Public Citizen Lauds Historic House Committee Approval of Fair Elections Bill, Urges Floor Vote

Sept. 23, 2010

Public Citizen Lauds Historic House Committee Approval of Fair Elections Bill, Urges Floor Vote

Statement of David Arkush, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

We applaud the House Committee on Administration for approving the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 6116), sponsored by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-NC). The Fair Elections Now Act has been sponsored by more than 160 House members, sailed through congressional hearings and is now being readied for a possible floor vote. A companion bill (S. 752), sponsored by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), also is making headway.

At no time in United States history has a congressional public funding bill received so much support and enthusiasm in Congress. The reasons are clear. Poll after poll shows that large majorities of Americans across the political spectrum are fed up with the influence of big money in politics. The public also was stunned by a January U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that authorized unlimited corporate spending on elections. Broad majorities of voters support legislative responses to Citizens United – and even a constitutional amendment to undo its harms.

Americans desperately want their elected officials to serve the public interest, not the narrow interests of campaign contributors. And they want representatives to spend time fixing serious problems like high unemployment, a reckless and dangerous financial sector, and unsustainable carbon emissions – not chasing big-money contributions for the next election.

The Fair Elections Now Act offers one of the most effective single steps Congress could take to loosen the special interests’ grip on Washington. It would enable candidates to forgo large campaign contributions and instead fund their campaigns with small donations from average Americans, which would be multiplied by matching federal funds.

With the spigot of corporate money in elections wide open, it is imperative that Congress elevate the role of small donors in campaigns and provide qualified candidates the means to avoid dependence on special interests.

The time has come for a strong system of public financing of congressional elections.  We applaud the committee members for taking a major step forward, and we urge the House leadership to schedule a floor vote as soon as possible.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.