One day after the unofficial Labor Day kickoff to the 2016 Presidential campaign, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the first declared candidate to issue a detailed campaign finance reform agenda. The Clinton plan to "Restore Integrity to American Elections" was welcomed by the nonpartisan NH Rebellion and likeminded groups nationwide.
In a statement, the Clinton campaign said, “Hillary Clinton has made revitalization of our democracy a key pillar of her campaign. She will fight to ensure that our democracy works for everyday Americans and leads to government of, by, and for the people, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”
In her three-part plan, Clinton pledges to stop unlimited spending in elections by overturning Citizens United through Supreme Court appointments and a constitutional amendment. She would require full disclosure of any entity that spends money to influence elections, and would amplify the voices of ordinary citizens in politics by providing a multiple match on small donations given to qualifying congressional and presidential candidates who say no to large donations.
“This is a major victory for the citizen movement to stop big money corruption of our democracy, coming from a candidate with a record of support for election reform," said Dan Weeks, executive director of the anti-big money politics group NH Rebellion. "Six months ago, most of the presidential candidates were silent on solutions to big money politics, even as their solicitations of Super PACs spoke volumes about the power of wealthy elites in American politics. Now, they're getting the memo: the American people are hungry for reform. Telling us what we already know about the broken system won't cut it. We demand solutions to what is undoubtedly America's most pressing problem," he said.
According to the Rebellion's online platform tracking candidate statements, Questionr.us, every Republican and Democrat vying for the nation's top job is now on record about the need to fight big money. Most of the statements and videos featured have come in response to citizen rebels asking the question in town halls and meet-and-greets across New Hampshire and Iowa.
Clinton is not the first presidential candidate to declare her support for fundamental campaign finance reform, although her proposals are the most specific and far-reaching to-date. According to the Rebellion's online tracker, Questionr.us, Senator Bernie Sanders and Governor Martin O'Malley have issued broad calls for citizen-funded elections and overturning Citizens United, while Sanders and neurosurgeon Ben Carson have both received the bulk of their support in the form of small donations. Carson has yet to include a small donor empowerment system in his calls for full disclosure.
"We're seeing a bandwagon effect, where candidates are starting to compete for the banner of 'true reformer'," Dan Weeks said. "The American people welcome the competition. Whether or not a candidate believes fighting big money is good policy, none can deny that it is good politics if they want to get elected. Let them ignore the corruption issue at their peril."
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has also made headlines by his condemnation of rivals as mere "puppets" to billionaire backers and has indicated general support for full transparency, non-coordination with Super PACs, and a system of small donor incentives. Questionr.us also tracks support from the remaining candidates for full disclosure of independent spending, in spite of staunch opposition by congressional leaders, and many candidates have urged an end to pay-to-play lobbying on Capitol Hill. Senator Lindsay Graham also stepped forward as the first national Republican to call for overturning Citizens United.
"Big money politics is a bipartisan problem and it demands bipartisan solutions," added Brian Tilton, Republican outreach coordinator for the NH Rebellion. "Just as the Rebellion reached out to Secretary Clinton and other Democrats, we have also been in talks with several Republican contenders about conservative-friendly approaches to breaking the big money-big government nexus that has voters up in arms. Republicans recognize that crony capitalism and wasteful spending won't be stopped until voters -- not special interests -- own our elections. We anticipate more candidate announcements soon."
In another striking development, Harvard Law professor and reform champion Lawrence Lessig on Sunday announced that he had raised a crowd-funding threshold of $1 million to become the first "Referendum" president running on the single issue of campaign reform. His three-pronged "Citizens Equality Act" proposes equal voting rights through universal voter registration and an election holiday, equal representation in the form of ranked-choice voting and redistricting reform, and small donor-driven "citizen funded elections". Lessig's candidacy is accompanied by the unprecedented pledge to resign from the presidency as soon as his Citizens Equality Act is enacted.
"Time will tell just how committed Hillary Clinton, or any of the other candidates, is to fighting big money politics," said Xanni Brown, a NH Rebellion organizer who leads the team of citizen "rebels" bird-dogging the presidential candidates. "We urge her to feature these far-reaching solutions in every speech she gives so that voters know for sure that she will follow through if elected. And we call on every other candidate to do likewise on the stump, in the media, and in the upcoming debates."