Are We Being Played For Chumps?

by Frank Kirkwood

March 27, 2019

HR 1, the reform bill, has passed the House but will die in the Senate because the Republicans will refuse to call it for a vote.  Democrats want us pro-democracy/anti-corruption activists to believe that when they control the Senate, the House, and the Presidency in 2021 that they will pass HR 1 into law.  We should be very skeptical, given that the last time the Democrats controlled the government, Speaker Pelosi refused to even call a vote on the Fair Elections Now Act, the bill to create a public funding system for congressional races.  

All of the House Democrats voted for HR 1 in 2019.  We should be skeptical that they will vote for it again in 2021- unless we push them, starting now.  Incumbent members of Congress are conflicted about actually passing HR 1 because, when it becomes law, they will lose some of the fundraising and the other advantages they currently have over their opponents in both primary and general elections.  So, how can reformers pressure these politicians to pass HR 1 when they actually have the power to do so?

One thing we can do right now is to insist that incumbents demonstrate their good faith by pledging, on their website, that they will vote for HR 1 again in the next Congress.  We should also insist on this pledge from our Senators and the next crop of congressional candidates.  If they post the pledge on their websites, then we have reason to hope they will do as they have pledged.  If the won’t post the pledge, then we will know they are playing us for chumps and we should start looking for other candidates to support.

Organizations that fund reform candidates should likewise insist that the candidates who they support have a pledge on their websites to vote for HR 1.  For instance, the organization named “End Citizens United” is extremely skilled at raising money online and passing on some of that money to federal candidates.  They call the candidates they fund “Champions of Campaign Finance Reform”.  End Citizens United, strong advocates for HR 1, has historically funded candidates without regard to whether the candidates make pro-reform statements on their website.  Without being asked to post a statement for reform, most candidates do not.  In fact, in the 2018 congressional elections 60% of the “Champions” did not even mention ending Citizens United!  

Isn’t it time for reform organizations and the rest of us to get tough with these politicians?

A website statement of support for reform not only makes it harder for a politician to renege, it is also an excellent opportunity for them to show leadership and to let their constituents know that it is possible to make our democracy healthy again.  

So, let’s call these politicians out!  Are you playing us for chumps?  If not, let’s see your pledge on your website!