In the face of an unrelenting rise of super PACs, "shadow money" groups, and corporate spending in U.S. elections, U.S. representatives introduced a bill Wednesday that seeks to run big money out of politics with a return to a "Government by the People."
H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act, maps out new funding rules that would enable congressional candidates to run competitive campaigns while relying on small donor contributions, rather than on big-spenders and corporate coffers.
“The Government by the People Act is a shot of powerful medicine for the cancer of big money growing within our body politic," said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs at Common Cause. "By allowing candidates to run winning campaigns with a base of small donor contributions, multiplied by grants from a federal fund, it would break the power of six- and seven-figure political investors like the Koch brothers, Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson.”
“The Government by the People Act is a shot of powerful medicine for the cancer of big money growing within our body politic."
—Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause
“It’s time we return to government of, by, and for the people, not special interests,” said Emma Boorboor, Democracy Associate with U.S. PIRG. “The Government By the People Act would reduce Congress’ dependence on big money campaign donors and help ordinary citizens get their voice heard.”
As Dēmos explains, the bill would increase "the power of the small contributions that ordinary citizens can afford to give, providing incentives for congressional candidates to reach out to average constituents, not just dial for dollars from wealthy donors."
According to Dēmos, the act has four key provisions. It:
Creates the Freedom from Influence Fund to match contributions of up to $150 to participating candidates 6-to-1 or more;
Provides a $25 refundable tax credit for small contributions;
Provides enhanced matching funds in the final 60 days of a general election for candidates in high-cost races (because of an onslaught of outside spending, for example); and
Creates People PACs, or small donor committees, that aggregate the voices and power of ordinary citizens rather than wealthy donors (as traditional PACs tend to do).
The bill was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), with the backing of 30 progressive organizations including Dēmos, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG, Sierra Club, and the Brennan Center for Justice.
The bill arrives as Huffington Post reports Wednesday that an unprecedented amount of money is currently filtering through the proliferating world of super PACs, despite the fact that the next presidential election is still three years away.
"America's super PACs threw themselves into fundraising last year and the coffers filled up," Huffington Post reports. "The unlimited-money groups, which drew so much attention in the 2012 elections, raised far more in the off year of 2013 than they did in 2011."
Huffington Post continues:
According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by last Friday, super PACs raised more than $140 million last year. That's $41 million more than the $99 million the groups raised in 2011, the year preceding both a very busy Republican presidential primary and the most expensive general election contest in history, between President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, U.S. PIRG reports that in 2012 all small donations to Obama and Romney combined totaled the same amount as just the top 32 donors to super PACs alone, "equaling the gifts of over 3.7 million Americans."
"Giant corporations, special interests and ultra-wealthy donors shout through big-money megaphones to drown out the voices of hardworking Americans in the political process," continued Flynn.
"Americans feel marginalized by a political system fueled by, and bent toward, a few wealthy interests," said David Donnelly, Executive Director, Public Campaign Action Fund. "To rebuild public trust and to encourage all Americans of every background to participate, the Government By the People Act turns the financing of elections over to ordinary Americans. When this passes, it will mean schoolteachers, secretaries, and small business owners can support the candidate of their choice without getting drowned out.”