CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
[UPDATE: Click here to read about my endorsement by End Citizens United. "End Citizens United (ECU) today endorsed Liz Watson in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. Watson is rejecting all corporate PAC money in her campaign for Congress. Her commitment is part of a growing trend – as an unprecedented number of candidates are rejecting corporate PAC money. ECU is leading efforts to encourage candidates to refuse corporate special interest money."]
In its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C., the Supreme Court declared that “corporations are people” and allowed billionaires and special interests to pour millions of uncountable, untraceable dollars into American elections. The secret and corrupting influence of big money in our politics compromises our elections, and results in a government that isn’t accountable to the people. If big corporations and billionaires like the Koch Brothers can use their wealth to buy special favors, then how can working Americans believe that our government is really working on our behalf?
Here in southern Indiana, we know the post-Citizens United reality all too well. Trey Hollingsworth spent more than three million dollars of his family’s money on his campaign. He is taking money from the NRA, and he has close ties to the Koch brothers’ shadowy political arm, “Americans for Prosperity.” Trey didn’t win because his ideas were better. He ONLY won because he outspent his opponent 3 to 1, with money that came almost entirely from outside the district. He doesn’t listen to us because he doesn’t need to.
We need a representative who is accountable to the voters, not a rich father or shadowy Super PAC donors. That’s why I don’t take a dime in corporate PAC money: my campaign is funded completely by individuals, labor unions and progressive organizations that have endorsed me. That is why End Citizens United has endorsed me in the Ninth District. But let me be clear: this isn’t how I think it should be. Candidates and members of Congress should spend their time solving problems, not raising money.
That’s why I support a comprehensive plan to change the way elections are run in this country. It’s called the Government by the People Act. If this law were passed, every citizen would receive a $25 tax credit for campaign contributions – because engagement in our democracy should be affordable for everyone. Then, small-dollar donations would be matched on a six-to-one basis by a new federal Freedom from Influence Fund: a $25 contribution would become a $175 contribution, and a $150 contribution would add up to over a thousand dollars. As a result, a candidate could raise as much money from the small-dollar support of working Hoosiers as Trey has raised from corporate PACs and his millionaire family. The voices of everyday Americans would be amplified, until they can be heard over the noise of corporate money. And our representatives would be forced to work not for corporations, or billionaires, or the Koch brothers, or the NRA – but for the voters who elected them.
I also favor a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. It may not happen this year or next, but we have to be clear about our vision for a free and fair democracy. It will take bold action for us to save it.