Today, we know that…
…a congressional challenger is likely to be outspent by hundreds of thousands of dollars by even the most vulnerable of incumbents, and will face hundreds of thousands of dollars more in undisclosed outside money pouring in against her. But she’ll be told that voters won’t respond to a message about making the election a referendum on what her opponent’s big money is buying, so she doesn’t even try.
…outside groups directly connected to candidates and parties will raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars making the idea that elected officials work for everyday voters seem quaint and antiquated.
…a state legislator will crusade against money in politics reform, then take lobbyist money hand over fist, but his opponent will raise it only timidly because he needs the money, too.
These stories show us that our democracy is in trouble. And too many Americans believe we don’t have the power to turn it around. That’s where we come in with a tangible, measureable campaign to begin to reverse these trends.
Friends of Democracy believes that a breakthrough strategy – one that puts us on the path to force our elected officials to help fix our broken campaign finance system – is to deliver electoral consequences to those who stand in the way, and to lift up those who champion policies that move us in the right direction. Politicians who don’t listen to us and who defend the status quo ought to go. And those who are willing to side with everyday Americans ought to stay. That’s the first goal.
But this is not a one-election fight. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. Winning our democracy back means convincing our families, friends, and neighbors, first and foremost, that we haven’t passed the point of no return. We will need staying power and commitment to see this through several elections to grow our power sufficiently enough to create momentum for change.
OK, what are you for?
Over time, we believe we can overcome the current sense of frustration and begin to restore public faith in representative democracy. Everyone’s voice – not just the ten million dollar super PAC donor, but the ten dollar donor to a congressional candidate – should be heard. And they can be heard, if we organize around a platform that includes:
- Citizen-led elections. We must replace the dependence candidates have on large contributions and independent expenditures with support they find in their own communities from people who give ten dollars or a hundred dollars.
- Separate outside groups from candidates. ‘Independent’ should mean just that: independent.
- Reform lobbying rules. Lobbying has become a profession selling access and influence. Elected officials and their staffs shouldn’t be looking towards their next job while working for the American people, and current lobbyists need more comprehensive reporting requirements.
- Transparency and disclosure. Part of evaluating whether you trust a message is knowing who paid for it.
- Enforcement. We need an independent, non-partisan enforcement agency instead of a bi-partisan incumbent protection agency.