The 2016 campaigns are just starting to heat up, with the first GOP debates on the horizon, and already there’s been a lot of talk among candidates of both parties about getting big money out of politics.
Hillary Clinton announced early on that she was making campaign finance reform a pillar of her campaign and, importantly, voiced support for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United. Lindsey Graham has also pointed to the need for an amendment. Rand Paul has said that “special interests can have a bad influence on government.” Even Donald Trump - when he’s not smearing immigrants and attacking veterans - has denounced the control that donors and special interests hold over politicians.
But on money in politics reform we need more than individual statements or even individual solutions. We need a comprehensive set of policies to actually fix the system - with follow-through after the election.
Today People For the American Way and eleven of our allies proposed just that: a set of policies we believe candidates should endorse if they are serious about money in politics reform. “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Agenda” is a platform of policies that, together, will make our democracy stronger and help fix much of the damage wrought by the relentless decimation of our country’s campaign finance rules.
The agenda represents a common understanding that no one single solution will fix all of our problems. There is no silver bullet. We need a constitutional amendment. But we also need public funds to amplify small donations. And we also need to reduce barriers to the ballot box, and to increase disclosure of political spending. Each reform measure is one important piece in the larger challenge of addressing the corrosive influence of money in politics.
From a movement perspective, the unification around a comprehensive set of solutions by a broad range of reform organizations - each of which had been focusing on a particular set of solutions - is unprecedented. And, importantly, it was driven by a growing and powerful grassroots movement with millions of activists from around the country demanding a full range of solutions to the flood of money that is overwhelming our elections. From ballot initiatives to local resolutions to petition drives, the American people are already hard at work demanding concrete action from their elected officials to fix our democracy.
The 2016 candidates must know it’s in their political interest to side with the people rather than wealthy special interests. They know that Americans want their children to grow up in a working democracy - one that lives up to the promise of our Founders’ vision rather than a plutocracy that serves the top one percent of the one percent. They likely saw the New York Times/CBS poll last month finding that 85 percent of Americans want a complete overhaul of our campaign finance system.
Today’s agenda release says to candidates: this is what that overhaul should look like. And if the presidential candidates are interested in reaching that 85 percent, getting on board is both the right - and the smart - thing to do.