Hillary Clinton’s Proposals to Restore Integrity to American Elections
Americans are understandably cynical about a political system that has been hijacked by billionaires and special interests who will spend whatever it takes to crowd out the voices of everyday Americans. And with the rise of unlimited, secret spending in our political process, it is virtually impossible for anyone to really know who or what is influencing our elected officials. On issues from climate change to equal pay and immigration reform, voters won’t believe Washington will work for them unless we take on the power and stranglehold that wealthy interests have over our political system.
Hillary Clinton has made revitalization of our democracy a key pillar of her campaign. She will fight to ensure that our democracy works for everyday Americans and leads to government of, by, and for the people, not just the wealthy and well-connected. Her proposals will curb the outsized influence of big money in American politics, bring sunshine to secret spending, and institute real reform to raise the voices of regular voters. Key proposals include:
- Overturning Citizens United
Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, by a 5-4 margin, the Citizens United case helped unleash hundreds of millions of dollars of secret, unaccountable money into U.S. elections that is drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans and distorting our democracy. To undo the harm of Citizens United and other wrongheaded campaign finance court decisions, Clinton will:
- Appoint Supreme Court justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections. Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices who understand that the Constitution protects citizens’ right to participate fully in the democratic process, and that decisions like Citizens United, which upended campaign finance law, and Shelby County, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, are not good for America.
- Support a constitutional amendment. Clinton supports amending the Constitution to allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections.
- Ending Secret, Unaccountable Money in Politics
Outside groups have spent more than $600 million in secret money in the three federal elections since Citizens United, yet it is difficult to know who or what is behind that spending. Clinton believes that the public has a right to know who is spending money to influence elections and the actual sources of funds for those expenditures. To increase transparency in our political system and end the era of unaccountable money in politics, Clinton will:
- Push for federal legislation to require effective public disclosure of political spending. Clinton will require outside groups that engage in significant political spending to timely disclose significant donors that support those expenditures. She will also require disclosure of significant transfers between organizations and close other loopholes that allow individuals, corporations and others to hide their political spending.
- Promote SEC rulemaking requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending to their shareholders. Clinton believes that information about how corporate funds are being used to fuel political activity and influence elected officials is material to investment decisions and should be made available to shareholders.
- Sign an Executive Order requiring federal government contractors to fully disclose all political spending. If Congress fails to act on common sense campaign finance reform, Clinton will use executive authority to increase transparency of political spending by all companies that are awarded federal contracts.
- Amplifying the Voices of Everyday Americans Outsized political influence by wealthy corporations and individuals has discouraged everyday Americans from participating in the political process. In the 2014 election, the top 100 campaign donors alone spent nearly as much as all 4.75 million small donors combined. Meanwhile, 2014 also marked the first time in almost a quarter century that the total number of donors reported to have given to political campaigns decreased from the prior midterm election.
The current system creates disincentives for voters to feel like their participation matters and for candidates to focus more of their attention on regular voters. It also sets up barriers to ordinary people with extraordinary ideas seeking elective office and serving their country, especially women and people of color. Clinton believes we need a system that empowers all citizens to fully participate and have their voices heard. She will:
- Establish a small donor matching system for presidential and congressional candidates that will incentivize small donors to participate in elections and candidates to spend more time engaging a broad, representative cross-section of constituents, and will include:
- Matching funds for small donations. To increase the role and influence of everyday Americans who cannot write large checks, the program will provide multiple matching funds for small donations.
- Lower contribution limits. Candidates who opt to participate in the program must agree to a substantially lower limit on how much money they can receive from any individual donor.
- Cap on public matching funds. To ensure fiscal sustainability, there will be a reasonable limit on the total amount of public matching funds available to each candidate, but no limit on the number of small donations candidates can receive from their supporters up to the individual donor contribution limit.
- Qualifying contribution thresholds. To qualify for matching funds, candidates must first demonstrate that they have sufficient public support for a viable campaign by raising a minimum number of small donations from their constituents.
Finally, for our campaign finance system to have meaning, Clinton believes we must vigorously enforce our campaign finance laws.
This is only one part of Clinton’s comprehensive agenda to revitalize our democracy so that it values the voices of everyday Americans, not just those at the top.
Clinton recently laid out her vision for protecting voting rights and expanding access to the ballot box for all Americans, calling for:
- Universal, automatic voter registration, where every citizen in every state in the union would be automatically registered to vote when they turn eighteen—unless they actively choose to opt out;
- A new national standard of no fewer than 20 days of early, in-person voting in every state, including opportunities for weekend and evening voting;
- Congress to move quickly to pass legislation to repair the damage to the Voting Rights Act done by the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision; and
- Implementation of the recommendations of the President’s bipartisan presidential commission to improve voting, which includes expanding early, absentee, and mail voting; providing online voter registration; and establishing the principle that no one should ever have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.