One day after the presidential candidates completed their latest fundraising frenzy ahead of Wednesday’s third-quarter reporting deadline, Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley released a plan to “get big money out of politics” and turn current fundraising practices on their head. The plan was welcomed by the nonpartisan NH Rebellion and reform groups nationwide.
Under Governor O’Malley’s“Restoring Our American Democracy” plan, ordinary citizens would be empowered to fund congressional campaigns in lieu of wealthy interests through a $25 refundable tax credit on small donations. Donations would then be matched on a multiple basis for qualifying candidates and candidates would be forced to abide by strict contribution limits. The plan also calls for disclosure of secret election spending by special interest groups; a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision; an overhaul of the Federal Election to ensure enforcement of election law and non-coordination between candidates and Super PACs; and a new constitutional right to vote free from discriminatory voting laws. The plan embraces many of the reform proposals put forward by NH Rebellion and other groups, although it omits citizen-funding of presidential elections.
“Voters of all stripes are disgusted by the way big money is dominating our democracy,” said Dan Weeks, Executive Director of Open Democracy and leader of the NH Rebellion. “This plan is a direct assault on those big money interests that have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to buy the presidential election. We applaud Gov. O’Malley for tackling the problem of big money corruption head-on with a plan that can help restore the basic American promise of an equal voice for all.”
According to Weeks, the O’Malley plan represents another major victory for the citizen movement against big money politics. “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,” Weeks said. “Now, they're getting the memo: the American people are hungry for solutions what what is undoubtedly America's most pressing problem.”
According to the Rebellion's online platform tracking candidate statements, Questionr.us, every Republican and Democrat vying for president 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.
O’Malley is not the first presidential candidate to issue a comprehensive plan to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. In September, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a similar set of solutions and according to the Rebellion's online tracker, Questionr.us, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, former Democratic Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig have all issued broad calls for citizen-funded elections and/or overturning Citizens United. The remaining candidates have so far called for some combination of stricter disclosure requirements and lobbying restrictions.
“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 Sec. Clinton, Gov. O’Malley and other Democrats to give input on their plans, 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 call on the remaining campaigns to answer our invitation and develop real reforms with us.”
“For the first time in memory, we're seeing presidential candidates compete for the banner of ‘true reformer’,” Weeks added. “New Hampshire’s voters welcome the competition. Whether or not candidates believe that fighting big money is good policy, they can’t deny that it is good politics if they want to get elected. Let them ignore the corruption issue at their peril.”