Senate Money in Politics Package Stops Short of Comprehensive Reform

Media Contacts
Dan Smith

U.S. PIRG commends the sponsors of today’s legislation, but the proposed package fails to include one of the most essential campaign finance reform measures.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, lawmakers in the Senate introduced a package of election reform legislation, including proposals to overturn Citizens United, disclose secret political spending, strengthen the enforcement of campaign finance laws and more. U.S. PIRG commends the sponsors of today’s legislation for highlighting the issue of big money in politics and showing support for reform. However, the proposed package fails to include one of the most essential campaign finance reform measures: the creation of a small donor empowerment program for congressional and presidential elections like that proposed in Senator Durbin’s Fair Elections Now Act (S. 1538).

Statement from Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director, U.S. PIRG:

“At the polls, in the streets, and across the country, Americans are calling for real reforms that put everyday voters in control of our democracy. The election reform package introduced today in the Senate shows that our lawmakers are listening and that they’re ready to act.

But today’s package doesn’t go far enough. Polls show that voters want an overhaul of our campaign finance system. To create a democracy that puts voters first, we need a system that allows candidates to fund their campaigns through small contributions from everyday Americans. Today, Senate leaders put forth strong reforms that, if paired with small donor empowerment legislation, will move us towards a government truly of, by, and for the people.”  

The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 1538) would enable more Americans to participate in the electoral process by establishing a $25 “my voice” refundable tax credit. Small contributions of less than $150 would then be matched with limited public funds at a rate of six-to-one for U.S. Senate candidates that agree to turn down big money, amplifying the voices of small donors.

The package offered by the Senate lawmakers does contain a number of important reform proposals that would overturn the Citizens United decision through a Constitutional Amendment; shine a light on secret money; shut down individual-candidate Super PACs and strengthen rules prohibiting coordination by other outside spending groups with candidates.

Polls show that 85 percent of Americans believe our campaign finance system needs either fundamental changes or must be completely rebuilt. Another recent poll shows that 72 percent of Americans favor a law to provide candidates with “limited public matching funds for small contributions they raise from constituents.”

This April, thousands of activists flooded Washington, D.C., to demonstrate for reforms as part of Democracy Awakening, a three-day mass mobilization supporting voting rights and fair elections. One of the mobilization’s key demands was that lawmakers support the Government by the People Act (Rep. Sarbanes – H.R. 20) and the Fair Elections Now Act, bills in the House and Senate which would create a small donor empowerment for congressional races. In the House, 160 representatives have cosponsored the Government by the People Act, and in the Senate, 23 lawmakers have cosponsored the Fair Elections Act.



U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.