We must restore balance to our political system, so regular people are heard and represented, regardless of how much money they have. That’s why we design, support, and win small-donor elections programs at all levels of government across the country.
Small-donor elections programs raise the voices of everyday people in our elections, reduce the power of big money, and ensure everyone’s voice can be heard in government.
Instead of raising money from corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests to keep up with the rapidly increasing costs of winning elections, candidates are able to run solely with the backing of the regular people they hope to represent. When candidates opt-in to these programs, they agree to limit the size of the donations they’ll accept (usually less than $200) and in exchange they receive public funds for their campaign based on the amount of small donors they are able to attract. There are a few mechanisms for doing this, but the most popular is a matching system for small donations. For example, a $25 donation is matched 6-to-1 with public funds, becoming a $175 donation to the campaign. Other systems distribute vouchers to voters to be used for candidate donations, or give candidates a grant once they have secured a certain number of small donors.
Small-donor elections programs free candidates from the corrupting influence of big money in politics and make them accountable to the small donors who fund their campaign. By encouraging candidates to run without the support of big-money donors, they’re able to seek the support of those who they seek to represent – including lots of people who are historically ignored in politics, like working families, women, young people, students, those living with disabilities, immigrants, and people of color.
Small-donor elections also can increase and diversify participation in politics. For too long, people without personal wealth or connections to wealth – particularly people of color and women – have faced barriers to entering politics or have been excluded. Small-donor elections break down the barriers money creates for those running for office so that candidates can reflect the racial, gender, and economic diversity of the country.
Once in office, elected officials are freed from the pressures of fundraising from special interests, which often tilts the scales in favor of lobbyists and wealthy donors who seek access and influence. This allows them to propose legislation and take actions that benefit the greater number of their constituents, take courageous stands on votes, and work across the aisle to find productive compromises. Their attention is doing their job at hand, not raising the money to keep it.
States and cities across the country use some form of small-donor elections:
The Government By the People Act, written by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.), is our national answer to a Congressional election system that is out of balance and out of step with everyday Americans. The Government By the People Act, along with its companion Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate, are modeled after successful small-donor elections systems already in effect, matching small donations up to $150 at a rate of 6-to-1 and setting strict spending and disclosure rules on those who opt in.