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Statement of U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director Dan Smith on the introduction of critical legislation to get big money out of politics:
“On the fifth anniversary of the wrong-headed Citizens United decision, the need to get big money out of our elections couldn’t be greater. U.S. PIRG applauds the reintroduction of critical reform legislation by over a dozen leaders in Congress today, including the Democracy for All Amendment, introduced by Senator Tom Udall, and the Government by the People Act, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes.
“In 2012, the 32 biggest donors to Super PACs gave as much as the 3.7 million small donors to the Obama and Romney campaigns combined. 2014 was no different when it came to big donor dominance. A study just released by U.S. PIRG and Demos found that the top two vote-getters in the 25 most competitive House districts in 2014 got 86 percent of their individual campaign contributions from big donors.
“Ultimately, to stop a handful of mega-donors from drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens, we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A movement to do so has been growing across the country. To date, 16 states and over 600 localities have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
“In the meantime, there are real reforms we can make right now to amplify the voices of ordinary citizens. The Government by the People Act – introduced today with nearly 140 original cosponsors – would shift the balance of power in our elections away from big money by increasing the clout of small donors.
“In our big money system, a handful of deep-pocketed donors too often determine who runs for office, what issues make it onto the agenda, and who wins on election night. In the U.S. PIRG-Demos study, we profiled four candidates representing both parties who had great success persuading ordinary Americans to support their campaigns. But relying more on small donors meant these candidates got outspent five to one.
“The Government by the People Act would change that by moving us towards a small donor democracy. Here’s how it works:
- First, it would amplify the voices of ordinary citizens by matching small contributions with public funds, up to a 9:1 ratio, for candidates who forgo big contributions.
- Second, it would empower more Americans to participate in campaigns by providing a refundable tax credit for small contributions.
“If a small donor matching program were in place for the four candidates we profiled, on average they would have closed the fundraising gap by 40 percent. One candidate would have actually outraised her opponent with small donor matching.
“This system is already at work in New York City, where small donors made up the largest source of campaign cash for participating candidates in the 2013 city council elections. States and localities don’t have to sit on their hands waiting for action. Last fall, Montgomery County, MD, created a small donor matching system, and other cities, counties, and states across the country are poised to follow their example.
“It’s time for Congress to show it’s serious about getting big money out of politics and passing the Government by the People Act would be a great way to do it.”
Click here to read the U.S. PIRG-Demos study: http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/money-chase
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