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300 Candidates Sign “Voters First” Pledge to Make Leap Toward Removing Money From Politics

Sept. 27, 2006

300 Candidates Sign “Voters First” Pledge to Make Leap Toward Removing Money From Politics

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

In mid-June, Public Citizen, Common Cause and Public Campaign Action Fund asked all candidates registered with the Federal Elections Commission to sign a pledge that, if adhered to, will make a quantum leap toward removing the corrosive influence of money in politics and cleaning up Congress.

We call it the “Voters First” pledge because by signing it, candidates promise to put the interests of voters ahead of corporate moneyed interests – the interests that now pay huge sums of money to help congressional candidates get – or keep – their elected seats.

As of this moment, 300 candidates have signed the pledge. You can find their names on a new interactive Web site that we have launched at VotersFirstPledge.org.

What did candidates pledge to support?

By signing the “Voters First” pledge, they agreed to support legislation that accomplishes three critical goals:

First, to make elections fair through campaign spending limits and public funding for all candidates who agree to take no private contributions.

Second, to restore accountability by passing and enforcing meaningful new restrictions on gifts and travel from lobbyists and other powerful interests for members of Congress; and

Third, to require full disclosure on the Internet of all lobbyists’ contributions and any fundraising help members of Congress receive from lobbyists.

These three actions are critical to putting democracy back in the hands of all citizens.

Average citizens should be able to run for office without having to sell out to big moneyed interests or be millionaires themselves.

Leveling the playing field is critical to holding our elected officials accountable to everyone and not just the interests of big business. 

What will we do now? We will be encouraging voters – millions of them – to contact candidates who have not signed and urge them to do so.

More than a dozen national and state organizations have agreed to e-mail their members about the “Voters First” pledge and ask them to contact their representatives in the coming weeks. These e-mails will reach more than two million voters.

We also will be encouraging our members to use an “activist toolkit” that contains tips on writing to candidates and sending letters to the editor; urges voters to make their voices heard at town hall meetings and campaign events; provides sample questions and materials about the “Voters First” pledge that voters can give to candidates; and provides fact sheets and information about national polling in support of clean elections, as well as information on successful public funding of elections in many states.

The Web site allows the public to search by state or party affiliation to learn which candidates have signed the pledge.

The site also has information about each candidate and allows activists to share stories about candidate responses to requests to sign the pledge.

Because we get new signers each day, we will continue to provide updates of the number of signers periodically throughout October.

Signing the pledge and supporting these crucial reform measures constitute a necessary first step in restoring faith and integrity in our democracy.