Rep. Sarbanes Speaks on Growing Support for Government by the People Act

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Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) appeared on WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks Friday to talk about the Government by the People Act (HR 20), his own fundraising program modeled after the bill, and why there’s growing support for small donor public financing on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Sarbanes is still going door-to-door in his district to ask for only $5 donations despite recent Supreme Court rulings making it easier for big money in elections. His grassroots effort, which gives matching funds for small donors, serves as model for a national public finance system promoted by the Government by the People Act.

The bill would work, he explained, on a combination of a “My Voice Tax Credit” for small donations, a “Freedom from Influence Fund” that matches contributions of $1 to $150 on a six-to-one basis, and if necessary, the availability of additional matching funds in the last 60 days of a campaign. When asked how the bill would be funded, Rep. Sarbanes said:

“Closing the loopholes that the very industries who have the most influence in Washington have been benefiting for years have enjoyed. So let’s take the example of the oil and gas industry, which still gets 5 billion dollars taxpayer subsidies every year. You could pay for the system that I am taking about for ten years just by closing that loophole enjoyed every single year by the oil and gas industry.”

The bill would give regular people—those unable to write big checks—a larger voice in the political process, Rep. Sarbanes explained, and that momentum for the bill a is growing:

"What is most exciting Dan, and is a game changer at this time I think in terms of legislation like this being successful. We have 45 national organizations pushing this out to their members. And these are people you haven’t seen before join the effort around reforming campaign funding: the NAACP, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, labor organizations. Why are they coming to this? Because they understand that the progress they want to see on their substantive issues is being stopped everyday by the influence of big money. So, where as in the past they might have have said campaign funding reform is not our issue, now they are coming to it and saying we have to make it our issue or we can’t move forward on the environment, civil rights, or other programs out there." 

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