Editorial Memo: Congressional Leaders Push Fair Elections as Answer to Citizens United

For Immediate Release

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Rick Bielke
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Editorial Memo: Congressional Leaders Push Fair Elections as Answer to Citizens United

WASHINGTON - Assistant Senate Majority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and
Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) reiterated their
support for the Fair Elections Now Act today at a standing-room only
event at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C. think
tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and
action. The policy forum took place as Supreme Court watchers wait for
a decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a
decision that could expand corporate spending in elections.

"A
lot of Senators are taking a look at their states and the money they
would need to raise," said Sen. Durbin, regarding the possible influx
of unlimited corporate spending on independent expenditures that the
decision by the Roberts Court could allow. "The Citizens United
decision will increase interest from Senators in the Fair Elections Now
Act."

The Fair Elections Now Act "would give our members the
time they deserve to focus on the issues and their constituents,
instead of dialing for dollars," said Rep. Larson. "We see a great
opportunity to pass this bill, and we see Citizens United as part of
that backdrop."

In addition to Rep. Larson, the Fair
Elections Now Act has 119 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.
The bill would allow qualified congressional candidates to voluntarily
participate in a system in which they run for office with a mixture of
small donations and limited public funds. Once qualified, these
candidates would rely on Main Street instead of Wall Street for
contributions.

MOMENTUM FOR REFORM

According
to October 2009 polling from the University of Texas-Austin, 58 percent
of respondents believe that the source of a candidate's campaign
contributions is a factor in how they vote on legislation. These same
respondents also rank themselves last as a consideration when
Congressional lawmakers decide how to vote. This mirrors recent
Rasmussen polling from July of this year that showed 74 percent of
respondents believed a member of Congress would sell their vote for as
little as $100,000 in campaign donations. Just eight percent believed
it would take more than $100,000 for a politician to sell their vote.

Time
and again, polling confirms that the American public sees campaign
contributions playing a pivotal role in how lawmakers vote. Congress'
response to the Citizens United vs. FEC decision should be to
dramatically change the way we pay for our elections, and not to pass
laws that would put even more money into elections.

FAIR ELECTIONS IS THE ANSWER

Tom
Friedman, in his regular column in the New York Times, recently wrote
that "[money] in politics has become so pervasive that lawmakers have
to spend most of their time raising it, selling their souls to those
who have it or defending themselves from the smallest interest groups
with deep pockets that can trump the national interest."

In
Citizens United - a case that originally challenged whether the
provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) limiting
outside groups' spending should also apply to pay-per-view movies --
the Court appears poised to overreach and open a new door for the
deepest-pocketed players to spend money on campaigns to elect or defeat
candidates.

If the U.S. Supreme Court gives its approval to
more corporate influence in politics when it decides in Citizens United
in the coming days or weeks, members of Congress will be forced to
spend more time raising even more money to respond to potential new
attacks. It will make a bad situation worse.

As Sen.
Durbin and Rep. Larson said today, the answer isn't to create
additional ways to give corporations more influence in the electoral
process. The solution is to pass the Fair Elections Now Act, and allow
candidates to run competitive campaigns on small donations and limited
public funding. That should be an even more attractive option to
members of Congress who want to get off the fundraising treadmill in
the wake of a bad decision in Citizens United. Without a strong,
voluntary public financing of elections system, candidates will have no
choice but to continue to rely on contributions from people and
corporations with business before them.

For more information on the Fair Elections Now Act please visit www.fairelectionsnow.org.

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Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics. Public Campaign is laying the foundation for reform by working with a broad range of organizations, including local community groups, around the country that are fighting for change and national organizations whose members are not fairly represented under the current campaign finance system. Together we are building a network of national and state-based efforts to create a powerful national force for federal and state campaign reform.

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