Six of the most influential democracy reform groups are at the core of a new coalition, dubbed Fix the System, with the goal of putting more conservative and corporate muscle behind a cause that's generally dominated by progressives.
The effort comes at a time when many in the good governance movement worry their efforts are too diffuse and disconnected, and tilted too far left at a time of divided government. The hope is that, during a time of pandemic fear and economic distress, political polarization will ease enough to permit some good governance changes to muster bipartisan support.
The alliance has been in the works for months but was formally unveiled this week, along with its first public effort: getting Congress to include money to make voting easier and safer this year in the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization package.
In what is being hailed as a victory for campaign finance transparency, the Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to keep secret the name of a donor who gave $1.7 million to a Republican super PAC eight years ago.
The decision holds some potential to make it more difficult for so-called dark money groups to shield the identities of their biggest contributors in this campaign season and beyond. Increasing sunlight on the forces pouring so many millions into American politics is a main goal of democracy reform groups at a time when increased regulation is not a realistic hope.
The high court on Monday let stand an appeals court's ruling that the donor — a trust fund and its trustee identified only as "John Doe" in court filings — has no right to remain anonymous and may be publicly identified by the Federal Election Commission.
Black is executive director of Seattle-based Fix Democracy First, which advocates for campaign finance, election access and voting rights reforms.
While important democratic reforms continue to stall in the Senate, activists in some states and municipalities are showing there's another way.
In Washington state, we've created a blueprint to rein in money in politics that can work elsewhere.
We've shown that a combination of public financing of elections, increasing access to the ballot, requiring nonprofits to disclose their top donors and coming up with creative ways to restrict the flow of corporate cash into politics can go a long way in returning government to the people.
It's easy to go in to Congress and spend. It's much harder to go in and do what's right. Ten years after the wave of Tea Party reformers arrived at the Capitol, we're still spending without any concern for the long-term implications or the next generation.
We just crossed $22 trillion in debt and are heading toward $30 trillion. This year we are running ever-larger deficits while ignoring the underlying cause of the debt, especially entitlement programs.
We're doing the same thing at the state and local levels — spending without the ability to pay and kicking the can down the road. We continue to shirk our fiscal responsibility. And, as long as we do, the new decade will be just as lost as the last one.
Congress can take steps to fix the problem, and if the current members can't get the job done, then it's up to voters to remind them who's in charge. Here are some steps for changing the way the place works that I believe would go a long way toward ending dysfunction in Washington.