Luján Joins Van Hollen to Reintroduce Campaign Finance Reform Bills to Strengthen the FEC, Revitalize Presidential Public Financing
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to reintroduce two campaign finance reform bills to bring dramatic and necessary change to our nation’s current inadequate campaign finance system. The first, the Empowering Mass Participation to Offset the Wealthy’s Electoral Role (EMPOWER) Act, would revitalize presidential campaign public financing and is led by Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) in the House. The second, the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act, would eliminate gridlock and strengthen the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) and is led by Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) in the House of Representatives. Both bills are incorporated within the sweeping For the People Act.
With the growing influence of big money in politics, it’s time for Congress to reform America’s outdated campaign finance system. These bicameral bills will help ensure candidates put the interests of voters above special interests, while strengthening accountability for those who violate campaign law,” said Senator Luján. “After leading campaign reform efforts in the House, I look forward to working with Senator Van Hollen to advocate for fairer campaigns in the Senate.”
The presidential public financing system is one of the country’s most significant post-Watergate campaign finance reforms. It offers public matching funds to presidential primary candidates who demonstrate their viability by raising small contributions and, in exchange, abide by voluntary limits on campaign spending. It also offers a grant of public funds to presidential general election candidates who agree to forego private fundraising. Public financing has helped level the playing field for lesser-known presidential candidates, funding almost every presidential campaign for more than two decades after its enactment. Unfortunately, in today’s world of unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals through super PACs, it is no longer feasible for presidential candidates to participate in the presidential public financing system as it currently stands. The Citizens United decision and related court cases have led to not only massive increases in campaign fundraising but a larger share of those funds coming from special interest groups who now wield an outsized influence on our political process. The EMPOWER Act would modernize the presidential public financing system and bring back a competitive public funding option for presidential candidates that encourages public participation and incentivizes candidates to be responsive to every American instead of wealthy hidden campaign donors. A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here. Bill text can be found here.
The EMPOWER Act is endorsed by: Democracy21, Common Cause, End Citizens United, Public Citizen, the Brennan Center for Justice, and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.
The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act
The FEC has increasingly become deadlocked on critically important decisions because of the even partisan divide of its six commissioners. In 2016, nearly 40% of regular enforcement cases deadlocked, compared to 4.2% in 2006. Worse yet, those votes that did not deadlock were nearly all housekeeping matters or minor violations. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act will revitalize the FEC by breaking the deadlock of its leadership structure and strengthening its enforcement actions through faster and more efficient processes. Under this bill the number of appointed commissioners would be reduced from six to five, with two members from each major party and one independent. This change would bring the FEC more in line with how most other independent agencies are structured and end deadlock, while ensuring the president’s party would not hold the majority. Additionally, the legislation creates a Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel, convened by the president to recommend individuals for appointment to the Commission. A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here. Bill text can be found here.
The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act is endorsed by: Democracy21, End Citizens United, Common Cause, and Public Citizen. Yesterday, two former FEC Commissioners, Trevor Potter and Ann Ravel, endorsed provisions of the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act in the For the People Act in a letter to Congressional leadership.