Talk about an idea whose time has come.
Today, the Fair Elections Now Act is being re-introduced. Actor Alec Baldwin, who was present at the bill’s introduction, told CNN it was a critical step toward “reducing the influence of corporate lobbyists and special interest money.”
Alec is right. The bill would help candidates remain free from corporate interests by providing public money for their campaigns if they raise a certain amount of small-dollar contributions from voters.
The grip that corporations have over our elections and our lawmakers is unprecedented, thanks in no small part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the decision that gave corporations the green light to spend as much money as they want on elections.
What does that decision mean for you? It means that lawmakers are even more beholden to wealthy corporate interests — oil and coal companies, financial giants, agribusiness mega-companies and so forth — and even less likely to act in your interests. After all, those corporations are looking out for their bottom lines and have no problem rolling over citizens to boost profits. They want public policies that advance that goal. They give money to lawmakers so they can ask for favors later.
We saw the effect of the Citizens United decision on the midterm elections: spending by outside groups jumped to $294.2 million in the 2010 election cycle from just $68.9 million in the 2006 cycle. Nearly half of the money spent came from just 10 groups. Two groups formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove combined to spend $38.2 million, more than any single group. Next was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Today, Public Citizen sent a letter to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who introduced the measure. The letter said:
At no time in history has a strong congressional public financing program been so sorely needed – and so demanded by the American public. Poll after poll shows that wide majorities of Americans are stunned with the Court’s decision opening the floodgates of unlimited corporate money in elections. Just as many Americans are infuriated with the primacy of money in elections, as well as all the time and resources officeholders spend cozying up to campaign contributors.
Americans are demanding far more accountability from Congress. One of the best ways to achieve this accountability is to replace big money with public funds and small donations from average Americans. This is precisely what the Fair Elections Now Act would do.
Do you want public financing of elections? Let your members of Congress know.
And learn more about the Citizens United decision and how to overturn it. Public financing of elections will help, but ultimately we need to overturn the decision with a constitutional amendment. Get involved now.