Government Reform Organizations Unveil Democracy Agenda for Next President

Media Contacts
Dan Smith

Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Agenda


WASHINGTON – U.S. PIRG joined 11 other leading government reform organizations today to release a comprehensive policy agenda to curb the impact of big money and amplify the voices of everyday Americans in our democracy. Under the reform agenda, the Citizens United decision would be overturned, more candidates could rely on small donors instead of Super PACs and mega-donors to fund their campaigns, political donations and spending would become more transparent, and candidates would no longer be able to skirt contribution limits through coordination with outside groups.

The document calls for the next President of the United States to commit to making this reform agenda a national priority from Day One in office.

“With the 2016 money primary in full swing as candidates from both parties court the donors with the deepest pockets, Americans of all political stripes are ready for reform – now more than ever,” said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG’s Democracy Campaign Director and a contributor to the policy agenda. “The next President of the United States needs to make these reforms a centerpiece of their agenda from Day One.”

The “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People” Agenda is based on five core principles of democracy:

–          Everyone participates

–          Everyone’s voice is heard

–          Everyone knows who is trying to influence our views and our representatives

–          Everyone plays by fair, commonsense rules

–          Everyone is held accountable, with enforceable penalties to deter bad behavior

Key policies of the agenda include:

–          Encouraging and amplifying the voices of everyday Americans through legislation to match small contributions with public funds for candidates who turn down big money, and tax credits for small contributions to encourage more Americans to participate.

–          Robust, real-time disclosure of political contributions and expenditures through legislation and executive action, including an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose political spending, should President Obama fail to act.

–          Overturning Citizens United and related cases through the Democracy for All constitutional amendment.

–          Ending the mockery of existing campaign finance rules through legislation preventing coordination between candidates and outside groups that can receive unlimited contributions from big donors, and robust enforcement of current laws.

Recent public opinion polls showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans feel that their voices are being drowned out by big donors, and that our system is in need of sweeping reform. A New York Times/CBS poll found that 85 percent of Americans think the system for funding campaigns needs “fundamental changes” or that “we need to totally rebuild it.” A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found that the political influence of corporations and the wealthy is a top concern for voters in the 2016 election.

The release of this agenda also comes on the heels of efforts to enact similar reforms by states and localities across the country:

–          Last fall, the County Council in Montgomery County, Maryland enacted a program to amplify the voices of small donors and enable candidates to rely on everyday citizens to fund their campaigns instead of big donors.

–          In February, nearly 80 percent of Chicago voters approved an advisory ballot measure calling on the city council to create a small donor empowerment program.

–          In Seattle, 32,000 residents signed a petition to qualify the Honest Elections Seattle initiative for the ballot in 2015.

–          More than 85,000 Mainers signed a petition to qualify a ballot measure for 2015 to restore the state’s clean elections law and shine a light on dark money.

–          In Montana, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock signed into law a dark money disclosure bill passed by a Republican-controlled legislature

In addition to U.S. PIRG, the groups signed onto the agenda include: Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Democracy Matters, Demos, Every Voice, Issue One, Mayday, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, and Represent.Us.

“For the next President, words won’t be enough to rise to the occasion. Strong action is required to ensure that every American, regardless of how deep their pockets are, has an equal voice in our elections,” said Smith.

Click here for a copy of “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Agenda.”