Issue One announces “Returning Government to the American People” framework for reform

On Wednesday, December 14, at 9:00 a.m. at the National Press Club, Issue One and our ReFormers Caucus will publicly roll out a new bipartisan framework titled “Returning Government to the American People.” (See event details below.)

The framework lays out specific proposals for returning our government to the representative path the founders envisioned, and is intended to serve as a starting point for bipartisan conversations in Washington. Implemented together, these proposals would “drain the swamp” and sever the money connection between powerful private interests and our elected government. The framework reflects the thinking of a working group of our ReFormers Caucus, which is made up of Republican and Democratic former members of Congress. In their view and ours, these are the proposals most worth pursuing to fix our politics. All of the proposals in the framework would be expected to survive court challenge under current Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The framework lays out proposals under five major headings:

  1. Promoting transparency and disclosure. 
  2. Increasing participation in elections.
  3. Reducing pay-to-play.
  4. Strengthening enforcement of existing laws.
  5. Encouraging new jurisprudence.

Prompt disclosure of political spending empowers citizens with the information they need to make good choices at the polls. In the current system, more and more money flows into our politics without a clearly identified source, so Americans know less and less about who is supporting what candidate for office or what policy proposal. Our new framework includes provisions to bring all political money into the light of day quickly, including political giving and spending involving candidates, super PACs, unions, corporations and 501(c)(4) nonprofits.

Like disclosure, broad participation is essential to a healthy democracy, but currently only a fraction of one percent of Americans (0.48 percent) contribute $200 or more to federal candidates. In this privately funded political system, where money talks and more money talks more loudly, the participation of many of us is increasingly drowned out. Our framework contains proposals to reduce this skew by encouraging and empowering small-dollar donors through tax credits for their contributions and new rules that encourage the parties to focus on small donor fundraising. By broadening the donor pool, these proposals would also enable lawmakers to spend less time fundraising and more time focusing on the people’s business.

The Constitution protects lobbying as a means for citizens to redress their grievances, but when lobbying is married to money, the process of policy deliberation can easily become a game of “pay-to-play.” These proposals will put distance between lobbyists’ cash and our policymakers, with provisions such as a simple ban on lobbyists contributing to or bundling contributions for congressional campaigns, and broadening the category of those required to register as lobbyists in accordance with recommendations from the American Bar Association.

Campaign rules become a joke without an effective cop on the beat to enforce them, but the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been described by one of its former chairs as “worse than dysfunctional.” Our framework proposes fixing the FEC and, to that end, endorses the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act, introduced by Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jim Renacci (R-OH), John Carney (D-DE) and Lou Barletta (R-PA) as an excellent bipartisan model for doing so. Among other things, that bill would establish blue-ribbon advisory panels of retired judges and others to recommend FEC nominees to the president, and would reduce the number of commissioners from six to five to end the current gridlock.

This framework supports the creation of a new campaign finance jurisprudence — one that fully embraces the values of the First Amendment. We believe that new Supreme Court justices should oppose the Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United decisions. We support legal challenges in the lower courts and efforts underway to change regulations that allow dark money groups to be active in political campaigns without disclosing their donors.

A stunning 92 percent of American voters surveyed in the summer of 2016 — voters of all political persuasions — agreed with the statement that “the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.” We face an unprecedented crisis of confidence in government.

We hope you will join us at the National Press Club on Wednesday, December 14 at 9:00 a.m. to begin this important, bipartisan conversation on how to fix our democracy.

What: Issue One Unveils Legislative Framework

When: Wednesday, Dec. 14, 9:00 a.m. ET

Where: Zenger Room, The National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Who:

  • Ray LaHood, former Transportation Secretary (2009-2013) and Illinois Republican congressman (1995-2009).
  • Tim Roemer, former Ambassador to India (2009-2011) and Indiana Democratic congressman (1991-2003).
  • Zach Wamp, former Tennessee Republican congressman (1995-2011).
  • Dan Glickman, former Agriculture Secretary (1995-2001) and Kansas Democratic congressman (1977-1995).
  • Nick Penniman, Executive Director, Issue One.
  • Meredith McGehee, Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy, Issue One (Moderator).

You can RSVP here. Questions about the event? Contact William Gray at wgray@issueone.org.