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Howard Dean and Barack Obama pioneered the drive for small-dollar contributors. Now, such donations have become an important measuring stick and may be contributing to increased polarization.

Small-dollar gifts hardly a cure-all for money’s smear on politics, one professor argues

The explosion of small-donor political contributions is often celebrated and extolled as one of the few positive developments amid all the problems facing the democracy reform movement.

Not so fast, argues New York University law school professor Richard Pildes. In a new essay published in the Yale Law Journal Forum, he argues the proliferation of modest contributions to candidates may be contributing to more political polarization and, at least, requires more careful examination.

Pildes also says the proposals to promote more small-donor giving that are part of the House Democrats' comprehensive political process overhaul, known as HR 1, could have unintended negative consequences.

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Big Picture
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In addition to creating a statewide public financing system, a proposed ballot initiative in Arizona would make it easier for voters to cast ballots.

Crusade begins for ballot initiative overhauling Arizona's democracy

A prominent progressive group in Arizona has launched an effort to put a total overhaul of the state's election system before the voters next fall.

If the initiative is ultimately adopted, it would transform campaign financing and ease access to the ballot box in one of the nation's fastest growing and most politically competitive states. In many ways, the proposal would create in Arizona a system similar to what the congressional Democrats would nationalize under HR 1.

But the business community and Republican elected leaders in Phoenix are already signaling they're intense opposition to the package, suggesting that just getting it on to the ballot could require an expensive and polarizing campaign.

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Government Ethics
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Elizabeth Warren has unveiled a 34-point plan to tackle corruption in Washington.

Warren expands her anti-corruption plan to address more than Trump

Elizabeth Warren on Monday unveiled a significant expansion of her plan to improve the behavior of public servants and root out Washington corruption.

It was the latest detailed set of policy prescriptions from the Massachusetts senator, who has seen her standing in the top tier of Democratic presidential hopefuls solidify in recent weeks — a signal that the frail state of government ethics is guaranteed to have a place among the issues being addressed in the 2020 campaign.

"Make no mistake about it: The Trump administration is the most corrupt administration of our lifetimes," Warren wrote in a post on Medium that's now part of her campaign website. "But these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him — and solving them will require big, structural change to fundamentally transform our government."

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Renaldo Pearson began his 600-mile trek in Atlanta on Aug. 6, the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

600 miles, 50 days, 2 feet: A journey to fix America’s democracy

Renaldo Pearson is on a long-distance walk — at least that's what he tells the friendly folks in the southeast who stop to offer him a ride.

As much as his bruised feet and sunburned skin would appreciate the relief, he politely declines each offer. The ground rules for this mission to fix America's broken democracy are simple: Keep walking and invite others to join the journey.

Two weeks ago, on the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Pearson laced up his waterproof Adidas Terrex sneakers and set out from Atlanta. On Monday, he crossed the border into North Carolina and his 50-day journey will end, more than 600 miles later, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24 — National Voter Registration Day.

Upon arrival, Pearson pledges to remain on the steps of the Capitol until all the presidential candidates promise to make democracy reform a priority or the Senate passes HR 1 (or another bill that includes reforms to expand voting rights, make elections safe and competitive and end political corruption).

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