Special Interests: Ending the Dominance of Big Money in Our Democracy

Money’s dominance over politics is a top problem our nation faces. It prevents us from tackling anything else. We have reached a stunning point: Either we are a country that makes decisions based on the common good, or one where the size of your wallet determines the worth of your ideas. Either we uphold the values of a representative democracy or we allow greed and wealth to destroy the great American experiment in self-governance.

-Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY)

The framers of the Constitution intended that Congress should be "dependent on the people alone," but that dependency has evolved into something it was never intended to be. Dependency on the people alone has shifted to a dependency on powerful special interests, resulting in a fundamental imbalance in our representative form of government. When anyone who wants to run for office must spend 90% of their time asking for money just to create a competitive race, something is wrong. When our elected officials must spend so much of their time courting corporations, banks, lobbyists, and big money donors who can afford to purchase influence, representation is inevitably distorted.

The result is that laws get passed that reflect the interests of those who have spent the most money. Rather than representing voters, lawmakers listen more to their big-money donors. We end up with legislation that benefits a small minority instead of the common good. 

I believe our campaign finance system is broken and largely responsible for the polarization and dysfunction in our politics today. Much of this can be traced back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporate special interest money to flood into our democratic system and drown out the voice of voters in our own elections. By taking advantage of the way we finance elections, wealthy special interests, corporations, and foreign influences skew the policy process in Washington. 

Because of this, I have made a commitment to not accept corporate PAC money during this campaign. If elected, I promise I will fight to reform our campaign finance laws, pass a constitutional amendment (if necessary) to overturn Citizens United, and support policies that would increase transparency and end unlimited spending in our politics, to ensure that the voices of our citizens are heard. 

We need leaders with integrity who are responsive to the needs of all of their constituents – not just to their big-dollar donors. I will be that leader, and I will work towards a system that works for everyone.

My Priorities:

Overturn Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, if necessary by constitutional amendment: 

I promise to support a constitutional amendment to undo the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. This ruling prohibited the government from limiting spending by companies, nonprofit organizations, and unions on political campaign advertisements. The court's majority wrote that such provisions would inhibit freedom of speech. We must be very clear that money does not equal speech. We must also be clear that corporations do not have the same political rights as people, and that dollars cannot out-vote human beings. Our democracy is at stake, and the reason the amendment system was created is to fix problems like this.

Small-dollar matching system for federal elections

I support the creation of a strong public financing system that matches small donors so that average citizens can run for office funded by their communities - not by big donors. We need to end the unwritten rules requiring anyone who wants to run for office to start by spending enormous amounts of time seeking donations from wealthy individuals and PACs. And we need a system that enables the people of a district to recruit leaders they believe are their best candidates to represent them, without regard to that individual’s personal wealth or level of connectedness to wealthy donors.

Enhanced Transparency: We must require significantly more disclosure and transparency in order to remove the influence of secret, unaccountable dark money. I support measures that would hold candidates and donors — including my own — accountable through clearly defined fundraising disclosures, deadlines, and penalties. We need to eliminate super PACS and outside spending abuses while strengthening the Federal Election Commission to enforce and reinforce campaign finance law. Voters deserve to know who is funding their elected officials.