by Andrei Cherny
We all know it -- the system is rigged against middle class families. Corporate interests influence our elections more than ever before – and have overtaken the voice of, “We, the people.” The Supreme Court’s wrong-headed Citizens United decision that struck down many campaign finance laws to allow unlimited corporate dollars to infiltrate the system leaves us with only real solution to put the people back in charge: the public financing of federal campaigns.
Many options for public financing have earned support, but a Campaign Finance Institute study reveals that a model with “multiple-matching funds can stimulate participation by small donors in a manner that is healthy for democracy.” That’s exactly what America needs.
That's why I'm proposing a public financing system that encourages those running for office to engage as many grassroots participants as possible. It's time for us to:
- Provide candidates with $6 in public matching funds for every dollar they receive in contributions of less than $200.
- Move beyond the “trigger” approach of the Fair Elections Now Act that discourages politicians from continuing to build grassroots financial support once a certain level of contributions have been received. Instead, a public financing plan should encourage candidates for office to continuously engage grassroots supporters.
- Require candidates who receive matching funds to participate in three debates during a contested primary election and three debates during a contested general election.
- Create a new Federal Elections Commission office to carefully verify the legitimacy of small-dollar donations and ensure that candidates comply with the public financing laws.
Public financing will go a long way toward restoring our democracy to the people. It won't be easy. We can't get it done with politics as usual or the usual politicians, but we can do it -- only if we work together.