More than 100 democracy reform organizations are making another attempt at convincing Congress to take action to limit the influence of big money in politics.
A letter signed by 123 organizations was sent to members of the House of Representatives on Thursday, urging them to cosponsor a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to limit how much can be raised and spent to influence elections. Some of the organizations include American Promise, Common Cause, End Citizens United Action Fund, the NAACP, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and Wolf-PAC.
If successful, this amendment would effectively undo the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which uncapped campaign finance limits.
Currently, 139 House members — all Democrats and one lone Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York — have backed the amendment proposal. But the resolution has remained in committee since it was introduced in January.
Eighteen groups promoting democracy reform sent a letter Tuesday to Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, asking for a presidential debate focused on the candidates' democracy reform plans.
"Whether it comes to addressing our climate crisis, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, ending gun violence, or any other issue Democratic candidates have been talking about on the campaign trail, the role of a healthy democracy in achieving those ends is undeniable," the letter states.
The groups who signed the letter are: Brennan Center for Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Democracy 21, The Democratic Coalition, End Citizens United, Equal Citizens, Indivisible, New American Leaders, New American Leaders Action Fund, New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, People for the American Way, Progressive Turnout Project, Protect Democracy, Public Citizen, Voices for Progress and Wolf-PAC.
The Democratic debates so far have hardly been a robust forum for democracy reform discussions, but Wednesday night's session was a new low. The topic was almost entirely ignored.
At the three previous debates this summer, the party's presidential candidates have called for expanding voting rights, getting money out of politics and cleaning up government ethics. This time, the 10 candidates used their time on stage in Detroit to hash out their differences on health care, immigration, crime and climate change policies for more than two hours – spending minimal time on anything else.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington had the only clear mention of a topic dear to the hearts of government reformers when he proposed fundamentally changing how the Senate works in order to end this extended period of congressional gridlock.
Even if the Democrats win the presidency, hold the House and take a majority of Senate seats next year, he warned, Republicans look certain to retain more than enough seats (41 or more) to block whatever legislation comes their way. And so, Inslee said, "We've got to get rid of the filibuster so we can govern the United States" with simple majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill.
This story has been revised after additional reporting.
Seven of the 20 presidential candidates debating this week, but only two of the group polling in the top tier, have vowed to make revamping the political system and boosting government ethics their first legislative priority if elected president.
The seven made that commitment by signing the "Reform First" pledge drafted by End Citizens United, an advocacy group that is mainly interested in shrinking big money's sway over campaigns and governing. It announced the signatories on Monday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is currently third in the average of surveys of Democratic voters, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who ranks fifth, have signed the pledge. He turns out to be the only candidate who is unambiguously in favor of 17 of the most prominent proposals for fixing the political system, according to a comprehensive review by The Fulcrum of all the candidates' stances. Many of those proposals are the sorts of things End Citizens United wants to see in legislation moving in 2021.
But Warren and her Senate colleague Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who also signed the vow, are only a small notch behind Buttigieg in their fealty to the top items on the democracy reformer agenda. Both back 16 proposals unequivocally and say they're open to remaking the Supreme Court, without being solidly on board any specific plan.
The other signatories are Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas. All of them are polling at an average of 2 percent or less.