Making Democracy Work
Reduce influence of special interest money in politics, provide public financing for campaigns for some offices, ensure transparency, restore citizen confidence, and prevent conflicts of interest.
Bills That Need Action This Week
Action Alert Ask your U.S. senator TODAY to support the For the People Act (S1). Return control of our government back where it belongs—into the hands of the people. In addition to the small donor empowerment section we highlighted last week, the For the People Act would overhaul the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission, which has failed to meaningfully enforce existing rules and would almost certainly struggle to implement other ambitious reforms.
We are grateful for our Washington State Public Disclosure Commission and our support to keep them effective is necessary. Get to know what they do by listening to this recording and viewing slides about them from Democracy Lobby Week.
Empowering Small Donors
The For the People Act would create a small-donor matching system for congressional races and revamp the matching system for presidential contests. Small-donor matching is an innovative reform that uses public funds to amplify small private donations. The bill would provide qualified presidential and congressional candidates with $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors. The bill would create a Freedom from Influence Fund as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs, to be funded primarily by a small surcharge on criminal or civil penalties and settlements from corporations, corporate officers, or (in very limited cases) individual tax code violators who are in the top income bracket. A similar program has existed for decades in New York City and the state of Maine, where it has diversified the donor pool, helped candidates of modest means run for office, and allowed elected officials to spend more time talking to their constituents instead of dialing for dollars.
The bill would establish a voucher pilot program in three states under which eligible voting-age citizens could request vouchers worth $25 and donate them to the congressional candidates of their choice. The City of Seattle implemented a voucher program for city elections in 2017. Preliminary research has shown that the program allows city candidates to raise more money from city residents, and has also broadened the city’s donor base to include more women, people of color, and non-wealthy residents. This subtitle would establish a voucher pilot program in three states under which eligible voting-age citizens could request vouchers worth $25 and donate them to the congressional candidates of their choice.
Seattle’s first of its kind innovative "democracy voucher" program helps diversify campaign donors and candidates and improves representation of Seattle residents. Other cities and jurisdictions across the country are looking to adopt similar programs. Here is a link to the recording of a program we did on this as part of Democracy Lobby Week.
Bills the League Supports That Missed the Cutoff
SB 5170 The Revolving Door bill would have established a one-year “cooling off” period before elected officials and high-level employees can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy. Thirty-seven states, as well as the federal government, have cooling off period/revolving door laws. The disclosure required by this bill of post-employment income sources will strengthen transparency and confidence in the integrity of government. This bill remains on second reading by the Rules Committee which means it is dormant until January 2022.
Bills the League is Watching That Missed the Cutoff
SJM 8002 This bill requested an amendment to the U.S Constitution on campaign finance reform. The Senate Committee on State Government and Elections passed this bill on Feb. 5, 2021, and as of Feb. 8 was passed to the Rules Committee for a second reading, which means it is dormant until January 2022.
Bills the League Opposes That Missed the Cutoff
SB 5109 This bill, which limits sanctions for campaign violations, would prohibit the attorney general from seeking to ban serious, repeated campaign finance law violators from participating in elections, including initiatives.
How to be Involved