U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today hosted a roundtable discussion on the corrosive effects of money in politics and his recently-introduced reform proposal, the Grassroots Democracy Act (H.R. 6426). The Congressman was joined by key members of the policy and reform community, including Adam Lioz of Dēmos, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, and Adam Skaggs from the Brennan Center for Justice.
The discussion focused on the devastating impact of unlimited special interest spending in Congressional elections and how this spending not only influences election outcomes, but also the overall federal policy-making process. Congressman Sarbanes' proposal would incent candidates to focus on cultivating a network of grassroots supporters and provide them with resources to fight back against outside money.
"Super PACs and other shadowy groups have become a dominant force in political campaigns and most Americans do not believe Congress can operate independently of these special interests," said Congressman Sarbanes, author of the Grassroots Democracy Act. "It's time to create a new paradigm that empowers grassroots donors and makes candidates dependent upon the people for support."
The Grassroots Democracy Act is a three-pronged package of reforms designed to combat the influence of concentrated money in politics. The legislation would provide people with a $50 tax credit to support their preferred candidates; a multiple match on grassroots contributions for participating candidates; and a People's Fund to fight back against super PACs and other outside organizations.
"Right now the strength of a citizen's voice depends upon the size of her wallet, and grassroots candidates face an uphill battle in running for Congress," said Adam Lioz, Counsel for Demos. "The Grassroots Democracy Act can help by providing incentives for average citizens to contribute, increasing the value of small contributions to grassroots candidates, and giving these candidates some measure of protection from the onslaught of unlimited outside spending they may face."
"Public Campaign supports Congressman Sarbanes' exemplary leadership to reduce the oversized role that corporate and special interest money have in our elections," said Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign. "The Grassroots Democracy Act complements the Fair Elections Now Act and elevates the voices of small donors so that everyday Americans can have a greater role in the democratic process."
"As Americans live through an election that is awash in influence-seeking money like never before, voters across the country demand reform," said Adam Skaggs, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "We commend Representative John Sarbanes for developing the Grassroots Democracy Act and for his continuing leadership in addressing the corrupting role of money in politics. We look forward to working with Representative Sarbanes and other leaders in Congress to develop an effective small donor empowerment program for federal elections that will put voters--not special interests--back in control of our democracy."
The Grassroots Democracy Act has 31 original cosponsors in the House of Representatives and is supported by the Brennan Center for Justice, Committee for Economic Development, Communication Workers of America, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Demos, Greenpeace, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, and US PIRG.
For more information about the Grassroots Democracy Act, please visit Congressman Sarbanes' website at: www.sarbanes.house.gov/grassrootsdemocracyact