Markey, Polis back Fair Elections Now Act

The Fair Elections Now Act aims to limit the influence of the big money special interests who now mostly fund the nation’s electoral campaigns. The Act encourages politicians to instead ask common folk-citizens for money, which might sound bad, but it’s good because then politicians will have to at least sort of listen to what we have to say.

The Act has been endorsed widely, by elected officials, clean election groups and by newspaper editorial boards across the nation. It has won the support of at least 135 members of the U.S. House, including Colorado Reps Jared Polis and Betsy Markey. The rest of the Colorado delegation hasn’t signed on yet, perhaps weighing whether or not they prefer the current horrifically intolerable state of affairs.

Written long before last month’s Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which lifted restrictions on corporate campaign advertising, the case now for the Fair Elections Act is stronger than ever. It sets up a fund of roughly $800 million for qualifying candidates to share.

Sen. Michael Bennet should be easy to get on board. He is presently co-sponsoring campaign finance reform legislation that seeks to limit corporate political influence in the wake of the Citizen United decision in part by forcing all major funders of political advertising to identify themselves.

Here is a table of lawmakers that notes those who have signed on to the Fair Elections Act.

fair elections now   

A basic description of how the Act works:

Under this legislation, congressional candidates who raise a threshold number of small-dollar donations would qualify for a chunk of funding—several hundred thousand dollars for House, millions for many Senate races. If they accept this funding, they can’t raise big-dollar donations. But they can raise contributions up to $100, which would be matched four to one by a central fund. Reduced fees for TV airtime is also an element of this bill, creating an incentive for politicians to opt into this system and run people-powered campaigns.

Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, one of the groups endorsing the Act, says it doesn’t address Citizens United directly and that that’s a good thing. “It’s a plus,” he told the Colorado Independent, because the issue of corporate free speech is likely to be a legal battleground for a while, and the Roberts Court has signaled very strongly where it stands on the matter.

But, he said, in setting up a fund sizeable enough to seriously rival special interest money, candidates can carry out clean citizen-oriented campaigns without fear of being swamped by big spenders.

“It provides an alternative flow of money,” said Toro, “It makes people who don’t want to take corporate or special interest money– basically it makes them competitive.”

The time is ripe to pass the Act. Even the money bag special interest donors agree. Faced with unprecedented amounts of “begging” on the part of lawmakers, a group of 57 of the biggest political donors this week signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to please help reduce the fundraising phone calls.

The letter:

With an economy still in recovery from an epic downturn, unemployment at unacceptable levels, healthcare reform unfinished, and the path forward for a sustainable energy future unclear, Congress should fully focus on serving its constituents and solving our country’s problems. Instead, as we well know from the solicitation calls we receive, our political leaders must fundraise constantly.

The letter flatly asks that Congress pass the Fair Elections Now Act.

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