Democracy 21 Strongly Endorses the “We the People Democracy Reform Act” Introduced Today by Senator Udall and Rep. Price

Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer

The “We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017” (Act) introduced today by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative David Price (D-NC) provides a comprehensive package of  reforms to address systemic problems facing our democracy.

Democracy 21 strongly endorses the “We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017” and applauds Senator Udall and Representative Price for their critical national leadership at a time when the American people clearly recognize that our political system is badly broken and must be repaired.

Our current broken political system does a grave disservice to the American people.

The problems we face today include a destructive and corrupting campaign finance system; undemocratic partisan gerrymandering; and a seriously flawed voting system.

The comprehensive package of democracy reforms introduced today provides an important roadmap for solving the fundamental problems with our political system when the opportunity arises in the future, as history tells us it surely will one day.  The Act will also serve as a means by which to help the American people understand that our systemic democracy problems can be solved.

For those who doubt repairing our political system is achievable: as Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The Act builds on and expands the “We the People Act” introduced in 2016 by Senator Udall and Representative Price and combines a number of democracy reform proposals that were developed by Senator Udall, Representative Price and other members of Congress and also were introduced as separate bills. (See a summary of the Act here as introduced by Sen. Udall or here as introduced by Rep. Price.)

The Act is endorsed by Democracy 21, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Norman Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. (See their statements here endorsing the Act.)

In the 2016 elections, just 100 donors gave $1 billion to Super PACs, an average of $10 million per donor, to influence the elections. That is just one powerful example of how big money in American politics is distorting our democracy.

The current campaign finance system enormously benefits the interests of the wealthy few and the candidates they support and does not benefit the interests of hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans who recognize that they are on the outside looking in at a rigged system in Washington.

That is why an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents to a New York Times/CBS News poll during the past election cycle said they supported either fundamental changes or a complete overhaul of the way our campaigns are financed.

Partisan gerrymandering denies the American people the representative system of government envisioned in the Constitution, and results in representatives choosing their voters rather than the other way around. Millions of Americans who are eligible to vote cannot exercise a fundamental constitutional right because of barriers to registration and voting.

The Act introduced in the Senate by Senator Udall creates a small-donor, public matching funds system for presidential and Senate races. The Act introduced in the House by Representative Price creates a similar small-donor, public matching funds system for all federal races. The Act introduced in the Senate by Senator Udall additionally requires states to allow voting by mail.

The Act introduced by Udall and Price also:

- Closes disclosure loopholes for outside spending groups and contains new restrictions to prevent foreign involvement in our elections;
- Requires 48 hour disclosure for large contributions to candidates and parties;
- Provides Stand By Your Ad accountability for campaign ads run by outside groups;
- Shuts down individual-candidate Super PACs and strengthens rules prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside spenders;
- Establishes a new campaign finance enforcement agency;
- Establishes state nonpartisan redistricting commissions to draw House congressional districts;
- Establishes a system of automatic voter registration for citizens who are eligible to vote but not registered; and provides for same day voter registration;
- Requires Presidents and Vice Presidents and their spouses to divest assets that create potential conflicts of interest into a blind trust that complies with the Ethics in Government Act;
- Requires the sitting President and future presidential nominees of a major party to make public their federal income tax returns for the three most recent tax years;
- Requires disclosure of visitors to the White House and other places where the President does regular business;
- Closes loopholes in Executive Branch conflict of interest and revolving door rules, and in the lobbying disclosure law.

Senator Udall and Representative Price are also reintroducing sections of the Act as separate bills, as they did in the last Congress. The separate bills they are introducing include:

- The Empowering Citizens Act of 2017, which establishes a small-donor, public matching funds system for all federal races;

- The Empower Act of 2017, which establishes a small-donor, public matching funds system for presidential races;

- The Federal Election Administration Act of 2017, which establishes a new campaign finance enforcement agency to replace the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission.

Representative Price also is reintroducing as a separate bill the Stop Super PAC-Candidate Coordination Act of 2017, which shuts down individual-candidate Super PACs and strengthens rules prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside spenders. The companion version of this bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Pat Leahy.

A summary of the Act can be found here as introduced by Sen. Udall or here as introduced by Rep. Price.

Statements from reform groups and experts supporting the Act can be found here.

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