I sent the following message to my Senators Dick Durbin (sponsor of S. 752) and Roland Burris and my Representative Mark Kirk.
As the House & Senate consider a legislative response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United ruling, which has opened new avenues for corporations to purchase influence in the democratic process thereby further eroding citizen faith in the fairness of the decision-making of our elected officials, I urge you to support legislation that significantly strengthens the integrity of our representative democracy while protecting first amendment free speech protections for people.
In particular, I urge you to:
1. Pass H.R. 1826/S. 752, the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide voluntary public funding for congressional campaigns based on the “Clean Elections” model adopted for state elections in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Vermont, and a growing number of municipalities. As you know, Clean Elections systems provide full public funding, including capped matching funds against any privately financed candidates, to qualified candidates with sufficient grass-roots support who agree to forgo private contributions and abide by spending limits. Clean Elections laws seek to address the underlying, systemic distortion of our political system by monied interests that is inherent in the campaign finance system as it currently exists. The corrosive influence of large political donations undermines the integrity of the “one person, one vote” principle upon which our republic is founded. It amplifies the agenda of the rich and of corporate interests through bundled campaign contributions from corporate executives at the expense of the common good. Clean Elections allows campaigns to focus on the issues voters care about, not how much money a given candidate can raise. It frees candidates once elected from being beholden to the interests of those who bankrolled their campaigns so that they may act in the public interest. It allows them to focus while in office on the issues facing the people rather than on the next cycle of fundraising for reelection.
2. Pass new legislation to extend pay-check protection laws from unions to corporations to require the explicit vote of shareholders to approve any political lobbying or advertising, so that only individuals and associations of consenting people (not just associations of commingled capital) are allowed to participate in democratic decision-making.
3. Pass new legislation to enforce transparency in electioneering advertisements by requiring funding corporations to publicly endorse sponsorship of political ads, even those made by pass-through organizations, so that citizens immediately know the underlying interests the advertisments serve.
4. Provide equal free media air time during campaigns to any candidate who gets on the ballot. The broadcast spectrum is a public resource held in trust by the government and it should be used to serve the common interest of the people. No other single action would take more money out of politics or more significantly reduce the need for the fundraising that corrodes democratic decision-making than equitably allocating air time to political candidates during elections.
Thank you for seizing this opportunity to reform our country’s election system and bolster the integrity of our nation’s democratic decision-making.