Navy Reserve. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.

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