In The News
On April 24, the arc of the moral universe will intersect with the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Many will bear witness to that intersection, but official recognition of the genocide by the United States government will be sadly and conspicuously absent.
There are already ideas out there. For instance, Rep. John Sarbanes has a bill that would provide refundable tax credits for political contributions and give significant matching funds for small-dollar contributions in an attempt to amplify the voices of ordinary people who can only give a limited amount. That might not put the billionaires out of the politics business, but a candidate could use that idea or something like it to demonstrate his or her commitment to specific policy change, as opposed to just saying they wish the system were cleaner.
Congressman Sarbanes talks with Jared Rizzi of 'The Lid' about campaign finance reform, his "Government By The People" bill and the viability of a small-donor path for higher offices.
Sarbanes said he’s witnessed a rising level of cynicism in politics, especially among young people, which he said stems from problems such as campaign financing. Sarbanes, the author and sponsor of the Government by the People Act of 2014, told the group he will fight the idea that big money in politics cannot change.
The bill, introduced in February 2014, would encourage more Americans to participate in the political process by providing a $25 tax credit for small donations. These donations would be matched with limited public funds, allowing small donors to have a bigger impact on campaigns.
While we support a constitutional amendment to restore the authority of Congress, state and local governments to regulate campaign spending, it's a long-term fight. But there is another way dilute big money's influence: we can set up a small-donor fundraising system to compete with today's big-money politics.
That's the idea behind H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act. Under this proposal, Americans would receive a "My Voice" Tax Credit for small-donor political contributions, giving them the means to participate in funding campaigns. For candidates that agree to voluntary contribution limits, H.R. 20 would boost small donations with a "Freedom From Influence" Matching Fund, giving everyday citizens a voice that competes with wealthy donors.
If you’re one of these anti-plutocrats, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) has a bill for you. House Resolution 20 stands no chance of passing or even coming up for a vote in the current Congress, of course, but it is nonetheless the most thoughtful proposal in years to begin to diminish the hold that big money exerts over American lawmaking.
Meanwhile, on the national level, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) has introduced the Government by the People Act, which would institute a similar public matching system in federal elections. The legislation boasts an impressive number of supporters, including 144 Democratic members of the House (along with a lone Republican) and a diverse coalition of progressive and labor organizations.
Although the Supreme Court has ruled against limiting political spending, we can still dilute big money's influence by setting up a small-donor fundraising system to compete with today's big-money politics. That's the idea behind H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act.
Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland is ginning up state and local educators' interest in environmental training simply by introducing a bill.
Call it the opportunity agenda for politics -- in which everyone has the opportunity to exercise the same kind of influence Michelle Obama was talking about. For Washington policymakers, the next steps include:
- Study state tax credit systems, like Minnesota's and Oregon's, and figure out what works and why.
- Combine tax credits with public financing, on the model of Rep. John Sarbanes' bipartisan Government By the People Act.
- Encourage private-sector technology innovations to help candidates, voters and organizations use the tax credit and make small donations easier.