To ensure that presidential candidates do more than pay lip service to curbing the influence of money in politics, good government nonprofit Common Cause joined other leading advocates to focus voters and candidates on a detailed “21st Century Democracy Agenda” to modernize and strengthen government of, by, and for the people.
“Americans are hungry, indeed starving, for candidates who will take action to ensure that government works for every citizen, not just those who are able to write big checks to candidates, parties, and political action groups,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.
Rapoport said the participating groups will push candidates across the political spectrum to advocate for:
- Contribution limits and public financing systems that rein in the power of big dollar donors while enhancing that of modest givers and those who can’t afford to contribute at all.
- Strong disclosure laws and regulations, so that voters know exactly who is spending money — plus when and where they’re spending it — to promote or defeat particular candidates.
- Shutting down super PACs tied to individual candidates and blocking coordination between candidates and non-profit “dark money” political committees.
- Restructuring the Federal Election Commission so that current and future campaign finance laws will be enforced.
- Passing a constitutional amendment clarifying the authority of Congress and state legislatures to put reasonable limits on political spending and ensure that every citizen has a chance to be heard and represented in the political marketplace.
- Filling Supreme Court vacancies with justices who understand that money is not equivalent to speech and that sensible limits on political spending enhance rather than impede free speech.
- Voting laws that guarantee easy access to the ballot box and encourage every citizen to participate.
“None of these ideas are even remotely radical; most have been tested successfully at the state or local level,” Rapoport said. “All over the country, Republicans and Democrats alike are increasingly supporting a range of democracy reforms, including common sense limits on campaign contributions. Those local leaders and a growing number at the national level see a groundswell of public concern and support for reform,” he said.
A recent survey for The New York Times concluded that 81 percent of Republicans (and slightly more Democrats) favor an overhaul of the way political campaigns are financed. Another poll, for the Wall Street Journal, found that the political influence of the wealthy is among voters’ top concerns for 2016.
The groups’ policy platform grows out of a “Unity Statement of Principles” on money in politics and democracy reform that was signed earlier this year by more than 150 organizations.
“We want to see candidates do more than embrace the principles. They should commit to specific reforms on a specific timetable. At the same time, we are not asking candidates to curtail their fundraising; we recognize that they must play the 2016 game by 2016’s rules,” Rapoport said. “But as the campaign proceeds, we will be measuring the candidates by how strongly they commit themselves to sensible reforms. We’re convinced that the dominance of big money is a danger to democracy; we want to see hard evidence that the candidates understand that and are committed to changing it.”