WASHINGTON -- As the two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination released their eye-popping fundraising totals for the last three months, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley worked instead on Thursday to illustrate how broken the campaign finance system is by releasing a plan to reform it.
O'Malley's plan includes passing a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations and unions in elections. It would also overhaul the gridlocked and largely ineffectual Federal Election Commission, crack down on coordination between candidates and their super PACs and fight for greater disclosure of political donations.
"This week marks the end of another campaign fundraising quarter," O'Malley said in a statement. "I’m not naïve: Campaign resources are important. But the staggering figures required to run for the highest office in the land aren’t as much a sign of muscle as they are an indication of just how broken our democracy is."
The plan would also direct the overlapping agencies that regulate elections to require publicly traded companies to disclose political spending to their shareholders, promote the passage of the DISCLOSE Act and establish publicly financed congressional elections.
"Wall Street, the gun lobby, the oil industry, and other special interests’ big money has pervaded every element of our political system and our governing bodies," he said. "We need to wrestle our government out of the pockets of special interests and back into the hands of the American people."
David Donnelly, the president and CEO of campaign finance group Every Voice, praised O'Malley's proposal but said a couple of other recommendations should have been included.
"Martin O’Malley has provided a strong plan, focused both on reducing the barrier of big money and raising the voices of everyday people in politics," Donnelly said in a statement. "What’s missing is a proposal to fix the way presidential elections are funded and support for an executive order to require government contractors to disclose political contributions."
Public financing of presidential polls and an executive order for government contractors to disclose their political contributions both appear in the campaign finance plan released by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in September. Clinton also supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, as does Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Since the plans put forth by the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have so much in common, Donnelly said the first primary debate on Oct. 13 "would be the perfect opportunity for them to discuss what they’ll do to make solutions that put everyday people at the center of our democracy a reality."
While supporters of campaign finance reform may be pleased to see the candidates taking strong stances, generating the political will to pass legislation that changes how politicians run and fund their campaigns has proven difficult in a divided Congress.