Rep. Sarbanes Lukewarm on Campaign Finance Vouchers

In Part II of his interview with The Intercept:

Have you ever heard proposals for vouchers of $100 or $200 that  people could give not just to individual political campaigns, but to any part of the political system? So they could give it to parties, or people could get together and hire a political organizer in their neighborhood, they could give it to lobbying groups, they could give it to think tanks.

Conceptually I can see people thinking about that. I think we want to start small and in a place where the nexus is most direct in terms of why you’re offering this person what is essentially a voucher. The clearest place where we need that is providing support to a candidate because this is the person you’re electing to represent you.

But I’ve conceived of this idea of small donor matching in the context of parties. That’s a way to boost the parties without making them captured by big money — instead they’d be captured by small money and regular people.

I’m not saying that candidates and political parties need to be completely independent. Dependence is okay if it’s dependence on the people. The problem is when the dependence is built up over time on a kind of wealthy political donor class that has priorities that aren’t what many people would like to see.

I begin and end most of my presentations with a quote from James Madison — that the government should be dependent on the people alone. Right now it seems like it’s dependent on special interests alone. We can change that dynamic. We all know we’ve got to get back from this deep cynicism that we all feel, and I think this is one very important way we could do that.

I hope Rep. Sarbanes will come around on vouchers, which I’ve been advocating since the 1990s and which feature prominently in the upcoming Plutocrats United book.  Moreover, Rep. Sarbanes is quoting Lessig (dependent on the people alone) and Lessig likes vouchers a lot.


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