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Sierra Club Joins First Debate Democracy Campaign

September 19, 2016 | Laura Friedenbach

Over 30 Groups Urge Debate Moderator Lester Holt to Ask Clinton and Trump about the Issue Fundamental to the Rest: Democracy Reform

Washington, D.C. — The Sierra Club is joining on effort urging presidential debate moderator Lester Holt of NBC to press presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to talk about how they plan to make our democracy work for all Americans at the very first debate.

The growing “First Debate Democracy” campaign consists of a diverse coalition of over 30 organizations representing tens of millions of Americans united in the belief that in order to solve the most pressing issues of our time, we must first address our broken democracy.

“There’s no question that to protect our environment, we need to ensure our democracy is working for everyone, instead of just for corporations and big polluters,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “The fact is that the same people who are polluting our environment with toxic emissions are polluting our democracy with toxic money and assaults on the right to vote. That’s why its critical that this debate feature a real conversation about what the candidates plan to do to reduce the influence of corporate polluter money in politics and protect voting rights. As we have seen all too often, when our democracy suffers, so does our ability to address critically important issues like the climate crisis.”

Federal Elections Commissioner Ann Ravel also joined the call for the presidential candidates to first debate democracy with an op-ed in US News this week. “The presidential election season should be the time to engage in a national conversation about our values and our future,” said Ravel. “Unfortunately, many Americans are frustrated and don’t think they have a voice in the political process. But they are nonetheless listening. So the first presidential debate is an important opportunity to address people’s concerns about the state of our representative democracy.”

Activists generated over 7.1 million impressions tweeting at Lester Holt with the hashtag #FirstDebateDemocracy – including tweets from Harvard professor Larry Lessig and Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen.

Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, wrote an open letter last week to Lester Holt that kicked off the First Debate Democracy campaign. Other groups including Every Voice circulated petitions and gathered tens of thousands of petition in just days urging Lester Holt ask the candidates about democracy issues such as money in politics, voting rights, and filling the Supreme Court vacancy.

The coalition supporting the First Debate Democracy campaign includes The Agenda Project, American Promise, Alliance for Justice, Brave New Films, Coalition for Open Democracy, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Democracy Matters, Democracy Initiative, Demos, Every Voice, Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech For People, Funders Committee on Civic Participation, Issue One, MAYDAY.US, MoveOn.org, The New York Urban League, NH Rebellion, The Other 98%, Headcount, the creators of the documentary Pay2Play, Patriotic Millionaires, PEN America, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Represent.US, ReThink Media, Rootstrikers, The Sierra Club, Scholars Strategy Network, Stamp Stampede, Take Back Our Republic, and U.S. PIRG.


Every Voice and Every Voice Center have recently come under new leadership. We will be expanding and diversifying our efforts to promote a democracy that works for all of us and responds to the voices of everyday people. Watch this space for specifics later in 2019.