Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign Finance Reform

I’m running to represent you in Congress for only one reason – to create a government you can trust to act in your best interests, the best interests of our District, and the best interests of the nation as a whole.  You can be sure that the only influence on my decisions will be your voices and my own conscience. We need to make sure that every politician who represents us is free to act on those two things alone, without bowing to a select group of big donors and corporate PACs who will fund the next campaign only in exchange for access and influence.  We must break those links by ending the flood of unlimited and undisclosed money that is drowning out the voices of individual citizens.

In order to make that happen the laws governing campaign finance and elections need to change. I propose a broad reform agenda to finally get to the root of the problem.  

My Pledge to VA Voters

I won’t take money from corporate PACs.

To demonstrate my commitment to being an independent fighter for VA’s 5th, I’m making a personal pledge to run my campaign free from the influence of corporate special interest PACs.  I want to be part of a Blue Wave that says no to the wrong kind of green – big donor money meant to influence my vote.  

I call on my opponent, Denver Riggleman, to do the same. So far Denver has taken $120,000 dollars in corporate and Republican leadership PAC money, but it’s not too late for him to prove that, like me, his only intention is to work for you and not for outside corporate interests.

I will host regular and public town halls in the 5th District.

I will hold a minimum of six town halls for each calendar year of my term serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. These public events will always be held in-person, in the district at venues with ample room and accommodation. They will be free and open to the press and will be announced at minimum 48 hours in advance. All town halls will provide at least 30 minutes for open, unscreened questions from the audience.

I will not become a lobbyist after serving in Congress.

I believe there should be some restrictions on retiring members of Congress becoming lobbyists: We need to close the revolving door where politicians can become lobbyists immediately after leaving office.

My Campaign Reform Plan

In addition to my personal actions, I promise I will be a tireless warrior in Congress for elevating a comprehensive campaign finance reform agenda — even when that means standing up to corporate interests or my own party. 

Together we will:

Increase Disclosure and Transparency

I will sponsor and work hard to pass legislation that requires disclosure of who’s making political donations and how corporations are spending on political activities, along with legislation to require disclosure of a candidate’s recent tax returns.

Americans overwhelmingly support greater disclosure of campaign spending. All voters —Democrats, independents and Republicans- want transparency. We must pass the DISCLOSE Act (H.R.1134), which requires any organization that spends $10,000 or more on election ads to disclose its donors within 24 hours. The act also requires corporations and other outside groups to disclose campaign-related spending to their shareholders and/or organization members.  In this current session of Congress The DISCLOSE Act has 136 sponsors in the House and 48 in the Senate, including both Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.  Yet the current majority in Congress refuses to allow a vote. This is one of the many reasons we need a new majority in Congress!

Two additional initiatives are equally important to end so-called “dark” money in campaigns – money spent to influence issues and elections without any of us knowing who’s behind the message meant to shape our beliefs. The Keeping Our Campaigns Honest (KOCH) Act (H.R. 1439) requires political groups with anonymous donors to disclose their biggest donors at the end of their advertisements. The Shareholder Protection Act requires companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders.  This extra layer of disclosure allows investors and concerned citizens to quickly see if the companies they invest in or patronize match their values, and it gives voters a one stop shop to find out which companies might be invested in their elected representatives.

Prevent Foreign Interference

I will sponsor legislation to prevent political spending by foreign-owned U.S. companies and stop foreign operatives from purchasing political ads on social media.

We need to close a campaign finance loophole that allows American-registered but foreign-owned and controlled corporations to funnel unlimited amounts of money into U.S. elections.  I’ll support legislation like the Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act (H.R.1615), which bans campaign contributions and spending by foreign-owned, influenced, or controlled corporations.

We must also modernize our laws to apply the same disclosure requirements to online advertising as we already require for other forms of paid campaign communications.  As we now know, in 2016 Russian operatives purchased as many as 3,000 ads on Facebook in order to influence the outcome of that election.  Facebook says as many as 10 million Americans saw those ads. We need the Honest Ads Act (H.R.4077), which expands transparency and disclosure to include digital political ads and requires online platforms to make efforts to prevent foreign individuals and entities from purchasing political advertisements to influence American elections.

Explore Empowering Small Donors

I will explore options to broaden small donor participation in federal elections.

Right now, one half of one percent of all Americans are responsible for 68% of the political contributions made to candidates, super PACs, and political parties, according to data from the 2016 election cycle.  Given that, where do you think politicians and elected officials spend most of their time? With people who can afford to contribute $10 or $25, or with the very tiny fraction of people who can write checks for thousands?

But the concentration of large donations is only part of the problem. Right now, just 12% of Americans make any political contributions at all.  Participation needs to increase so that candidates have the ability to raise the resources they need without becoming dependent on corporate PACs and select big donors – while at the same time, a much broader base of people must be reflected in our political outcomes.  

Overturn Citizens United

I will work to amend the Constitution to end the influence of corporate money in politics.

The campaign of 1896 saw the first major political donations by businesses to a presidential candidate. Congress knew these contributions were taking us in the wrong direction, so in 1910 Congress passed the Federal Corrupt Practices Act to enforce contribution limits and disclosure requirements. In 1921 the Supreme Court ruled the FCPA unconstitutional.  So began the cycle of legislation and litigation that culminated in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014) rulings – the decisions that opened the floodgates to unlimited and undisclosed campaign contributions by corporations and wealthy individuals.  It’s as wrong now as is was in 1896.

The recent Crew case, in which the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that nonprofits placing advertisements in support or opposition of candidates must identify individuals who donated more than $200, is a huge step in the right direction.  But this case will be tangled in appeals that could go on for years and there is no guarantee that higher courts will agree with the District Court ruling.  There is only one way to fix this once and for all. The Democracy for All Amendment will give Congress and the states the authority to regulate campaign finance for federal elections and provide the transparency and balance we need.

Make Voting More Accessible and Verifiable

I will push for laws that make registering to vote automatic, provide convenient means to vote, and ensure the integrity of the voting process.

To ensure that we have truly free and fair elections, every eligible voice must be heard.  The first step is ensuring that all eligible voters are registered. I support the Automatic Voter Registration Act (H.R. 2876), which requires states to automatically register voters for federal elections.

The next step is to make voting as accessible as possible.  Let’s make voting day a national holiday and take additional steps like expanding voting by mail, extending voting periods, and exploring electronic voting.

At the same time, voting technology should be secure and verifiable.  I support initiatives like the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act (H.R. 6093), which requires paper ballots and randomized audits of election results.

But securing the technology is only part of ensuring the integrity of the voting process.  No voter should fear going to the polls, and I will work tirelessly for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R. 3239), which restores and fully modernizes the Voting Rights Act to provide greater transparency in elections and oversight in states with a history of voter discrimination.

Make Redistricting Non-Partisan

I will fight to establish independent, non-partisan redistricting committees to draw congressional district lines.

All too often, partisan legislators and Governors work together to draw maps intended to give their party an advantage in elections by creating fewer competitive districts and maximizing the number of districts where their party is all but guaranteed to win. This leads to gerrymandered districts that group together communities with little in common, oftentimes diluting the electoral power of communities of color and other minority groups. The answer is the Redistricting Reform Act (H.R. 1102), which would require states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw congressional district maps.

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