Teleconference Press Briefing by the Brennan Center and Democracy 21 to Release New Proposal to Boost the Power of Small Donors in Federal Elections post-Citizens United

Remarks of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer

The Report and proposal being released today by the Brennan Center and Democracy 21 is based on the proposition that citizens are the answer to combating the campaign finance chaos created by the Supreme Court.

We want to see citizens making small contributions become the key players in financing our elections, not millionaires, billionaires, corporations and bundlers.

We want the symbol of future elections to be the average citizen, not Sheldon Adelson.

We propose to engage and empower citizens in a small donor revolution by matching in-state contributions to candidates of up to $250 per donor with public funds at a 5 to 1 ratio.

This would greatly increase the value of small contributions, dilute the importance of large contributions and provide new incentives for donors to give and candidates to seek small contributions.

It would also provide citizens with complete control over the distribution of public funds to candidates. The public funds would be provided based on the ability of candidates to show continuing support on an ongoing basis from small donors in their states.

The proposal would also strengthen the ability of candidates working in coordination with their parties to respond to independent spending campaigns by outside groups

Our proposal is modeled on the New York City matching funds system for financing city elections.

We know that this kind of system can work.

The New York City system has a successful track record which is discussed in our Report. The public financing system for presidential elections worked well for the country for more than two decades until it became outdated and in need of repair. Legislation is pending in Congress to fix this system introduced by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO).

We know that the Supreme Court in the past has strongly endorsed the use of public funds as promoting democratic values.

The Court in Buckley v Valeo said that public financing is an “effort not to abridge, restrict, or censor speech, but rather to use public money to facilitate and enlarge public discussion and participation in the electoral process, goals vital to a self-governing people.”

We also know that important breakthroughs have been made in presidential campaigns in raising small contributions on the Internet. We expect technological breakthroughs in online fundraising to continue to be made.

A combination of providing strong incentives for citizens to make small contributions and the Internet and social media serving as a powerful facilitator of small donor giving has the potential to revolutionize the way campaigns are financed in our country.

We want to see elections flooded with small donations from millions of citizens. We want to provide candidates with an alternative way to finance their campaigns without having to sell their souls to influence-seeking funders.

We believe a successful small donor empowerment program will restore citizens to their rightful preeminent place in our democracy.

Citizens are not going to sit idly by and accept a relatively small number of wealthy individuals and powerful interest groups dominating our elections with influence-seeking money.

The battle for the small donor revolution in American politics will begin as soon as the 2012 Election is over.

To view full report: click here.