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Dear Member of Congress,
We, the undersigned state and local elected officials and organizations, call on you to push back against the tide of big money in our elections by sponsoring legislation to empower small donors through a federal tax credit and a small-donation matching program of at least 6:1, and supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, wealthy special interests and corporations have been able to flood our elections with big money and drown out the voice of average citizens. And the Court’s April decision in McCutcheon will make it even easier for just a few thousand megadonors to spend millions more. The results are predictable – candidates court big money donors, often from outside their districts, rather than the constituents they are supposed to be representing.
Empowering small donors is an important way to push back against big money, by amplifying the voice of ordinary citizens through tax credits and matching funds. That way, grassroots candidates who appeal to their voters will be able to compete with candidates who only appeal to out-of-district big donors. A good example of a small-donation matching program would be a program that offered a 6 to 1 match or more for small contributions of under $150 for candidates who promise to forgo big donor money. In addition, small donors should also get a refundable $25 tax credit.
These reforms have a track record of increasing the participation, and clout, of ordinary citizens. A similar tax credit was in place from 1971 to 1986, which helped triple small donors’ participation in elections. And cities that have enacted such programs have seen real results – in the latest New York City Council races, all but two of the winning candidates opted into the small donor matching program, which were responsible for 61% of participating candidates’ contributions.
In addition to amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens, it’s also critical to set reasonable limits on the ability of deep-pocketed interests to drown out all other voices. In the 2012 election, just 32 large donors to Super PACs gave as much as all 3.7 million small donors to Obama and Romney combined. We urge you to support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United to allow for reasonable, common-sense limits on the ability of large donors and corporations to influence our elections.
Without strong action, our elections will more and more become the playground of special interests, with ordinary citizens an afterthought. We urge you to sponsor legislation to empower small donors, and support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, to reclaim our democracy from the tide of big money.
Sara E. Smith - TexPIRG
Luke Metzger - Environment Texas
Liz Wally - Clean Elections Texas
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