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Gillibrand Releases Sweeping New “Clean Elections” Plan to Attack Political Corruption

May 1, 2019

Gillibrand’s bold reform gives voters “Democracy Dollars” that politicians can accept only after swearing off donations of more than $200– Paid for by excessive CEO salaries

Gillibrand: Every American’s voice should be as loud as the Koch Brothers’

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a new sweeping political reform plan to create “Clean Elections” that will eliminate the corrupting influence of big donors and special interests on politicians in Washington, D.C. Gillibrand’s plan will provide $200 in “Democracy Dollars” to every eligible U.S. adult citizen, to spend on federal candidates of their choosing, per election. To be eligible for “Democracy Dollars,” federal candidates must swear off donations over $200. This plan would empower a broader and more diverse group of everyday Americans, negate the corrupting influence of money in politics, and ensure elected officials actually represent the people who sent them to Washington.

Gillibrand knows that greed and corruption prevent progress on the issues that matter most for the vast majority of Americans – like passing gun violence prevention measures, addressing climate change, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Gillibrand’s plan would change that by making every American’s voice as loud as the Koch Brothers’.

The Clean Elections program would be paid for by eliminating a taxpayer subsidy that is currently enjoyed by CEOs who make excessive salaries, and would raise over $60 billion in ten years. From 2008 to 2018, over $30 billion was spent on federal elections, and as of 2018, 11 individuals were responsible for $1 billion out of the $5 billion collected by Super PACs.

“To get anything done in Washington, we have to address the money and greed that corrupts politicians and prevents progress on issues like gun violence prevention, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and addressing climate change,” said Kirsten Gillibrand. “My Clean Elections plan is a critical structural change that gets big money and special interests out of politics, and ensures that elected officials in Washington are beholden only to the people who sent them there. By providing “Democracy Dollars” to eligible voters, and making politicians swear off donations of more than $200 to receive them, we can empower hard-working Americans, and dwarf the power of any billionaire’s Super PAC.”

Gillibrand’s Clean Elections Plan would:

  • Give Hard-Working Americans the Power to Fund Federal Campaigns: Every eligible voter may choose to request “Democracy Dollars” from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for a given federal election cycle. For each federal race, the recipient will receive $200-worth of “Democracy Dollars” – equally divided between the primary ($100) and general election ($100) – to spend in $10 increments on eligible candidates of their choosing.
  • Create Strong Donation Limits For Candidate Eligibility: Candidates for president of the United States, U.S. Senate and/or House of Representatives may opt in to the program to receive “Democracy Dollars” from voters only if they: 1) Meet the established qualifying threshold of the program; and, 2) Abide by strict donation limits of no more than $200 from any individual donor. The multiplier effect of the program would provide far greater resources than are currently raised by campaigns, incentivizing them to opt in.
  • Be Paid For by Ultra-Powerful Taxpayers: The program would be paid for by eliminating the current taxpayer subsidy for the CEOs and special interests who currently have an outsized role in our democracy. Gillibrand’s plan would eliminate the current taxpayer subsidy for CEOs who are paid excessively high compensation – those making 25 times the median salary of their employees or more than $1 million, whichever is less.
  • Establish Strong Anti-Fraud Safeguards: Strong anti-fraud and anti-corruption measures, including criminal penalties, would ensure that funds are allocated and donated accordingly, and candidates are held to the highest standards for use of “Democracy Dollars.”
  • Empower More Americans, Who Are Younger and More Diverse: The outsized influence of money in politics has fostered a culture where special interest donors – who are overwhelmingly white, male and older – have all the influence. Gillibrand’s plan would ensure that younger, more diverse and lower income Americans have a voice.

Seattle Program Sets Important, Successful Model:

Gillibrand’s federal Clean Elections Plan is modeled in part on a successful program currently being used in Seattle, the first U.S. jurisdiction to provide eligible citizens with a credit of public funds to assign to participating city candidates of their choosing.

As a result of this new program in Seattle:

  • Candidates in races eligible for “Democracy Dollars” relied far less on big money and were less beholden to special interests:
    • Before the program began, in the 2013 elections for Seattle City Council and City Attorney, small donations of under $250 accounted for just 48 percent of the money donated to candidates.
    • In 2017, as a result of this program, 87 percent of the support came from small donations of $250 or less and “Democracy Dollars.”
  • Beyond shifting the influence into the hands of small-dollar donors, the Seattle “Democracy Dollar” program has had real impact on overall participation in elections:
    • At least 25,000 Seattle residents participated as campaign donors in the 2017 election cycle, three times the participation of the roughly 8,200 residents who donated in 2013.
    • An estimated 84% of this election cycle’s Seattle donors were new donors—about 20,900 individuals who had not contributed to city candidates in the 2015 or 2013 cycles. Among these new donors, 71 percent were “Democracy Dollar” donors.
    • “Democracy Dollar” donors better reflected Seattle’s population including young people, women, people of color, and less affluent residents.