Democracy, Campaign Finance Reform & Voting Rights
Our Founders pledged their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor to build a democracy: a government of the many, not of the money.
Misguided and destructive Supreme Court decisions in McCutcheon, Citizens United and Shelby County have given corporations and lobbyists a stranglehold on government, while denying millions of Americans a say in what gets done in Washington. Emboldened by these decisions, Republicans in the White House and Congress are further tearing away the protections that keep government accountable to the people.
Our democracy survives – and thrives – only when it fully represents a government of, by and for the people. The swampy GOP Congress has become a cesspool of self-enrichment, secret money and special interests that threatens our democratic institutions and undermines the American people’s voice in our democracy. To honor our pledge to fight For The People, Democrats are committed to passing tougher ethics and campaign finance laws and to crack down on the brazen corruption, cronyism and incompetence of the Trump Administration and the GOP Congress. Our bold reform agenda, A Better Deal For Our Democracy, will ensure that Washington once again works for the American people.
Democrats are also fighting to pass two vital bills to safeguard the sacred right to be heard at the ballot box. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore full protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination, while the Voter Empowerment Act would expand access to the ballot box and ensure that every vote is counted as cast.
Congress must act swiftly to get rid of unlimited, undisclosed spending by corporations and billionaires, reduce the power and influence of special interests in Washington and protect the right to vote for every American.
WHAT DEMOCRATS ARE DOING
The Better Deal for Our Democracy will:
- Empower the American Voter to Ensure Responsive Government. We must protect every citizen’s right to vote, safeguard our election infrastructure from hostile actors and put an end to partisan redistricting.
- Strengthen Our Nation’s Ethics Laws to Fight Special Interests. We must end the revolving-door in Washington and rein in the influence of high-powered Washington insiders, lobbyists and big-money donors – and the special interests that are driving Washington’s agenda.
- Fix Our Broken Campaign Finance System to Combat Big Money Influence. We must break the stranglehold on our democracy by wealthy and well-connected campaign donors by empowering everyday Americans and ending the scourge of unaccountable “dark money” unleashed by Citizens United.
Empower the American Voter
The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and it must be protected for all Americans. In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented, cynical and partisan efforts to turn back the clock and erect barriers to voting for members of the military, people with disabilities, minorities, first-time voters, students, the elderly and low-income Americans. To make things worse, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down core provisions of the Voting Rights Act, undermining decades-long protections for historically disenfranchised communities. At the same time, partisan gerrymandering has intensified, leaving voters deeply cynical about the drawing of Congressional districts. To compound all of these challenges, in 2016, the United States experienced an unprecedented attack on our democracy and our election infrastructure by a foreign adversary. No wonder the public’s confidence in our elections is at an all-time low.
Congress must respond by modernizing the electoral system to improve access to and security of the ballot box. This includes bolstering the capacity of the Election Assistance Commission and providing states with the resources needed to protect our election infrastructure. At the same time, we must make it easier for Americans to vote by pursuing automatic voter registration. This will improve the registration files and the security of elections, all the while helping to build a more representative electorate. Congress must also restore voting protections for those voters in states with a recent history of discrimination. Finally, Congress can put an end to partisan gerrymandering by requiring all states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw open and transparent statewide district maps after each decennial census. As part of A Better Deal, Democrats will ensure every American’s vote is respected, protected and counted.
Strengthen Our Nation’s Ethics Laws
The line between public service and private interests is too often blurred. Today, several Trump Administration officials are under federal investigation for corruption and waste of taxpayer money. Top posts have been handed out to former lobbyists and industry insiders who later use their government positions to land even more lucrative opportunities with the very same industries. It’s an endless cycle taken to a completely unprecedented level under President Trump, demonstrating a blatant disregard for the laws and norms in place to prevent public corruption.
The public is rightly disgusted by this self-dealing. As stewards of the public trust, Democrats believe all government officials – including the President – should comply with a stringent set of ethical guidelines that ensure they are free from all conflicts of interest. At the same time, Washington lobbyists and high-powered influence peddlers need greater oversight and should be prohibited from attempting to trade campaign cash for access and influence. As part of A Better Deal, Democrats will restore the ethical integrity of government service.
Fix Our Broken Campaign Finance System
Big money in politics has corroded the public’s trust in the political system. Too many politicians spend hours dialing for dollars, courting a narrow slice of the nation’s elite, while high-powered lobbyists and special interests call the shots in Congress. Most recently, these backroom power brokers used their influence to demand billion-dollar hand-outs for the wealthiest 1 percent from the GOP tax scam. In this broken system, too many good candidates without access to big money are effectively barred from running altogether. And over the last decade, the Supreme Court’s wrong-headed decision in Citizens United has made a bad system worse, fueling the rise of unaccountable, undisclosed secret money in our politics. More than ever, the wealthy and well-connected run the show in Washington while everyday Americans are left with a raw deal.
To combat the undue influence of big money in our politics, Democrats have proposed historic reforms to our campaign finance system to increase and multiply the power of small donors in America. A 21st century campaign finance system would also give a new and diverse set of candidates the resources they need to compete and win. At the same time, Congress must improve enforcement of campaign finance law, end the scourge of dark money and establish its authority to regulate the raising and spending of political money, by passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. As part of A Better Deal, Democrats will break the stranglehold big money has over our campaign finance system.