Where the 2020 Democrats stand on campaign finance reform
As the primary kicks off with 20 candidates taking part in the first debates in Miami, no deposit bonus forex is breaking down how each of the 2020 Democrats promise to change the campaign finance system.
There’s broad consensus that the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC needs to be undone, with most supporting a constitutional amendment to undo the court’s majority opinion that independent political expenditures are free speech and cannot be subjected to spending limits.
Thirteen candidates have publicly said they want to expand public financing of federal elections, raise limits of public matching of private donations or ban large private, corporate or PAC donations entirely.
The candidates who currently serve as members of Congress have all backed campaign finance reform and ethics bills like the For The People Act, which proposes a ban on contributions from companies with significant foreign investments, a disclosure requirement for dark money groups and a six-to-one matching system for small dollar donations to federal elections. The bill passed the House with on a party-line vote and was blocked by Republican leadership in the Senate.
All of the candidates are rejecting contributions from corporate PACs in what is mostly a symbolic gesture to reject corporate influence as they lay out their policy proposals. Every 2020 contender is hoping to capture small-dollar contributions in part to help bolster the image that they are not beholden to wealthy donors.
Some candidates go beyond these measures to introduce changes to campaign finance law related to dark money groups, lobbying and foreign money. Here’s what each candidate is proposing, with the candidates listed in alphabetical order.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
The Colorado senator’s plans for campaign finance reform are shared by many of his Democratic rivals — he’s seeking a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United as well as a lifetime ban on former members of Congress lobbying and greater oversight of super PACs.
What he claims makes him unique, though, is that he’s “putting these plans at the center of his campaign.”
Bennet has made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his presidential pitch, arguing there is no way to move the country forward if powerful interests are pulling political strings. He attributes his emphasis on campaign finance reform to his disappointment over the Citizens United decision.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
The former vice president has long decried the role of wealthy interests in political campaigning and governing. As early as 1973, Biden was calling for public financing of elections, with a 1974 Washingtonian profile quoting the then-senator as saying, “I believe that public financing of federal election campaigns is the only thing that will insure good candidates and save the two-party system.”
Biden aggressively fought for campaign finance reform throughout his Senate tenure, voting for the 1974 post-Watergate legislation that created the Federal Election Commission and co-sponsoring the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, which set forth guidelines for elections funded mainly by small donors and entitling clean candidates to free media time, in 1997. He has co-sponsored three proposed constitutional amendments to allow Congress or the states to set campaign contribution limits.
His presidential campaign has called for a constitutional amendment overturning the 2010 Citizens United decision and measures to disclose contributors to dark money groups.
According to his official site, “the public has the right to know who is contributing to which advertisements and campaign initiatives.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
A little over a week before announcing his campaign for the presidency, Booker marked the ninth anniversary of Citizens United with a tweet castigating the decision, saying, “It’s been 9 years since the Supreme Court handed down its disastrous 5-4 #CitizensUnited ruling. Since then, countless corporate campaign contributions have flooded our elections drowning out the voices of millions of voters—we must overturn Citizens United.”
Booker has condemned the current campaign finance system as “broken” and swore to reject corporate PAC contributions as a senate candidate in February 2018. He supports a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and an expansion of public financing of elections.
Gov. Steve Bullock, Mont.
The governor of Montana has centered his political career and his presidential campaign around fighting dark money and shadowy political spending. His announcement video talked of the “need to defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people’s voice” and ends with the rousing declaration, “we will take our democracy back.”
Bullock rose to prominence defending Montana’s strict campaign finance laws against the standard set by the Citizens United decision. While his victory in the Montana Supreme Court was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court, Bullock continued to fight for additional campaign transparency, signing an executive order as governor that required Montana contractors to reveal all political contributions, including to dark money groups.
Bullock’s “one big idea” is to add a question to IRS and FEC forms asking filers, under penalty of perjury, to affirm that no foreign money was spent in their electioneering materials. It’s part of his six-part plan to get money out of politics. That plan includes a total ban on super PACs, empowerment of watchdogs to enforce campaign laws, passage of federal disclosure laws to expose dark money, an executive order to “crack down” on dark money, and the eventual overturning of Citizens United.
Bullock did not qualify for the Miami debates.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg’s platform calls for a small-donor matching system of public financing and “common-sense campaign finance rules that clearly establish that corporations do not have the same political rights as people.”
His platform calls for strengthening the FEC, which has been marred by ideological gridlock that prevents the agency from enforcing campaign finance laws. In addition to calling for Citizens United to be overturned, Buttigieg also calls for overturning Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down the aggregate amount an individual can contribute during an election cycle and cleared the way for powerful joint fundraising committees.
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Texas
The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development told supporters at his announcement rally that he would support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. Castro has not released specific policy proposals and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but like his fellow 2020 contenders, Castro has decried the influence of PAC money.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
In his 2020 announcement video, the New York City mayor pledged to “not rest until the government serves working people.” His 2018 ballot initiative cut the maximum donation in citywide elections to $2,000 from $5,100 while increasing public campaign contribution matching in an attempt to control undue influence.
De Blasio has not yet revealed his presidential platform detailing a policy on campaign finance reform. When he served as New York City’s public advocate in 2010, he penned an article in The Nation condemning Citizens United and called on state and local leaders across America to join him in The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, a group of public officials dedicated to persuading corporations to be transparent regarding their political spending.
Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
Like most of his competitors, the former Maryland congressman is backing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. His campaign website warns, “Unlimited corporate money has made our democracy pay-to-play.”
As a congressman, Delaney backed H.R. 20, an ultimately unsuccessful House bill that proposed an expansion of public financing of federal elections and provided additional tax credits for small political contributions.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
The Hawaii congresswoman has not yet revealed her campaign finance platform for her 2020 presidential bid, but as a representative, she supported the 2014 and 2017 versions of the Government By the People Act, which proposed a public financing system with a six-to-one match for small donors and additional restrictions on foreign lobbying.
Her congressional campaign endorsed measures to crack down on coordination between candidates and super PACs and create a new agency to identify and punish campaign violators.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Gillibrand is proposing a national system of public financing, similar to the “Democracy Dollars” system currently in practice in Seattle. Her plan would give each American $200 to spend on federal election cycles in an effort to increase the power of small donors over large contributors. Candidates would be allowed to accept these dollars only if they swore off all contributions larger than $200. Her plan would also restrict voters from giving to races outside of their own state.
“It will change who has a seat at the table and who gets elected in this country within one election cycle,” Gillibrand said in an interview with NBC.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
The California senator tweeted her support for campaign finance reform in 2017, saying, “Special interests & big corporations have spent millions to buy elections. This is wrong—we must reform our broken campaign finance system.”
The Harris campaign has not yet outlined their campaign finance reform policy for her 2020 candidacy, though Harris has said she is in favor of a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and an expansion of public financing.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colo.
The former Colorado governor has condemned the Citizens United decision while maintaining that lobbyists are “good, honest people” under pressure to deliver to their respective groups. He signed a bill in 2017 that allowed Colorado candidates to fix mistakes on campaign finance forms without incurring fines, a measure endorsed by ethics officials.
The Hickenlooper campaign doesn’t appear to list campaign finance proposals on its issues page and did not respond to requests for comment.
Gov. Jay Inslee, Wash.
The Washington governor’s main campaign focus is combating climate change and shifting national efforts toward sustainability and green energy. As a congressman, Inslee co-sponsored the 2012 DISCLOSE Act, which would have required the disclosure of independent expenditures by outside groups. He also voted for landmark legislation banning soft money contributions in 2002.
He has not laid out a policy on campaign finance reform for his presidential campaign. The Inslee campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
The Minnesota senator supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and “get dark money out of our politics” as well as establish a public financing system with public matching for small political contributions.
On the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United decision, Klobuchar released a statement condemning the decision, saying it caused a massive influx of money into the political process.
Klobuchar was also a lead sponsor of the Honest Ads Act in both 2017 and 2019, which would mandate disclosure of those paying for online political ads.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)
The former Texas congressman has proposed a significant overhaul of campaign finance law, forbidding PAC contributions to campaigns, publicly matching campaign contributions up to $500, and restricting contribution limits to inaugural committees, post-retirement funds and single-issue PACs to $2,000.
O’Rourke’s plan would also mandate that PACs disclose all donors regardless of amount, that most companies reveal all political spending and lobbying, and that large donations over $1,000 be disclosed within 48 hours of receipt. He also proposed preventing U.S. companies with substantial foreign ownership from “inappropriately spending money to affect our elections,” among other proposed changes.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
The Ohio representative has repeatedly condemned the Citizens United decision, remarking that the appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would only uphold the 2010 decision and “allow an unlimited flow of money into our political system.”
Ryan is also co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment in the House of Representatives that would overturn Citizens United. He has not laid out a policy regarding campaign finance for his 2020 presidential run.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
With a long history of fighting for campaign finance reform, Sanders centered both his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns on a populist platform condemning what he sees as an unjust concentration of influence among the very rich.
In 2014, Sanders co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the power to regulate all aspects of campaign finance, shifting power from the Supreme Court to Congress. The amendment would have effectively overturned Citizens United but predictably did not survive the 114th Congress.
Sanders’s 2020 campaign platform includes overturning Citizens United and moving all federal elections to a public financing system, eliminating super PACs and large private donations.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)
The California representative’s campaign confirmed to no deposit bonus forex that Swalwell supports a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United and measures to require dark money groups and online political advertisers to reveal their backers.
In an email to no deposit bonus forex, Swalwell press secretary Caitlyn McNamee said, “Americans have reached consensus on many important issues, but our voices are silenced by the dirty maps and dirty money polluting our government.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Warren has emphatically decried the influence of monied interests in the political process, branding herself as “The Best President Money Can’t Buy.”
Speaking at a campaign event in Virginia May 16, Warren blasted wealthy donors and the politicians who accept their contributions, saying, “Whatever issue brought you here today, I guarantee if there’s a decision to be made in Washington, it’s been touched, pushed, massaged, tilted over, just a little, so the folks with money do better than everyone else.”
Warren’s presidential platform calls for a complete ban on lobbying by foreign governments and retired members of Congress. She supports overturning Citizens United, eliminating super PACs and barring political contributions from PACs and federal lobbyists. She has also pledged to crack down on shadow lobbying, forcing anyone who lobbies to register as a lobbyist, and to require all federal candidates to release their tax returns.
A self-help author and activist, Williamson’s website warns that “our democracy is under assault by combined forces of corporatism and autocracy” and that our entire system of government has been subverted by large multinational corporations seeking profit alone.
She proposes a constitutional amendment to establish public financing of federal campaigns and measures to hold lobbyists accountable, although she has not detailed what this would entail.
“Money has overrun our politics, and that needs to change,” the candidate’s website says.
Andrew Yang joins the other Democratic candidates in calling for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and a system of public financing for federal elections. While waiting for this amendment, Yang would create a system of “Democracy Dollars” where every American gets $100 annually to contribute to federal candidates, a model similar to what Gillibrand is proposing.
Four other candidates, Rep. Seth Moulton (D- Mass.), Miramar mayor Wayne Messam, former Representative Joe Sestak (D- Penn.), and former Senator Mike Gravel (D- Alaska), will not appear in the debates. Messam and Gravel have both voiced their support for overturning Citizens United.
The 2020 Democrats’ campaign finance proposals will likely face fierce opposition from Republican members of Congress, complicating a candidate’s ability to implement their proposed policies should they become president.
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