You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Campaign Finance Reformers Want Details At Democratic Debate

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Paul Blumenthal
ATHENA IMAGE © Scott Eisen via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

WASHINGTON -- Campaign finance reformers don’t want to just hear denunciations of the rising role of big money in politics from the Democratic presidential candidates at Tuesday night’s debate. They want to hear candidates lay out solutions and explain how they will make them happen.

“It’s all about solutions,” Every Voice communications director Adam Smith said. “Nobody watching needs to be convinced that the system is broken or that money corrupts politics.”

The role of money in politics has emerged as a major concern of Democratic Party voters since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the door to unlimited independent spending by corporations, unions and -- following a subsequent lower court ruling -- wealthy individuals on elections. The decision has led politicians to increasingly lean on massive contributions from the wealthiest Americans. At the midpoint of 2015, the majority of the funding for the 2016 presidential campaign had come from donors giving more than $100,000.

In the past, reform groups have been happy enough to have the issue of campaign finance reform or lobbying reform addressed at all in political debates. But too often these conversations have been of a negative variety instead of about how to rebalance the system.

“The real issue is that people are so cynical and they don’t think anything can happen,” Smith said. “That’s why we need to talk more about solutions.”

The push for actual comprehensive policies also comes as public attitudes sour on the role big money plays in elections and governance. A recent Bloomberg poll found that 78 percent of Americans opposed the Citizens United decision and 87 percent supported reform of campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of the wealthy in elections.

“We don’t want to hear more lip service,” Common Cause senior policy counsel Stephen Spaulding said. “We want to hear action."

Nobody watching needs to be convinced that the system is broken or that money corrupts politics.

Much of what the reform community is looking for from the candidates can be found in a document crafted by 13 advocacy groups this year. The Fighting Big Money, Empowering People agenda covers many of the policies adopted by the Democratic candidates, from the creation of a small-donor matching system for public financing of elections to the adoption of real-time disclosure rules and the implementation of rules preventing candidate-super PAC coordination.

“Several candidates have already come out with comprehensive plans; other candidates have had strong positions on the issue,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way. “We want to hear what are they going to do about it.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate for the Democratic nomination, has made reversing Citizens United and stopping the accumulation of economic and political power by the rich a central part of his campaign. He has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, promised to appoint justices opposed to it, voted for disclosure legislation, and also backs public financing of elections.

“What [the Supreme Court] said to the wealthiest people in this country is, ‘Well, you already own much of our economy, we are now going to give you the opportunity to buy the United States government,’” Sanders said about Citizens United to a campaign crowd. “And that is precisely what they are trying to do right now.”

Early in her presidential campaign, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, announced campaign finance reform as one of her four “big fights” to be won under a future administration. On Sept. 8, her campaign released a reform plan that included public financing for congressional elections, a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and support for a number of executive actions she could take -- including ordering the disclosure of all political donations by federal contractors and urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose political donations to shareholders.

“Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee,” Clinton said in a statement upon releasing her plan. “It starts with overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and continues with structural reform to our campaign finance system so there’s real sunshine and increased participation.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, another Democratic presidential hopeful, has also released a comprehensive plan covering many of the same points on public financing and executive actions as the Clinton plan.

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon