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The State of Reform
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Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
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Former Common Cause President Ann McBride Norton

First woman to run Common Cause, back when political reform was bipartisan, has died

Ann McBride Norton, who was among the earliest Republican volunteers and later the first female president of Common Cause, one of the nation's original and most influential democracy reform groups, has died.

Her death, at her home in Washington on Wednesday at age 75, was caused by complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to a daughter, the pop rock musician Mary McBride.

She was known as Ann McBride during her 27-run at Common Cause, which ended in 1999 after four years in the top job as successor to the organization's longtime third president, the legendary good governance impresario Fred Wertheimer.

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When Rep. John Sarbanes (left) led the push for HR 1, reformers knew it was part of a multi-year strategy, writes Wertheimer.

Don’t give up on HR 1. The battle lies ahead.

Wertheimer is the president of Democracy 21, which works to strengthen democracy by ensuring the integrity of our elections and more.

The House passed historic reform legislation to repair and strengthen the rules of our democracy on March 8.

HR 1 is unprecedented, holistic reform legislation to fix our broken political system. It passed on a 234-193 party line vote, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Sarbanes. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Tom Udall with all 46 of his Democratic and independent colleagues as sponsors.

HR 1 provides essential reforms to address what's broken in our political system — money corruption, voter suppression and discrimination, extreme partisan gerrymandering, and government ethics abuses.

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The Constitution must be amended to assure political equality

Clements is president of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.

Faith in our political system is at an all-time low. In a recent poll, a record 89 percent of respondents said they view the government as being run by a few big interests looking out for themselves instead of "for the benefit of all the people." (The figure was at 64 percent a decade ago.) By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe their "vote does not matter because of the influence that wealthy individuals and big corporations have on the electoral process." And 90 percent agree that elected officials are more interested in appealing to campaign donors than addressing the common good.

Americans are right to believe their interests aren't represented in political outcomes. Research shows economic elites and corporations have a dominant impact on policy, but most citizens have virtually no impact. As money from concentrated factions pours into elections in record amounts, voter turnout remains low, as does satisfaction with candidates, elected officials and the direction of the country generally.

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While these issues are critical to our nation, options for legislative solutions are limited in light of Supreme Court decisions that have construed the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause as allowing unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals with the financial means to influence elections. Today, whether the spender is Apple (estimated 2018 revenue, $273 billion), its CEO (2018 pay, $120 million), or Jane Smith (annual pay before taxes, $45,000), each "voice" is free to "speak" to voters and candidates by spending money.

Amid mounting concerns about systemic corruption, unequal representation, and undue control of elections and policymaking by powerful wealthy interests, Americans of every political persuasion seek a solution to help ensure political equality for all citizens. Polls and ballot initiatives consistently show extraordinary support among Americans – exceeding 75 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents — for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to empower Congress and the states to regulate money in elections, combat corruption, revise how constitutional rights apply to corporations and secure equal representation.

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Soft Money

Donations to political party organizations for the purpose of "party building" that were beyond federal regulation until they were banned in 2002 by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The contrast is with hard money.

Read more about soft money.

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