Case Study: Fair Elections Now Act, 2010

by Frank Kirkwood

Those who believe the dangerously counter-productive idea that electing more Democrats to Congress will, by itself, bring about publicly funded elections should have a look at the last time the Democrats had control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, in 2010.  That year, the Fair Elections Now Act [H.R. 6116/1826] (a bill similar to the current public funding of elections bills) was approved in committee and sent to Speaker Pelosi.  The Speaker only needed to speak and the bill would have been voted on by the entire House of Representatives, 165 of whom were co-sponsors.  She said nothing.  There was no vote.  The bill died at the end of the year.

I have not heard any explanation for this.  If anyone has, please let me know (

At least two explanations come to my mind.

Party leadership in Congress can provide cover to any member who needs, for political reasons, to co-sponsor reform.  These members can easily co-sponsor a reform and have plenty of reason to believe that the day will never come when they will need to actually follow through on their promise.

I think the most likely explanation is that the bill would have failed to pass the Democratic controlled House and many Democrats would have been exposed as not being any more interested in reform that the Republican members (although, to be fair, some Republicans may have voted for it, given the chance).

Maybe there are better explanations.  But, what we can conclude is that electing more Democrats will not, by itself, lead to real reform.  It didn’t then.  It won’t now.

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