Sign on Letter Text:
As major political donors, we urge you to make the corrosive impact of big money in politics a prominent theme in your campaign. To safeguard our democracy, we ask you to speak up for robust public campaign financing that is vital to reducing the dependence of politicians on wealthy donors, ensuring that the concerns of the populace are heard, and restoring public trust in our political process.
You have the opportunity to show the public that you support elevating the voices of regular Americans, while opponents of reform would seem to believe that the more the wealthy dominate politics the better—perhaps even when done in secret.
Standing up for the voices of regular Americans is good politics as well as good policy: a recent New York Times poll showed that 84% of Americans, including 80% of Republicans, believe big money has too much influence in campaigns. And an overwhelming 85% of the public, including 81% of Republicans, say we should completely rebuild or make fundamental changes to our campaign finance system.
But despite this broad agreement, 58% of the public is pessimistic that improvements will be made. You can counter this pessimism by showing them that there are real and effective steps Congress can take right now to empower all Americans and significantly reduce the power of big money.
There is wide and bipartisan voter support for using public funds to match small donations to candidates who refuse to take large donations. A 2014 poll of likely voters in states with competitive Senate races showed approval for this proposal by 66% to 27%, including strong support by independents (63%) and even Republicans (58%). Millennials and undecided Senate voters were even more supportive, and support stayed strong even after voters heard arguments against the proposal. New York City has successfully used such a 4:1 or 6:1 public match for over a decade.
Robust public financing is the best tool available to free candidates from the need to raise money from an unrepresentative fraction of the electorate. It may not create a fully level playing field but would provide enough funds for candidates to run effective campaigns and win. Once candidates have enough money to get out their messages and turn out their voters, each additional dollar has steadily decreasing marginal value until saturation is reached and there’s nothing left to buy.
Public financing would be needed even if Citizens United were overturned, since our system was unacceptably dependent on big money donors before that decision. Voluntary (opt-in) systems for candidates that do not limit independent expenditures are permissible under Supreme Court rulings and could be enacted now.
The $4 billion spent on the two-year 2014 congressional election amounts to less than $9 per eligible voter per year. Not only is that sum affordable, public financing if implemented could save that amount and much more if it gives Congress the fortitude to cut wasteful subsidies to the corporations and wealthy individuals who least need them. Reducing housing subsidies for the wealthy, tax loopholes for private equity managers, and subsidies for immensely profitable businesses alone would provide tens of billions of dollars a year, more than enough to pay for public campaign financing while saving taxpayer money.
Americans are polarized on many issues, but are remarkably united about money in politics. They know the system is broken. Tapping into that frustration in a way that provides a positive solution gives them a concrete reason to show up and support you and your call for a government that is responsive to voters, not big donors.
People vote on the questions “Can I trust you?” and “Do you care about people like me?” Candidates who embrace reform can make clear they are on the side of the people and want the voices of regular Americans to be heard, drawing sharp contrasts with those who would maintain the current system and its dependence on disclosed and dark money from the wealthiest. This reform is essential to preserving our democracy, and we urge you to make it a key theme in your campaign.