Monday, August 30, 2010

The Fair Elections Now Act

Common Cause is one of the most Jeffersonian organizations in the United States today, laboring against heavy odds to reduce the influence of corporate money in elections and seeking to obtain fundamental reforms in the American electoral system in order to increase democracy. If Jefferson were alive today, he would undoubtedly be a card-carrying, dues-paying member of Common Cause.

Teaming up with another excellent organization, Public Campaign, Common Cause is now pushing a national effort to get a piece of legislation called the Fair Elections Now Act enacted into law. The Fair Elections Act would create a system of public financing for federal elections, similar to programs already working with great effectiveness in many of the states. Under the envisioned law, candidates for federal office who agree to accept only donations of $100 or less (therefore eliminating the influence of massive corporate contributions of thousands of dollars) would get $400 in federal matching grants for every $100 raised.

This bill is being sponsored in the House of Representatives by Congressman John Larson (D-CT) and Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), and in the Senate by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). These legislators are to be congraulated for their Jeffersonian efforts to limit the influence of corporate money on our electoral process.

The influence of corporate money on federal elections is an acid eating away at American democracy, and it is only going to get worse in the wake of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which this blog has already discussed. A Jeffersonian republic can only exist if the ideal of "one-citizen-one-vote" exists in actual fact, as opposed to being merely in theory. Technically-speaking, the richest citizen and the poorest citizen each have the same voting power on election day, but anyone who clains that the rich do not have a greater ability to influence the American political process as the poor are either deluding themselves or are outright lying (most likely the latter).

The Fair Elections Now Act would not be a silver bullet that would completely solve the problem, but it would be a big step in the right direction. All 21st Century Jeffersonians should rally around the legislation. They should communicate their strong support of it to their own representatives in the House and Senate, write letters to the editor, and do anything they can think of to help get it enacted into law.

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