Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California will likely become Speaker of the House of Representatives in January. Anticipating her powerful new position, she has revealed that the first order of business for the Democratic House will be reforming the American political system.
The legislation Pelosi will introduce already has a name: H.R. 1. The bill will take a comprehensive approach instead of a piecemeal approach. It will cover everything that Democrats consider a problem, such as:
- campaign finance,
- voting rights and
- government ethics.
Pelosi and most other Democrats think the top priority should be to fight the corrupting influence of money in American elections.
In every election cycle, super-rich donors and corporate interests flood the political system with hundreds of millions of dollars, seeking to buy influence with politicians.
This corrupting influence can be reduced by encouraging more small contributions, along with more public matching funds.
The Democrats’ proposed legislation would help by creating a system in which contributions of up to $200 per donor are matched with public funds.
Candidates who participate would agree to a much lower contribution limit than is currently allowed.
Pelosi and other reformers know that there is no way to end Washington corruption without an alternative way for candidates to finance their campaigns.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll over 77 percent of registered voters agree with the following statement:
“Reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington is the most important or a very important issue facing the country.”
Democratic House candidates running in 2018 understood this and campaigned on reform. During the midterm elections 107 of them sent a letter to each House member expressing their concerns about Washington corruption and special interest influence. And nearly 50 of those Democratic candidates won House seats, meaning they will begin their term with cleaning up Washington as a top priority.
The letter called for many sweeping political reforms that they want to vote on as the first item of business in the new Congress. The letter said:
“We hear day in and day out that special interests are drowning out the voices of everyday citizens — to the point where many Americans no longer believe their votes even count.”
Here is an example of how money corrupts our government:
In the 2016 elections, 100 super-rich Americans gave a shocking $1 billion to Super PACs to influence federal races. In total, wealthy donors gave $1.8 billion in unlimited contributions. And in December of 2017, those big donors got the return they wanted on their investments. That’s when Congress passed the tax bill that gave most benefits to billionaires and large corporation shareholders.
“A new government report shows dollar-for-dollar cuts to the nation’s social safety net programs for every dollar of tax cuts going to rich people.”
With voters now focused on the corrupting influence of money in politics, the opportunity now exists to fix it. The good news is that the Democratic House majority plans to take the first necessary steps to reform our system. It won’t happen overnight, and it will take a sustained effort over many years to really make it happen.
The fight ahead to reform our election system is nothing short of a fight to save American democracy. And it is a fight we must not lose.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.