Money in Politics

Fair Elections Now


Members of Congress spend too much time fundraising and too little time working to solve the country's problems. Instead of focusing on jobs, health care, or wars and political upheaval across the Middle East, they spend hours each day begging for campaign contributions from the lobbyists and special interests they’re supposed to oversee in Washington. It’s no surprise that special interests and wealthy donors have enormous influence in Washington.

It's time to get our elected officials out of the fundraising game and insist they do the job we elected them to do: tackle important issues and listen to their constituents.

In a citizen-funded "Fair Elections" system, qualified candidates who take no contributions larger than $100 can run for Congress on a blend of small donations and public funds.

The Fair Elections Now Act, introduced in the 112th Congress by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., would:

• Reduce the influence of big donors over federal elections, the main driver of pay-to-play politics in Washington;
• Enhance the power of small donors; and
• Offer a voluntary campaign finance system that both incumbents and challengers will find attractive.

In the 111th Congress, more than 200 members of the House and Senate co-sponsored or pledged to support Fair Elections legislation. The Fair Elections Now Act was endorsed in the House Administration Committee but never brought to a vote on the House floor. To truly change Washington, we must attack pay-to-play politics at its core and get this legislation passed and signed into law. Constant fundraising by members of Congress dominates their schedules and rots the political process.

Join us in working to pass the Fair Elections Now Act.


Why We Need Fair Elections Now

Common Cause is a major backer of citizen-funded elections. We're working closely with allies at the Brennan Center for Justice, Change Congress, Democracy Matters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and other groups to pass the Fair Elections Now Act.

Policy Snapshot: Fair Elections

The Fair Elections Now Act would allow candidates to run for office on a blend of small contributions from individuals and limited public funds.

Candidates would qualify by raising a certain number of contributions of $100 or less from individuals in their home state. They would then receive a grant of Fair Elections funds for the primary and general election, and could continue raising unlimited small contributions. Each additional $1 raised would be matched by $4 from a new Fair Elections Fund, ensuring that candidates who use the system could compete even against well-financed opponents.

States including Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina use similar citizen-funded election systems for at least some of their elections with great success. The Fair Elections Now Act would build on those successes and carry them to Congressional contests.


Wealthy and corporate donors dominated the 2012 election. In every election since 2000, candidates for Congress have raised more money from big donors and political committees and less money from small donors giving $200 or less. In 2010, wealthy interests put in more than $7 for every $1 from small donors.

The public suffers from the results of this pay-to-play system. Political contributions are investments in our democracy and the elected officials to whom we entrust it. And the more they spend, the more investors expect in return. Wall Street spent over a billion dollars on campaigns and lobbying in Washington and kept Congress and regulators at bay—until it was too late to prevent a market meltdown that nearly destroyed our economy. When Congress reformed health care, the only clear winners were the pharmaceutical companies, which put more than $30 million into the 2008 election and more than $500 million into lobbying Congress during 2009 and ’10.

The American people strongly support Fair Elections as a way to change pay-to-play Washington politics.

• In a 2012 survey of voters in 54 "battleground" House districts across the country, more than half of voters supported a citizen-funded Fair Elections system.


• Most voters (83% in a Rasmussen national survey) believe that lobbyists have more influence than voters over elected officials.

It's time to get federal officials out of the money chase and let them do the job we elected them to do: tackle tough problems and represent their communities. In the 112th Congress, the bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate (S. 750) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) in the House (H.R. 1404). The bill is expected to be re-introduced in the 113th Congress during 2013.


It's time to pass the Fair Elections Now Act.