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Sen. Durbin’s Fair Elections Now Act Would Restore Faith in Washington

July 26, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

Washington, D.C. — Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) Fair Elections Now Act reintroduced today along with twenty-three co-sponsors would give everyday Americans a bigger voice in the political process, said money-in-politics reform group Every Voice.

“Americans who are frustrated with a government that works well for big donors, but not for the rest of us, are looking for answers to the big-money mess in Washington,” said Nick Nyhart, founding executive of Every Voice. “The Fair Elections Now Act would restore faith in Washington by letting candidates run with the support of small donors from back home, instead of big-money donors. With the introduction of this bill, Senator Durbin and his colleagues are at the forefront of the fight for a democracy that works for everyone”

An AP-NORC poll this month found that three-quarters of Americans say people like them lack influence Washington.

In order to give everyday Americans a bigger say in our democracy, the Fair Elections Now Act would allow Senate candidates to run competitive campaigns by relying on small donations from people back home—not big-money donors in Washington. Here’s how the bill would work:

  • To encourage greater participation, everyday Americans could qualify for a $25 refundable My Voice tax credit to make it easier to give small donations to congressional campaigns.
  • Qualified candidates who agree to only accept contributions of $150 or less and who demonstrate widespread support by raising a large number of small contributions from their home state would be eligible to receive a base grant to help fund their campaigns. After qualifying, small donations would be matched with public funds, up to a limit, by six dollars for every dollar raised. For example, a $40 donation becomes $280.
  • In order to ensure Fair Elections candidates can compete against big money, qualified candidates can receive additional funds in the event that they need resources to compete against outside attacks.

Twenty-three of Sen. Durbin’s colleagues joined him as original cosponsors, including Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sen. Durbin’s bill is similar to the Government By the People Act introduced in the House by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) with 156 co-sponsors. Last week, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Sarbanes, and members of the House Democracy Reform Task Force unveiled the By the People Project, a comprehensive package of democracy reform bills including the Government By the People Act aimed at fighting back against attacks by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress on our democracy.

“Instead of addressing deep-felt voter anger over the power of big money in politics which bubbled up in the last election, President Trump and current majority in Congress have continued to let lobbyists and big donors rule in Washington,” said Nyhart. “Conversely, Sen. Durbin and his colleagues are showing a commitment to reducing the power of big donors and making our democracy work for regular people, instead of wealthy special interests.”

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Every Voice is a national organization fighting for a democracy that works for everyone. Learn more at everyvoice.org.