Today we took part in an exciting bill launch on Capitol Hill. The bill, titled the Government by the People Act, would empower grassroots donors in elections, and provide matching public funds for small donations.

Check out our press release below for more details, then sign on to become a citizen co-sponsor of the Government by the People Act.


Sarbanes’ New Campaign Finance Measure Would Offset Flood of Money in Politics

H.R. 20 Would Help Bring a Government of, by and for the People

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen applauds today’s introduction of the “Government By the People Act” (H.R. 20), a comprehensive campaign reform measure designed to dramatically reduce the importance of large campaign contributions and vastly enhance the significance of small donations from everyday Americans.

The measure, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and dozens of co-sponsors, would help restore fairness and opportunity to our elections, Public Citizen said.

Over the past four years, poll after poll has shown that wide majorities of Americans are dismayed by the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate money to flood elections. And a large number of Americans are infuriated with the outsized role money plays in elections, as well as the time and resources officeholders spend cozying up to campaign contributors.

“At no time in history has a strong congressional public financing program been so sorely needed – and so warmly welcomed by the American public,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Americans are demanding far more accountability from Congress. The only real means to achieve this accountability is to replace money from mega-corporations and the wealthy with public funds and small donations from average Americans. This is precisely what the Government By the People Act offers.”

The Government By the People Act grew from two years of research and negotiations among Congress, academics and civic organizations. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) awarded the measure a priority bill number (H.R. 20) in recognition of its significance.

H.R. 20 would provide:

– A $25 tax credit to all Americans – meaning your first $25 contribution is fully refunded;
– Matching public funds of 6-to-1 for donations of $150 or less; and
– Support for small-donor groups to offset super PACs and “dark money” political organizations.

“We can’t have government of, by and for the people if we have elections of, by and for the super-rich and giant corporations,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. “Small donor and public funding of elections is a vital measure to restore our democracy.”

“Most Americans see the financing of our last election as a national disgrace and a scandal in the making,” added Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Just a few dozen very wealthy donors, often corporate CEOs, dominate the financing of our elections. This sets the tone and agendas both in the primary and general elections – agendas that have little to do with the interests of the rest of us.”

Public Citizen heartily endorses this new effort to rein in the abuses of excessive, undisclosed money in politics.


  • Patrick Bosold

    Dear Kelly and Public Citizen team,

    I know that Public Citizen is on board with the movement to enact a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will end corporate personhood and end the fiction that money is the same thing as free speech.

    With regard to HR 20,I know that many of us are pleased that this legislation has been introduced. Now, ask yourself this question: let’s say this bill gets through both houses of Congress (highly unlikely in the House, eh?) and gets signed by the President. What do you think will happen next?

    Before the ink is dry on the President’s signature, the same folks who brought us Citizens United will throw it into court, and it will make its way up to the Roberts Supreme Court, and guess what will happen there. Boom, gone. Thrown out. “Unconstitutional.”

    Unless and until we get a constitutional amendment in place, all such legislation is, sadly, a waste of time although the impulse is noble and the gesture is welcome.

    Move to Amend has more information. Thank you again for your support of this effort. I believe that it is the Civil Rights initiative of our time.

    Patrick Bosold
    public citizen and well-wisher

  • Doug

    The Supreme court makes a BONEHEAD decision like Citizens United and now we have to find a way the candidates can spend half a billion dollars on a presidential campaign and the citizens will still have a voice. The entire process has gone to hell. We had a fair system but the GOP needed some help from their corporate sponsors and billionaires. They know they can’t win with anything else but money.
    I guess as long as we have to recreate the electoral process we can start with this.
    If I sound a little pissed off that’s because I’ve managed to contain myself.

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