Freshman Dems Anti-Corruption Bill Delivers on Promise to Unrig Washington
Forty-seven of the freshman House Democrats sworn in on January 3 signed an open letter to Congress last October demanding anti-corruption and government reforms be the first item on the agenda in the new Congress. The same day they took their oaths of office, they got their wish.
When Rep. John Sarbanes introduced H.R. 1, the For the People Act, this freshman class of reformers began to make its mark. The bill is designed to end the dominance of big money in politics, protect the right of every American to vote, and ensure elected and executive branch officials are working in the public interest.
The For the People Act is a reaction to the American people’s frustration with Washington that has been building for years, especially since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which unleashed unlimited, undisclosed, and corporate special interest money into our political system. Americans understand that politicians are beholden to those special interests and they want their government back.
The 2018 election season saw voter anger about corruption and special interest influence bubble over. On the campaign trail around the country last year, candidates heard time and again from voters that pharmaceutical company donations were the cause of high drug prices, that insurance companies and their lobbyists were getting in the way of affordable healthcare, that big donors were calling the shots in Congress and leaving everyone else behind.
These candidates responded by offering bold, comprehensive platforms to rein in the power of big donors in our elections and create a political system that works for all of us. In fact, today, there are now more than 50 members of Congress who refuse to even take corporate PAC money to fund their campaigns. That includes 36 new members. Compare that to the start of last election cycle when the number of members who turned down corporate PAC money was less than 10.
Voters went to the polls in record numbers last November because they trusted this class of reformers, who weren’t career politicians or insiders, but first-time candidates who decided to run for office because they saw our system failing. For some, it was a personal experience with the rising cost of health care. For others, it was watching the country they served and fought for overrun with corruption in government. It was the opioid crisis, or lax gun laws, or watching Congress raise taxes on the middle class to pay for a tax cut for corporate donors.
While they each have their own personal reasons, they also have a shared vision for reforming and repairing trust in our government. Not since the 1974 “Watergate Babies” have we had a class of candidates who uniformly and genuinely believe we need to fundamentally restructure the system to return power where it belongs: with the people.
As a direct result of the freshman class’ leadership, reform became a top priority for Democrats, and the For The People Act was the first piece of legislation introduced by the new Congress. And the bill delivers.
It’s the boldest and most sweeping package of reforms in a generation. It will reset the way our government works by amplifying the voice of everyday families, so that politicians must be accountable to them — not wealthy donors.
Making it easier to vote. Fighting big money. Reducing corruption. These are the changes voters demanded. In polling we conducted in battleground districts immediately following the election, we found these are the issues voters want Congress to take up first. In fact, 75 percent of voters ranked ending the culture of corruption in Washington as the top priority, and a majority of voters, including 84 percent of independents, said they want the first bill in the new Congress to be about reforming the system.
We can once again have a government that is truly of, by, and for the people — one that is worthy of the vision our founding fathers had when they established our system of democracy. We can have a country where the power comes from the strength of a diverse American citizenry and not a handful of wealthy interests. We can have that because House Democrats, led by this historic freshman class of reformers, are heeding the call of the voters with H.R. 1.
Tiffany Muller is the President of End Citizens United, a grassroots-funded campaign finance reform group dedicated to overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of big money in politics.