Quoted from the recent Brennen Center for Justice newsletter:

new report released by the Brennan Center and New America this week proposes a new legal and public foundation for campaign finance reforms and the restoration of American democracy. Arguing that the story we tell about the problem of money in politics and its solutions “shouldn’t just be a post hoc justification for old solutionsbut … blaze a path toward creative solutions,” author Mark Schmitt offers “political opportunity” as a potential framework and rationale for democratic reform. Schmitt argues that rather than focus on putting a ceiling on the electoral and political voice of the very wealthy, reformers should focus on creating structures that ensure opportunity for people, organizations, ideas and visions that are currently shut out of the political process. “Political opportunity-based reforms hold the promise of restoring fluidity and creativity to the political process, as candidates compete on new ideas and new axes of conflict and compromise emerge, breaking the stifling duality of the current system,” wrote Schmitt.

This leads to the question of what kind of reforms could encourage or incentivize those "currently shut out of the political process." One idea that has been around for years is to give everyone a voucher or tax credit for donations to the candidate(s) of their choice. Are there other ideas?



New ideas on Money in Politics

I heard Rep. John Sarbanes a few weeks ago speak about HR20, Government by the People, a bill he has introduced.  He believes that limiting the amount an individual or corporation can give will not be feasible given the Supreme Court's rulings.  He is proposing a plan that encourages small donations (up to $150) that will be match with public funds on a ratio of 6:1.  Thus, a donation of $150 will be matched with $900 for a total of $1,050.  He said the public funds could come from closing loopholes in the corporate tax structure.  For lower income people who can't contribute, they would receive a voucher for $50 from which they can donate in $5 increments.  To qualify for this matching funds project, the candidate must raise $50,000 in small donations, which would then be matched by $300,000, and the candidate would have to agree not to accept PAC money.  If the candidate faces a last-minute deluge of campaign ads by the opponents, special provisions are available to help the candidate with extra money to respond to the opponent's ads.

This brief description does not do justice to Rep Sarbanes' bill.  The main thing I am interested in is the fact that he is taking a completely different tack to address the problem of Money in Politics and has covered some of the concerns that have come up.in the past.  I appreciate that he is thinking out of the box.  I also appreciated that he was quite candid about the negative influence of money in politics and noted that his bill puts the candidate in the position of calling constituents for donations and listening to their concerns and issues, instead of going over to K Street to visit with a lobbyist and walking out with a $10,000 check but an onerous obligation to the lobbyist's client.

Thanks, Linda



Linda P. Wassenich

Member: LWV-Dallas, TX

LWVUS Board of Directors

Chair, Development Committee

Barbara Zia


Hi Linda and thanks for your comments and questions about Senator Sarbanes' bill. Because this involves legislative advocacy, we referred it to the LWVUS Advocacy Committee. Someone from the committee will be getting back to you. Also, when posting please remember to sign your full name and League.

Barbara Zia

Chair, LWV Education Fund Money in Politics Committee

Member, LWV Charleston Area, SC

Barbara Zia
LWVUS Director
Chair, Money in Politics Committee
Member, LWV Charleston Area, SC

Please remember to sign your full name and League

Or add a signature block to your Forums profile.

Norman Turrill
LWV of Oregon Board Member
former LWVUS Board Member
former LWVUS Agriculture Update Chair
former LWVUS Board Technology Chair
Portland, OR