If we're forbidden by the Supreme Court from limiting money coming from the 0.01 percent, what about amplifying money from the bottom 99.99 percent?
That's the basis for the Government by the People Act, introduced last year by Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland's 3rd District. (If the name sounds familiar, that's probably because his father, Paul, was a five-term senator from Maryland.)
Sarbanes has quietly garnered 160 co-sponsors for the bill and support from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has 19 co-sponsors.
The bill has three main parts:
- Everyone gets $25 to donate to candidates
All voters receive $25 per year to give to political campaigns, provided in the form of a refundable tax credit equal to half of donations up to $50. (For instance, if you donate $30 to a candidate, you get $15 of that back; to get the full $25 you have to donate $50.)
- 6 to 1 matching funds (at least) for small donors
Donations up to $150 to qualifying House and Senate candidates are matched 6 to 1 with public money. In other words, if your next door neighbor is running for Congress and you give her $50, she'll get another $300, making $350 total.
And donations are matched 9 to 1 for candidates who completely renounce big money and take only donations of $150 or less. So if your neighbor is willing to do that, your $50 donation would turn into $500 total for her. (Moreover, if you use your $25 tax credit, that $500 she received would only cost you $25 total.)
- Help for candidates facing an onslaught of SuperPAC money, dark money, etc.
Candidates would be eligible for enhanced matching funds in the last 60 days before an election, with incentives so they would only access the funds if it's a particularly high-cost race.