Blog — Campaign Finance Reform
Today the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on S. 750, the Fair Elections Now Act, which was recently re-introduced in the 112th Congress by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). Given the politics of our time, the bill stands little chance of enactment any time soon. Still, we need to increase awareness and build public support for passage.
The Fair Elections Now Act would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists. Instead, candidates would be freed from constant fundraising to focus on what people in their communities want.
The Fair Elections Now Act may be the only real remedy to Citizens United, last year’s Supreme Court decision that left the electorate at the mercy of corporate America’s financial largess, greatly diminishing the integrity of both our elections and elected officials. It would not be hyperbolic in the least to suggest one of the best ways to restore democracy -- even in the midst of an avalanche of special interest money – is through public financing. As Brennan Center and campaign finance expert Monica Youn testified today, “by allowing candidates to run viable campaigns through reliance on small donations and public funds alone, public financing reduces the threat that big money will have a corrupting influence [both perceived and actual] on the political process.”
The experience of states that have adopted similar laws shows, such laws promote robust competition for public office. In Maine, for example, a fair elections law increased participation by first-time candidates, allowed more challengers to compete, provided more choices to voters, and sharply reduced large private contributions. Similarly, in Arizona the average number of candidates for state office has increased 23% since the law’s passage in 2000. An added benefit is that women and minorities are more likely to run in elections when such a funding mechanism is available.
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