09.27.17

Leahy Joins Bicameral Bill to Help Fix Broken Campaign Finance System

. . . Includes new provisions to address unprecedented conflicts of interest arising from Trump administration

Senator Patrick Leahy Wednesday joined Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in introducing bicameral legislation that addresses a series of comprehensive democratic and electoral reforms to restore integrity, accountability, and transparency to our broken political system.  Counterpart House legislation, also introduced Wednesday, is led by Representative David Price (D-N.C.).

The We The People Democracy Reform Act is more expansive than past versions and includes proposals to comprehensively reform campaign finance laws, increase transparency and accountability in the political system, end extreme partisan gerrymandering, increase voter participation, and strengthen lobbying and revolving door laws. A summary of its provisions is available here.

Leahy said:  “Dark, unaccountable money is flooding our elections and damaging our democracy, advancing the special interests of large, anonymous corporations at the expense of hardworking Americans.  This is happening at the same time that voters are routinely disenfranchised by arbitrary rules and even discriminatory policies. The We the People Democracy Reform Act would help level the playing field by shining a spotlight on corporations that secretly influence our elections, and by protecting Americans’ fundamental right to vote. I am proud to again cosponsor this vital legislation in defense of our democracy and the rights of all Americans to have their voices heard.”  Leahy is the chief sponsor of separate legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court stripped away some of its key provisions.  Leahy, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2014, steered a proposed constitutional amendment through the committee to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the spigots for massive and anonymous campaign contributions.

Udall, the chief Senate sponsor, said:  “Our democracy has reached a crisis point.  The American people are losing faith in our electoral process and in our institutions –- because they’ve seen too much evidence that our government no longer answers to ordinary citizens. Disastrous Supreme Court decisions have opened up the floodgates for secret, special interest money to drown out the voices of regular people. Foreign adversaries are interfering in our elections. Voting rights are under attack across the country. And big money donors are being rewarded with cabinet posts, high-ranking positions and special access. It’s long past time that we took action to restore confidence and accountability in our democracy. The ‘We the People Democracy Reform Act’ will empower us to take back our democracy and return it to the hands of all Americans, instead of a privileged, powerful few." 

This new legislation builds upon a number of bills introduced by Leahy, Udall, Price and many others to address various shortcomings in our voting and political system. The package would make significant strides toward repairing the broken political system, which has diminished public confidence in their government and depressed voter participation. The bill also will serve as a model for states and localities to implement reforms at the local level. 

In addition to Leahy, the Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Angus King (I-Maine), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The bill has received endorsements from The Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, People for the American Way, the Center for American Progress, and Public Citizen, as well as policy leaders such as Norman Eisen, board chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and chief White House ethics lawyer for President Obama (2009-2011) and Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for President Bush (2005-2007).  

Additional information about the We the People Democracy Reform Act is available here. Read quotes from supporters of the bill here

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