House Parties, Town Meetings in Support of Publicly Funded Elections
Washington, DC — Organizations and activists next week will hold rallies, host house parties, attend town hall meetings and participate in panel discussions nationwide in support of the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would create a voluntary system of full public financing for congressional races.
Throughout the week of action Nov. 12-16, activists and supporters will be gathering and educating citizens about the need for Fair Elections. People are knocking on doors in Rhode Island, holding a town hall meeting in Iowa, and asking people to sign petitions in Minnesota. Over 50 events are happening in nearly 20 states.
The Fair Elections Now Act, introduced in March by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), would provide candidates an option to seek office with a public grant. Qualifying candidates would also have to adhere to strict spending limits and forgo all private fundraising in order to accept the public money. Modeled on successful Clean Elections systems in place in Maine, Arizona, Connecticut and four other states, Fair Elections style systems make elections about volunteers and voters instead of campaign contributors and special interest donors.
“Americans recognize that money sometimes plays a warping role in electoral politics and hobbles progress on issues crucial to our country. It’s clear now that the remedy that will make the biggest difference is a move toward public funding. It’s constitutional, it’s simple, and based on experience across the country, it works,” said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center’s Executive Director.
“If we want solutions to tough issues like the health care crisis and global warming, we need to take the flood of special interest money out of our political campaigns,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Public financing would restore voters’ voices to the political process and then we would have policies that serve the public’s interest.”
“Students at universities all over the country are rallying behind the promise of Fair Elections,” said Joan Mandle, executive director of Democracy Matters. “This reform will mean that young people can run for office and can elect representatives who will listen to and address their concerns.”
“In a corruption-ridden Washington DC, the biggest scandal is the fundraising system itself,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Next week, all across the country, ordinary citizens will stand up and demand their voices be heard above the ‘ka-ching’ of the political money chase.”
“How can the United States be a global champion of democracy when our own elections demand such a high admission fee?” asks Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “It is time to take the price tag off the democratic process and return elections to their rightful owner: the American citizen.”
“Voter frustration over the flood of special interest money in political campaigns has reached historic highs while confidence in Congress has reached historic lows,” said U.S. PIRG’s Gary Kalman. “Lawmakers can reverse the trend but only if they listen to their constituents and replace the campaign cash they now take with public funds.”
The Fair Elections Action Week is sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, League of Young Voters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
In 2006, more than 200 officials elected under Clean Elections systems took office free of the influence of special interest campaign money. Eighty-four percent of the Maine legislature is made up of Clean Elections candidates. In Arizona, 9 of 11 statewide officials used the system, including Gov. Janet Napolitano.