Photo: Win McNamee/Getty ImagesPhoto: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pledge to Get Big Money Out of Politics Gains Momentum in Democratic Primary

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty ImagesPhoto: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last Sunday at a campaign event in Iowa, former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley responded to a request from a University of Iowa student and signed a pledge supporting publicly financed elections and getting big money out of politics. The pledge is the creation of Democracy Matters, a national student organization founded by former NBA center Adonal Foyle, and has already been signed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The action by O’Malley, whose polling numbers have recently ranged between 1 and 4 percent, leaves Hillary Clinton more isolated among top declared Democratic presidential candidates in not signing the pledge. Clinton was questioned in July by the same student, Mason Buonadonna, at an event at the Iowa City Public Library, on how she would combat big money in politics, and gave a general statement with few specifics. Her website is similarly vague, vowing to make “Revitalizing Our Democracy” one of the “Four Fights” of her presidential campaign, while making few specific commitments.

By contrast, O’Malley has made one of the 15 goals of his campaign to institute publicly financed congressional campaigns within five years. (While signing the Democracy Matters pledge, O’Malley said he’d “love to get there sooner.”) And Sanders has made the issue of big money in politics one of the main themes of his campaign, and is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of a bill to provide 6-to-1 public matching funds to small congressional donors to congressional campaigns.

In a statement after Buonadonna got O’Malley’s signature, Democracy Matters said it will “now look to Hillary Clinton for clear commitment on the issue, and to join her competitors, sign the pledge, and make restoring democracy a key component of her Presidential candidacy.”

While the Democracy Matters pledge is brief and has no specifics, the organization is one of 12 major public interest organizations that have jointly released a campaign finance reform agenda with a significant level of detail, which they are asking every presidential candidate to endorse.


BUONADONNA: My name is Mason, we spoke when you were at the Sanctuary. … I’m with a non-profit called Democracy Matters, for folks on campaign finance reform. I’m really pleased to see you’ve made campaign finance reform one of your fifteen planks that you’re pushing. And I wanted to invite you here to sign a pledge to commit with Democracy Matters that you’re going to do exactly as you’re saying. …

O’MALLEY: Sure. [Applause] One of our goals is to move to publicly-financed elections for Congress within the next five years. If we can get there sooner, we’d love to get there sooner. [Looking at pledge] There’s no fine print on this, that’s admirable. [Laughter]

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Contact the author:

Jon Schwarz[email protected]​

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