This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released an ambitious proposal to bring democracy dollars to federal elections. Gillibrand’s “Clean Elections” plan would give eligible voters $200 to donate in each federal race: House of Representatives, Senate, and President. Candidates are eligible to receive these democracy dollars if they agree not to accept any donations over $200. The idea comes from Seattle’s successful democracy vouchers program, which in its first election cycle tripled the number of small donors to municipal races and increased the racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity of donors in the city.
Democracy dollars promise to take the power in our democracy back from the wealthy, white, mostly male donor class that has for too long fueled our elections and to elevate the voices of those who are all too often absent from our democracy – people of color, women, low-income people, and young people. Reforms like the one Gillibrand has proposed help to address the racial and economic injustices that have historically plagued our democracy and move us toward greater political equality.
Demos has worked for years to get money out of politics and make our democracy more racially equitable through reforming our broken campaign finance system. Here are just a few highlights, for those looking to learn more about solutions to the problem of big money in politics after Senator Gillibrand’s announcement:
While a federal solution is desperately needed, many states and localities are leading the way on making our campaign finance system more accountable and our democracy more reflective of the people who make up our diverse communities. Demos is currently supporting our partners at Olé New Mexico and the entire Burque Bucks coalition to bring democracy dollars to the city of Albuquerque. The City of Austin, TX, is also considering adopting a democracy dollars model.
People across the country understand our campaign finance system is broken and rightly see public financing of elections as one of the most powerful ways to address this crisis in our democracy. Democracy dollars are one of the most equitable strategies for doing so. Demos will continue our work supporting grassroots organizations who are leading the fight across the country to achieve a truly inclusive democracy.