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Chris MacKenzie, U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund
Better-Funded Candidates Sweep Congressional Primaries
In 83% of this year’s congressional primaries, better-funded candidates win
WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, this year’s congressional primaries came to a close, following over 340 competitive races in states across the country. According to analysis by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, candidates who outraised their opponents swept the vast majority of primaries, winning their election 83 percent of the time.
“In today’s political environment, only wealthy candidates, or those with the right connections can run for office,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “That’s not how democracy is supposed to work. We need reforms now that push candidates to connect with voters and constituents instead of courting special interests and mega-donors. It’s time to start building a democracy that lives up to our expectations.”
Races included in U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s analysis featured at least two candidates with at least one candidate who raised funds for their election. Out of the 360 congressional primaries studied in the 2016 election cycle, only 63 races were won by candidates who raised less funds than their opponent. Higher fundraising candidates, who now head to the general election, won their primaries 82.5 percent of the time.
Legislation that would empower small donors over special interests and mega-donors in congressional elections is currently under consideration in the House and Senate. The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 1538) and the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) would match small campaign donations with limited public funds for candidates who agree to turn down larger contributions.
In November of 2015, Maine and Seattle voters strongly approved clean election ballot measures to help refocus state and local elections on ordinary people over special interests and mega-donors. Localities including Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami Dade County, South Dakota, and Washington State are now considering similar legislative and regulatory reforms to empower small donors over special interest groups and big contributors in their elections. This year, California and Washington State will put referenda on the ballot asking voters whether they support overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened elections to super PAC and corporate spending.
Polls show that a vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support overturning Citizens United and revamping campaign finance laws in the United States. This April, thousands of activists flooded Washington, D.C., to demonstrate for reforms as part of Democracy Awakening, a three-day mass mobilization supporting voting rights and fair elections.
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