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My Turn: Let’s kick big money out of American politics

Last modified: 2/11/2015 12:02:59 AM
Five years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling, big-money campaign donors have amassed unprecedented political power and their corrosive influence on our government is growing. Just last month, billionaires Charles and David Koch announced plans to commit nearly $900 million to the 2016 election. That’s almost as much as the Romney and Obama campaigns combined spent during the last presidential election.

In the first days of this year’s new Congress, we’ve already seen a litany of bills that do favors for Big Oil and other special interests. These aren’t the kinds of proposals that Granite Staters care about – like legislation that would help hard-working families earn a bigger paycheck, obtain a decent education or retire with dignity. That’s what Congress should be focusing on. But unfortunately, special interests too often call the shots in Washington.

But there is reason for hope. Most people who run for public office do so out of a sincere desire to help others and to make a difference in their community. Many are deeply frustrated by the outsized role of money in politics and long to restore Congress’s credibility with the public. To do this, we must empower everyday Americans to take back our democracy.

Some wonder whether there is any way to compete with the Koch brothers and the other well-connected Washington insiders. We believe there is. We can set up a small-donor fundraising system that puts everyday Americans back in charge. That’s the idea behind HR 20, the Government By the People Act, which we introduced earlier this year.

Under this proposal, Americans would receive a “My Voice” tax credit for small-donor political contributions, giving them the means to participate in the funding of campaigns.

For candidates who agree to voluntary contribution limits, HR 20 would boost small donations with a “Freedom From Influence” matching fund, giving everyday citizens a voice that competes with wealthy donors.

By making citizen-funded elections a viable alternative to our current big-money system, members of Congress would spend more time with their constituents and less time with the insider crowd.

Imagine if we could take the New Hampshire people-powered approach nationwide, with candidates visiting diners and coffee shops with everyday people and listening to their priorities – all because average citizens would have the power to fund candidates’ campaigns.

That’s the promise of a small-donor matching system.

With this kind of reform, there’s hope that we can take back our democracy. But it won’t be without a fight. Republicans, Democrats and independents must work across the aisle and join together to raise awareness about the outsized role and undue influence of wealthy and well-connected special interests on our politics and on our government.

With everyday citizens in New Hampshire and in states throughout the country joining movements like this, we can come together and fight big-money politics, pass HR 20 and return to a government of, by and for the people.

(Congresswoman Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, and Congressman John Sarbanes represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Both are Democrats.)


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