H.R. 1 and the Fight to Save Voters’ Rights
At the beginning of the year, House Democrats unveiled their “For The People Act”, better known as H.R. 1, a sweeping political anti-corruption bill meant to address perceived issues in voting, campaign finance, redistricting and ethics…. Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who is also the principal author of HR1, spoke to ESSENCE as well, pointing out the importance of the bill’s measures. “The evidence is that the super PACs, these various 501C organizations that had become a vehicle for big donors, millionaires, corporations to funnel money into campaigns and into the political space, put a huge amount of influence over the way policy gets made,” he explained. “If you’re a legislator and you’re trying to make smart tax policy that’s supposed to help a broad cross-section of Americans, but there’s a super PAC out there that’s acting on behalf of Wall Street and the big backed banks and they’re threatening to spend a lot of money against you, it’s going to affect how you vote potentially. When you mix money and dependency on money or fear of money being spent against you in large amounts, if you mix that up with human nature, it can distort the way policy decisions get made.” These sorts of influences can certainly negatively impact minority communities at worst, or just cause them to be overlooked. “Minority voters, minority communities can really suffer when policy decisions in Washington are being made by these well-heeled interests. And the reason is, I think oftentimes those interests and those special interests are largely out of touch with the situation faced by many Americans,” Sarbanes said. “They can’t relate to it. They’re never going to translate policy proposals in the same way that you would have grassroots, community-based representatives do.” That is why, according to Sarbanes, it is so important to put the importance back into smaller donors, the regular Americans who want their interests to be heard. “If you build a system that allows small donors to have their contributions matched – in the case that we’ve presented as part of H.R. 1, a six to one matching fund so that if someone gives $25 and there’s $150 match comes in behind that – what that does is instantly transform the small-donor everyday-citizen universe into a place that the lawmaker wants to be, because they can actually power their campaign and be competitive,” Sarbanes stressed.