Dear Candidate for Congress:
We are a nonpartisan coalition of four national organizations, representing dozens of local affiliates and more than a half-million citizen activists across the country and across the political spectrum, to repeat our earlier invitation to you to join nearly 220 other Congressional candidates in pledging to eliminate big contributions from moneyed interests in future Congressional elections, and to make our campaigns about the public interest.
In a letter dated July 2, 2008, we asked you to sign the Voters First Pledge, a simple statement of support for legislation for a new system of public funding for Congressional campaigns. As of October 13, we have not received a response from you.
As the nation faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, now is the time for bold reforms to both the financial and political systems. Wall Street and powerful financial interests should not be funding campaigns for Congress if we want a political system that truly works for the American people. Public confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, and voters assume that both incumbents and challengers are under the undue influence of special interests.
The current system of pay-to-play is at the core of Congress's inability to have truly open debate focused on rational choices in the public interest. If you are elected, it will undermine your ability to act on your own beliefs and concerns, and in the interests of America's taxpayers. The never-ending demand upon you, if elected to the 111th Congress, to begin the ever-escalating process of seeking big donors from Day 1 of your term, is a burden that you, your supporters, and your constituents should not have to bear.
The time is long overdue for members of Congress to do what the majority of Americans now know they should do: Make genuine reform of campaign finance a top legislative priority in 2009.
It is reasonable for candidates to wonder if a commitment to public financing resonates with voters. It most emphatically does:
. Seventy-four percent of voters surveyed in 2006 said they supported voluntary public funding of federal elections, with a mere 16 percent opposing it.
. The support was across party lines, with 80 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independents - a remarkable degree of support across the spectrum.
. When presented with an unnamed candidate with no party identification, favorable ratings increased dramatically when voters were told the candidate pledged to support public funding of campaigns - and dropped dramatically when told the candidate refused to pledge support for public funding. This was tested against typical issue profiles for Republican and Democratic candidates, clearly demonstrating the power of this issue push voters towards or away from candidates, even when combined with other policy positions favored by those voters.
Stating support for public financing is truly a win-win for candidates: first, because Americans want dramatic change in the way Congress does business, and second, because it is the right thing to do - it will free you, as an elected representative, to do the work you came to Washington to do in the first place.
We will soon be disseminating, through your local media and by other means, a complete report on candidates who have stated their support for public funding, and on those who have failed to do so. We intend to release the information the third week of October, and will work energetically with all interested groups in all 50 states to publicize the results. We sincerely urge you to join with us and millions of your fellow citizens in committing now to support this critical reform.
Please indicate your support by signing the enclosed one-page pledge and sending it back to us no later than 12 noon on Wednesday, October 22. We will release to the media our results on pledge signers and nonsigners the next morning. (If you choose not to support public financing, we respectfully request that you state your reasons. We would like to hear your concerns.) Please send by fax to 202-521-0605, or by email to email@example.com.
Thank you for attending to this matter as soon as possible. We urge you not to delay, and to stand with us for clean and fair elections.
Bob Edgar, President, Common Cause
Nick Nyhart, Executive Director, Public Campaign Action Fund
David Arkush, Director, Public Citizen's Congress Watch
Lawrence Lessig, Founder, Change Congress