American Democracy needs a new amendment

Morris Pearl 2018
Morris Pearl

By MORRIS PEARL

Patriotic Millionaires

 

American democracy, in theory, is based on the premise of one person, one vote. Unfortunately, that is not really the case.  The rich and the powerful use their money to gain more influence than other Americans, and that became obvious to everyone with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC which opened the floodgates for a wave of dark money donations from wealthy individuals and corporations. Now our democratic model seems increasingly based on the shady principle of one dollar, one vote. No American should be shut out of the political process simply because they can’t afford to spend a couple million dollars on an election, but that’s exactly the course that we are on.

Fortunately, House Democrats have introduced a plan to stop this alarming trend and return political power where it belongs: regular working Americans. Representative Ted Deutch, D-FL, introduced the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would enact desperately needed reforms to stop the corrosive influence of money in politics, including overturning Citizens United.

This amendment is critical to ensuring every American has an equal voice in our government, and to stop rich folks from buying up politicians through dark money donations. That’s why I respectfully urge House leadership to join over 160 co-sponsors in supporting this bill and bringing it to a vote.

How exactly do you accomplish the monumental task of taking money out of politics? To start, we must ensure that all campaign contributions are transparent. Individual donations have long been publicly accessible on sites like Open Secrets, yet under our current laws, deep-pocketed special interests can make unlimited donations to super PACs and political nonprofits without disclosing a thing. The Democracy for All Amendment would allow congress to mandate campaign finance disclosures from everyone, because Americans deserve to know precisely who has the wallet, and therefore the ear, of our elected representatives.

The Democracy for All Amendment would explicitly affirm the right of Congress and state legislatures to set rules and regulations around campaign finance in public elections, including limiting campaign spending from corporations and special interest groups. Currently, the average winning House race costs over $1 million, while the average winning Senate candidate can expect to spend over $10 million – and the numbers climb startlingly higher for Presidential races. Enshrining this right in the Constitution would allow states and Congress to stop runaway spending in elections and guarantee that the rich and powerful do not have so much more access to our elected officials than everyday Americans.

If that sounds like a stretch, in a mind-blowing 91 percent of elections, the candidate who raises the most money wins. Under those conditions, it’s clear why our laws increasingly seem to benefit the wealthy against the population at large, whether it’s a deeply unpopular $1.8 trillion handout to the top 1 percent or a minimum wage that hasn’t budged in 10 years despite nationwide support for a $15 minimum.

In addition to the moral good of protecting Americans’ democratic rights and preventing a government of, by, and for the elite, the Democracy for All Amendment is a political no-brainer. Americans know that our democracy is being hijacked by the elite. In 2018, a full 75 percent of Americans supported limiting the influence of money in politics with a constitutional amendment, including 85 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans. The Democracy for All Amendment is a vastly popular, desperately needed bill to stop money from dictating our political future, and we need strong, courageous leaders to give it the outspoken, full-throated support it deserves.

 

Morris Pearl is a former managing director at BlackRock and Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, a coalition of high net worth Americans concerned about the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in the U.S.

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