On the verge of the most expensive election in U.S. history—and six years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision—Americans are demanding a government that is truly by the people, where every voice is heard and every vote counts.
According to a June 2015 poll by The New York Times and CBS News[i], 84 percent of Americans think money has too much influence in elections, and 85 percent say we must “fundamentally change” or “completely rebuild” our system for funding campaigns. Americans of every political stripe are hungry for solutions[ii] that will strip away barriers to people from all walks of life serving in elected office and rebalance the system so it works for voters, not just wealthy special interests. And the momentum behind reform is growing:
· Since 2010, more than 5 million people have signed petitions urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, more than 680 cities and towns, and a majority of the U.S. Senate in 2014 have called for an amendment.
· Since 2010, at least 23 states have enacted disclosure rules to ensure our right to know the big donors trying to influence our elections.
· States and cities have acted to pass and strengthen citizen-funded election systems to amplify the voices of small donors. In 2015 Seattle passed a first-in-the-nation system that will democratize city elections by giving every voter the opportunity to invest in campaigns, and Maine strengthened its system for citizen-funded elections. In 2016 more efforts are underway to establish campaign finance systems that prioritize small donor participation.
Heading into a major election, more than 200,000 Americans (and counting) have called on the presidential candidates to get serious about fighting big money. Hundreds of organizations spanning diverse constituencies and issue areas are preparing to turn out thousands in D.C. and across the country for direct actions, public education, and mass mobilizations. In 2016, more cities and states are expected to vote on initiatives to put people in the driver’s seat of our democracy than in any recent election.
This report shows where we’ve been and—more important—where we’re going. A combination of positive momentum from recent victories, new leadership from a broader range of constituencies, an election that will put big money front and center, and a strong, coordinated plan of action will make 2016 a critical year for pro-democracy reform. In the pages that follow, we lay out a path forward, summarize the (sometimes overlooked) victories building momentum for change, and highlight how limiting the power of big money makes a real difference in people’s lives.
The debate about the problem of money in politics is over. The question is not “if” but “when and how” we will reform our democracy. The movement for commonsense, winnable solutions is paving the way forward—to a government truly of, by, and for the people.
[i] New York Times, “Poll Shows Americans Favor an Overhaul of Campaign Financing,” June 2, 2015
[ii] Every Voice, “New Poll: Broad Support for Small-Donor Driven Solutions to Money in Politics,” December 17, 2015