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"Money in our political system has completely eroded the promise of a functioning and just democracy," argues Wambui Gatheru.

For the young, getting big money out of politics is the cause of our time

Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to permit laws that regulate the raising and spending of campaign funds. She graduated two years ago from the University of Connecticut.

When young Americans come together, we can make a big impact. That's what we've seen throughout history. Alexander Hamilton and Betsy Ross were in their early 20s during the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass was 23 years old when he took the stage at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Alice Paul through her 20s led the fight for the 19th Amendment and women's voting rights.

And that's what we're seeing today in youth-led climate movements around the globe and the movement to end mass shootings here in the United States. But one issue that doesn't get as much attention sits at the root of our modern problems: big money in politics.

Money in our political system has completely eroded the promise of a functioning and just democracy. Due to a series of Supreme Court cases, corporations have the same rights as humans, special interests control Capitol Hill and democracy only works for those who can afford it. This is the dystopia my generation has inherited.

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New York City Councilman Brad Lander, here at a news conference in July, is now pushing a new campaign finance curb.

Ranked-choice voting won in NYC with dark money. A reformer wants to end that irony.

New York City's approval of ranked-choice voting was one of the year's biggest wins for democracy reformers. But the million-dollar push for the ballot measure was fueled by one of the institutions most reviled in "good governance" circles: dark-money groups.

Now one prominent lawmaker, with a proven record of tightening campaign finance rules in the nation's biggest city, has plans to prevent such an irony in the future.

City Councilman Brad Lander is readying legislation to expand the current disclosure requirements for donations in local elections to include ballot proposals. The transparency rules now mandate donor disclosures only for political messaging related to candidates. But that law's enactment was spearheaded five years ago by Lander, and the Brooklyn Democrat says it's time to close a loophole he left behind.

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Rhode Island requires political advocacy organizations to disclose information about the donors behind their election-related messaging.

Conservatives sue in Rhode Island to avoid donor disclosure

Two conservative advocacy groups are fighting Rhode Island's campaign finance laws that mandate donor disclosure for political advertisements — because it would impact their bottom lines and donors' personal safety.

The in-state Gaspee Project and the Chicago-based Illinois Opportunity Project filed a lawsuit against the Rhode Island Board of Elections in federal court on Thursday. The plaintiffs argue that political ads not coordinated with a campaign are protected under the First and Fourteenth amendments and should not be subject to the state's disclosure rules.

But supporters of campaign finance laws like the ones in Rhode Island say increasing transparency around political ads helps voters know who is behind the messaging.

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Big Picture
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Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren all talked about issues of democracy reform Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Fifth time’s the charm: Spotlight shines on democracy’s challenges at a Democratic debate

Big money in politics, the limits of voting rights and the way politicians get to pick their voters were among the topics almost entirely bypassed in the four previous presidential debates. But that changed Wednesday night, when the republic's broken aspects earned some significant attention.

The Democratic candidates were asked questions about problems with democracy for the first time, and at other points several of them volunteered their concerns about a governing system overdue for some big fixes.

The increased focus was a notable departure not only from the earlier debates but also from the talk on the trail. All 10 who debated in Atlanta are behind the consensus items on the agenda of democracy reformers, but since much of the campaign's oxygen comes from conflict, those proposals rarely get much air time. And they have so many other differences with President Trump that their discord over what about the system needs fixing rarely comes up.

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