WASHINGTON ― The campaign finance reform organization Every Voice made its first endorsement in a presidential election on Friday, backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Every Voice, which used to be known as Public Campaign Action Fund, has endorsed candidates from both parties in congressional and state elections in the past, but never before has it inserted itself into a presidential race.
David Donnelly, CEO of Every Voice, told The Huffington Post the group is endorsing Clinton because of her platform to reform campaign finance.
Clinton’s reform platform includes support for legislation to create a public campaign financing system for congressional elections, disclosure legislation or, in the meantime, executive orders or actions to increase transparency of independent money, and appointing judges who support reform principles. She has also promised to propose a constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court decisions deregulating campaign finance, including the 2010 Citizens United ruling.
“If you look at all the different aspects of what’s wrong in our campaign finance system, there’s no one silver bullet policy that addresses all those different things,” Donnelly said. “You need a comprehensive approach to tackle the myriad of problems and she does that.
“She does it by addressing increased participation through a small donor matching system,” Donnelly continued. “She does it through either through a constitutional amendment or appointing judges who will help to revisit the decisions in this area. She does it through more transparency and better administration of campaign finance laws. She really has covered the waterfront in terms of the breadth of her policies.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump routinely bashes the role of donors and special interests in politics, but has so far offered no policies or solutions. Instead, the Republican Party platform calls for the repeal of many existing campaign money limits.
Every Voice has in the past spent money directly to help elect candidates for the House and Senate. The reform group will work to get Clinton elected, Donnelly said, but he wouldn’t elaborate.
Recent history is filled with presidents who have promised to reform campaign finance in some form or another and failed to deliver.
President Jimmy Carter promised to fix the campaign finance landscape after the Supreme Court’s historic 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling limited what the government could do to control election spending. He failed to act quickly and was ultimately rebuffed by a disinterested Congress.
In 1992, President Bill Clinton ran on a platform in support of reducing political action committee spending. While Clinton met with members of Congress early in his administration, there was no consensus for reform and other issues quickly took precedence.
President Barack Obama famously ran on overturning the normal order of special interest favors in Washington. His administration has instead seen the near complete breakdown of normal order on campaign finance. He launched a new era of big money in elections by becoming the first nominee in a presidential election to turn down public funding for the general election in 2008. During the 2012 election, both Obama and GOP opponent Mitt Romney raised and spent over $1 billion. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling ― no fault of his own ― unwound certain limits on corporate election spending and led to skyrocketing spending from nonprofits and the creation of super PACs. The Federal Election Commission, never the most operational agency, broke down amid deep ideological division. And despite pressure from numerous activist groups and their members, Obama has not signed an executive order to increase disclosure of independent spending or appointed commissioners to the Securities and Exchange Commission in favor of a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose their election spending.
Clinton comes into the role of campaign finance reform proponent with suspicion from some quarters. She will likely raise more than $1 billion by Election Day and relies on super PACs to a greater degree than Obama did in 2012. Her fundraising from billionaires, lobbyists and corporate executives was one of the biggest criticisms of her during her primary fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― whose campaign finance proposals were nearly identical to Clinton’s.
Donnelly, a veteran of many of these reform fights, is well aware of the history and promises. He said Every Voice’s endorsement is not “a blank check.” Clinton, he noted, “has long participated in” the campaign finance system, but “we need to see political leaders who will stand firmly on the side of voters for far-reaching reform, even as they work within the current rules.”
“We’re very explicit in this statement that while we are fully 100-percent supportive in getting Hillary Clinton elected and helping to advance her platform ― which is our platform― in the next administration, we also won’t shy away from holding her accountable for falling short,” Donnelly said.
He pointed to Clinton’s promise to introduce a campaign finance-related constitutional amendment within the first 30 days of her administration as a “pretty clear and pretty hard-and-fast pledge.”
Every Voice’s endorsement is not entirely about Clinton and her platform. The group’s involvement at the presidential level is also driven by what Donnelly called the exclusionary rhetoric of Trump.
“American democracy is one of inclusion,” Donnelly said. “It is the march towards expanding and broadening the franchise and expanding the role of everyday Americans in the decisions that impact our lives, and his language about religious groups is worse than dog-whistle politics. Outwardly using rhetoric that is racist and xenophobic and misogynistic compels us to say that this is not a leader of American democracy that we want to see have power in the White House. It’s broader than money in politics.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.