As early as the time of Socrates, people have identified money as a corruptive influence in politics, specifically in democracies. Elections now cost double and triple what they used to, which means more and more of our Senators’ and Representatives’ time is spent dialing for dollars. The average member of the House of Representatives will want to raise and spend over a million dollars (that’s $1,000,000) to insure victory on Election Day. In a competitive race, it can be much, much more than that.
So why do we subject our leaders to this grueling and wasteful misuse of their precious time and energy? And why are we surprised when Big Money holds more sway than the Common Good and Reasoned Argument? Ultimately, we get the government we deserve- because we force our politicians to raise money this way, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when campaign “donors” think that their “donations” mean that they should get special favors or special access. More than ever, voters feel dissillusioned and cynical about government and feel disconnected from their leaders. (And can you blame them?)
So what is the answer? Why not allow those who represent us to circumvent this whole process? One piece of legislation designed to do this is the Fair Elections Now Act.
What is the Fair Election Now Act? This bi-partisan bill was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Arlen Specter (PA) in the Senate, and by Representatives John Larson (D- CT) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R- NC) in the House of Representatives. It will provide public funding for office seeking political candidates who qualify, in addition to small private donations up to $100 dollars. Also, all qualifying candidates get a reduction rate on media fees for campaigning purposes, as well as media vouchers that they can exchange for cash if they prefer.
This bill will provide an equal playing field for political candidates, as money differences will play less of a role in the campaign, and therefore provide lesser-known candidates a more fair chance to compete in political races. Public Funding has already been successfully tested in several states, and it can hopefully achieve the same success on a federal level.
Who will qualify for Public Funding? The amount of public funding that each individual candidate receives will depend on the office they are seeking or holding, but each candidate must first qualify by raising a set amount of small donations. For example, House Members running for office must receive 1,500 contributions from their state, and $50,000 altogether. All candidates must therefore prove that they have the ability to raise money for their campaign and thereby demonstrating their competitive ability in the race before they can receive public funding.
Why you should support this bill and how to help get this bill passed! Simple: the status quo is broken. Everyone understands that lobbyists and corporate institutions (PACs, bundlers, etc) benefit from the current system where big money buys big access.
Voters will first and foremost benefit, because they can be sure their Representatives are ONLY representing them, and basing their votes on what is best for their constituents, not what makes their donors happy. Furthermore, we will have a fair and wide range of politically qualified candidates to choose from in each election– areas that have enacted public financing, such as Maine and Arizona, have seen a more diverse group of candidates run, resulting in representation that looks more like the population.
The candidates themselves will also benefit, because they can focus more on policies that their constituents favor and their political message instead of constantly raising money for their campaign. In addition, the main contributions are increasingly coming from big donors that come with strings attached. With the Fair Election Now Act, the people have the chance to take back the power of democracy and away from corporate interests!
It is the responsibility of each citizen to ensure our freedom and democracy,and YOU can help the pass this bill for the sake of those crucial values. If you are interested in supporting this bill, you can take one easy step and click here to sign up for a petition. For more detailed information about the bill, please click here.
You can also call your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponser this bipartisan piece of legislation. Click here to get contact info for who represents you. As of now, six members of the Texas Congressional Delegation have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. If you’re lucky enough to be represented by one of them, call their offices and express your thanks for standing up to Big Money interests.
Gene Green (Houston)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (Houston)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dallas)
Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi)
Silvestre Reyes (El Paso)
Lloyd Doggett (Austin)