Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fair Elections Now Act Announced

Democracy Matters along with our coalition partners cheers today's introduction of the Congressional Fair Elections Now Act.

Recent revelations that AIG gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the politicians who approved the company's $170 billion federal bailout is just one reason Congress should pass the sweeping reforms introduced today.

A set of bipartisan bills, the Fair Elections Now Act, sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and House Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Walter Jones (R-NC) was announced at 3:00 pm in the Senate Press Gallery.

Durbin defended the bill: "Today the amount of money spent in top ten competitive Senate races averages $34 million per campaign - double what it was just four years ago. It takes a mountain of money - about $7 million on average - even to lose a Senate campaign. This is not sustainable. People who say the public shouldn't have to pay for elections are missing the point: the American people already pay for elections - in ways that favor incumbents and special interests and in a Congressional agenda spawned too many times by those who finance our campaigns. Public financing will cost us only a fraction of what the current system costs."

The Fair Elections Now Act is modeled after state programs in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut. The Congressional bill would provide qualified candidates money to run a viable campaign on small donations and public funds, thus freeing candidates from raising millions in contributions from lobbyists and fundraisers.

Public Financing has strong public support. According to a recent bipartisan poll, more than two-thirds of voters (67 percent) support providing qualified congressional candidates a limited amount of public funding if they agree to take no large contributions.

Democracy Matters is joined by Common Cause, Brennan Center for Justice, Change Congress, Campus Progress, Public Citizen, Public Campaign, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and many others. The Fair Elections Coalition believes voluntary public financing will allow participating candidates to spend less time fundraising, increase the diversity of candidates, and bring politicians’ focus back to the people and away from special interest groups.

Read what people are saying about the Fair Elections Now Act:

“This legislation, which is strongly supported by the NAACP, will go a long way in restoring the confidence of the American people in their elected representatives as well as the election process overall.” Hillary Shelton, Washington, DC Bureau Director, NAACP

“The Sierra Club has consistently supported reform of the campaign finance system in order to reduce the influence of polluting corporations on elected officials.” Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club

“The Fair Elections Now Act opens the electoral process to Latino, African American and Asian American candidates. For too long, candidates and elected officials have been forced to chase campaign contributions, leaving them less time to listen to our communities and their constituents. This bill brings the people closer to their elected leaders.” John TrasviƱa, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Defense Fund (MALDEF)

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