With only the wealthy funding and communicating with the campaigns of elected officials, politicians are incentivized to make policy decisions that align with their donors’ interests, not those of their broader constituency. But the elite donor class holds views that don’t align with the general public’s, as a 2016 Demos study detailed.
Studies have shown that policy most reflects the preferences of the most wealthy members of society and that those preferences do not reflect the greater public opinion on issues including the economy.
For several years, Demos and our partners have been working to fulfill our Constitution’s democratic promise by forging a new legal order that is open to money-in-politics reforms, and marshalling the factual and legal arguments that could help the Court move in this direction.
There are specific reforms that could help black families. Standardizing same-day voter registration across states would benefit communities of color, which face disproportionate barriers to civic participation.
Simply put, black families in the District overall have less wealth and income than white families — and therefore have less ability to give to political candidates. This helps explain why black D.C. residents are underrepresented year after year in political donations.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has signed a law that will create publicly financed elections, reversing her previous opposition to a plan that advocates say will help curb money’s influence in District politics.
Bowser announced that she was throwing her support behind the Fair Elections Act, which was approved unanimously by the D.C. Council in February. The law, which will first affect elections in 2020, will steer millions annually toward the campaigns of local candidates and is aimed at reducing their reliance on deep-pocketed donors. [...]
While no law prevents outside donors, for example, from investing in the campaign of a low-income person, the likelihood that they’ll do so is low. The problem is social capital: Low-income people lack it, and so their personal networks do not often contain millionaires with open pocketbooks.
Chiraag Bains, Director of Legal Strategies for Demos
“Do you believe that the Constitution requires that we allow corporations and wealthy individuals the unfettered ability to translate their economic might into political power through campaign contributions and expenditures—even if it drowns out the voices of working-class Americans and erects barriers to candidates of color who lack access to big money and the mostly white donor class?”
Public financing of elections, as a state and local democracy reform, can help enhance the political voice and power of working-class people and people of color. It is an effective antidote to the outsized influence corporations and major donors currently have on both politics and policy.
In 2012, just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving an average of $4.7 million each matched the $285.2 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates.