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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Even if it is a fluff, non-binding pledge that has no real chance of actually happening, it says a lot about Hillary not to sign it. Why turn down easy PR points, unless you actively oppose it?

Maybe she realizes the entire thing is a joke.

The funny thing is, while I oppose ‘big money’ in elections, this will wind up just making more people more subservient to individuals who HAVE big money. That’s a dangerous thing too, because it keeps the very type of people out of politics that we need in politics: People with life experience that is more ‘ordinary’ or even ‘difficult’ that can stand up for people like them (and other people).

Ugh. This is such a loaded topic. If lower tier candidates want to remove corporate funding from campaigns, then they must also agree to remove funding from the personal accounts of those corporations and foreign dignitaries. I’m all for overturning Citizens United, but at the same time I want to see a stop to funding from Saudi royalty, Fortune 500 officers private accounts, and superpacs need to be outlawed. You can’t have it be a one sided gutting of funding. Republicans have been very effective in not only procuring corporate funds, but getting the government to let them keep them. Democrats on the other hand get those corporate funds by allowing the CEO’s to move the money through NFP’s and private accounts. They’ve also been very good at getting foreign dollars through private donations from people like Saudi Prince Al Waleed. His donations come from oil and tourism subsidiaries, that donate to his NFP, which gets funneled to superpacs earmarked for democratic candidates. What cannot happen is the idea that federal money replaces those dollars. Political donations need to be limited to individuals, capped at $5000, and must be disclosed. Superpacs are nothing more than a way to get around current donation limits and reporting requirements.

Unless the US elects a Congress with a solid majority who have signed this pledge, it means nothing. It’s hard to respect politicians who pledge to do something they cannot accomplish.
If somebody can explain how any President can get Congress to pass such an Act, I’ll be glad to hear it and admit I’m wrong.
What does matter is that the Democratic candidates state that they will ensure that any potential Supreme Court nominees will overturn Citizens United and restore the Voting Rights Act.

One Mission

There is one issue we must address first in the 2016 election…

Four years ago, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks told Netroots Nation, “There is only one issue in this country,” and he was referring to the corrupt funding of public elections.

That corruption is part of a more fundamental inequality that we’ve allowed the politicians to create: we don’t have a Congress that represents us equally.

Every issue — from climate change to gun safety, from Wall Street reform to defense spending — is tied to this “one issue.” Achieving citizens equality in America is our one mission.

Harvard Law Prof. @Lessig’s insane idea to take big money out of politics is its only campaign mission.

One Idea, The System Is Rigged
One Goal, Take Big Money Out of Politics
One Plan: Restore Citizen Equality

Larry Lessig would run as a “referendum president” who promises to serve only as long as it takes to pass the Citizens Equality Act of 2017.

Lessig would use that mandate to get Congress to pass the Citizens Equality Act of 2017.

Once this package is passed, Larry Lessig would step down, and the vice president would become president.



What they all should pledge is something that was taken up in the linked post:

What all the so-called candidates would talk about if they cared about ordinary Americans:

An excerpt from

‘He/she would advocate the removal all the money from politics and replacing it with YT campaign and small equal, apriori disclosed campaign amount to cover the expenses via public finding, say 1 million $ per each candidate that’s all, otherwise you are out, and no private money even your own allowed. No flying across US in private jets, only Amtrak.

He/she would advocate the reduction of the campaign to two months since no fund-raising would be needed, the time would be sufficient to present one’s platform and debate it over the net.

He/she would advocate the change of the election law (constitutional amendment) and allow for single registration of a candidate in given state to be valid everywhere, reform similar to banking system reform where they allowed cross state banking institutions in early 1990-ties.’

It’s like with those 500 lawyers, at least a good start.

Clark, the pledge also says candidates must work to “take big money out of politics”. That directly addresses your point about corporate donations controlling the process.
Also while the pledge is not binding, it helps make money in politics a voting issue, which is the first step to change. If enough people like you hold candidates accountable instead of complaining, maybe change can happen. The powers that be are counting on you sitting on your butt and complaining, don’t be naive and fall into their trap.

You are exactly wrong.

The powers that be are counting on the gullible voters to accept

a vapid non-binding pledge as meaning more than it does.

Get the corporate candidates to refuse to take ANY corporate money for their

campaigns- or else

and then see how many sign the pledge.

So many fake attempts have been made to “take big money out of politics”

and here we are again watching another bogus approach

while all the while the so-called progressive democrats keep

voting for corporately funded fakes.

Obama could have won without taking corporate funding, but

Obama HAD to take their money, if for no other reason than to show the

corporate bosses that he was really their servant. The same is true of

any democrat, republican, or libertarian candidates.

Their words are cheap and getting cheaper as the costs of elections

are corporately becoming more expensive.

Norquist was able to exert huge influence through a “non binding pledge”. Your need to be cynical leaves you blind here. Making money in politics a voting issue is a first step on the long and ardous road to change.

Your democrat gullibility leaves you blind to the reality that in both the

“contract with america” scheme and the “taxpayer protection pledge”

Norquist had overwhelming actual support from republicans and

the shared sympathy by the democrats “leadership.”

The great “bipartisan” need.

The democrats use words to camouflage their sympathy with what the

republicans are blatantly promoting and then they find an excuse

to betray their words – again and again and again…..

This weak worded pledge is out of line with both democrat and republican


The main belief of democrats, republicans, and libertarians is the

shared belief in privatized wealth accumulation as the

single most important god-given right.

That is why this pledge has to be forced upon the democrat candidates

and why you do not see the majority of congressional democrats

ardently rushing to align themselves with reforming the

corrupt system which they and their republican allies depend upon for

personal gain.

This “pledge” is typical non-binding delusional pandering.

If these typical liberals really wanted to hold their candidates feet

to the fire,

this pledge would state that these (posturing) candidates

would instead

REFUSE to accept corporate funding in every form.

There already is public financing of elections –

the corporate owned parties wouldn’t dream of restricting their

beloved hypocrite candidates to anything that democratic.

These pledges are not unlike the “pledge” used on furniture –

a polish which only makes the twisted furniture look shiny and

lets these candidates pretend that they will stop using the

corporate owned furniture

which they are polishing.

Yeah, r i i i i g ht – like that a new catch phrase – I recall hearing it a waze back.

Wanna get money out of politics – then pick em out of the hat like jury duty – most peoples gandma’s can do a better job than the CSPAN dandies the machines keeps telling us we elected.

Don’t vote – that will get money out of politics – I know – I know – civic pride approval junkie – except what you be cooking in de spoon is cut – there ain’t no dope in it.

Call me a sceptic but do “pledges” mean anything to these politicians??? They do not need to take a pledge/sign a pledge if they REALLY believed what they said and said what they believed and DID it…..their WORD should mean something!

A “pledge” written or otherwise means nothing to a politician. Now if it was a written, signed “pledge” with consequences for breach – (like financial penalties or resignation from office upon violation) – then maybe you’d have something more like an enforceable “contract”.

Short of that a politician’s word means nothing.

The problem with public financing of elections is: Who gets financed? It seems certain that any such system will be rigged so that all or the vast majority of the money goes to the mainstream, government-insider, candidates. The net result is likely to be simply an indirect subsidy to the “big money” people who finance the elections anyway.

I’m slightly impressed by that Congressional bill; it doesn’t seem to exclude minor party or independent candidates, provided they can raise the initial 50k in small donations from 1,000 people to qualify. 50k isn’t necessarily impossible for a strong Libertarian, Green, or Independent candidate (although the Libertarians probably wouldn’t participate in this anyways given their views), but it would be difficult though. I think they should have lowered the requirement a little, but still, I was expecting an outright exclusion of third party and Independent candidates, and not having seen that is a good sign that the people behind this bill actually seem to care about genuine democratic elections to some extent.
But as usual, the corrupt Establishment politicians will likely do their best to derail this bill and movement. Hopefully some sort of progress can be made despite the odds stacked against it.

Interesting article. Money in politics is fast becoming the defining issue of the 2016 election cycle!

it will never happen

Interesting article concerning an upcoming referendum to attempt to get the money out of their elections at the local level:

(Personally, I’m quite skeptical, but then I’ve been involved in forensic finance on the activist side for quite a few years, and understand that the Big Four investment firms — Blackrock, Vanguard Group, State Street, and Fidelity — are the major shareholders in the majority of major corporations in North America and Europe.)

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