Congresswoman Bonamici Joins OSPIRG in Discussion About Solutions to Big Money in Politics

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Maddie Kusch-Kavanagh

OSPIRG Foundation

PORTLAND, ORCongresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, the public interest group OSPIRG, dozens of local residents, and Portland State University students participated in a discussion about the problem of big money in politics and the available solutions to address it in Oregon.

“The Citizens United decision has resulted in more money in politics and drowned out the voices of everyday Americans,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “President Obama called on us to ‘change the system to reflect our better selves.’ Together, we can take several steps to reform our broken campaign finance system. These include creating small donor programs that amplify the voices of ordinary people and publically disclosing the hidden backers that influence our elections.”

Congresswoman Bonamici supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. She is a co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, which would add transparency to the donors of political campaigns, and The Government by the People Act, which would encourage more Americans to participate in the political process by matching small contributions with limited public funds so grassroots candidates could more fairly compete.

Public financing can be effective. For example, in New York City’s 2013 City Council races, candidates participating in the program raised more than 60 percent of their funds from small donors. By contrast, candidates who did not participate in the program raised just 19 percent of their funds from small donors. Additionally, 54 out of 59 winning candidates participated in the program, costing the city just 0.06% of their 2013 annual budget.

Among the topics discussed by attendees and panelists were the need to work toward a constitutional amendment and the benefit that would come from tightening disclosure laws.

“Our ballots should matter more than our wallets”, said Kate Titus, Executive Director of Common Cause. “We need to put voters back at the center of this democracy.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate money into politics has gravely affected our elections and our democracy,” said Maddie Kusch-Kavanagh, Campaign Organizer with OSPIRG. “As we are bombarded with overwhelming figures of money spent by a handful of mega-donors, we must keep in mind that there are solutions available. It’s our job to start building support for reforms that curb the influence of big money by empowering average citizens, both here in Oregon and across the country.”

This event comes on the heels of OSPIRG Foundation releasing a report, Oregon’s Multi-Million Dollar Democracy, analyzing the influence of big money in Oregon’s 2014 elections. The report finds that in the 2014 election season, just over a thousand large donors contributed nearly ten times more than all small donors combined–a group comprised of at least 50,000 Oregonians. 

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With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursing their own narrow agendas, OSPIRG Foundation offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. OSPIRG Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.