Golden Votes to Pass H.R. 1, Landmark Democracy Reform Legislation
Golden: “It’s not too late to… reestablish an age of clean politics and a return to a government that doesn’t serve special interests and their shadowy backers or the super rich and well-connected, but that works instead for all of us, for the American people.”
WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) voted to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, through the House today. The bill, which Golden also co-sponsored, is the most comprehensive democracy reform legislation in a generation.
Golden held a press conference yesterday with representatives of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Maine League of Women Voters, and End Citizens United to make the case for the legislation and why the bill matters for Mainers. Speaking at the press conference, Golden said:
“For two years now, as I meet with more and more of my constituents there are some things that I’ve learned a majority of us agree about. I hear from people all over Maine that they’ve got a bad gut instinct about Washington. They fear that Congress doesn’t work for them. They say the middle-class is falling behind. That blue collar workers are watching good jobs slip away. They feel that rural America is ignored. That the poor are rarely given a chance to speak for themselves. And that it gets harder and harder to make ends meet.
“I hear these things from Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and from all types of folks, progressive, conservative, urban, rural, political or not political at all. There’s frequently a concern about corruption — sometimes explicit, other times subtle.
“Not the type of corruption you see on full display in the show House of Cards, or the kind that leads to criminal investigations of bribery (although sadly that does happen) but instead a softer, less obvious type of corruption.
“Like me, I’m guessing you’ve heard it said before: ‘that big money controls Washington. Fat cats hold the purse strings to taxpayer’s money. Politicians are beholden to big donors. And those special interest and dark money organizations buy our elections.’
“The bottom-line is they aren’t wrong. But the worst corruption of all is that these campaign activities, and the practices that take place inside, outside, and all around our Capitol and the House and Senate, are legal.
“Super PACs and 501(c)4s are allowed to take and spend huge amounts of money with little to no transparency about where the money comes from. Laws meant to produce transparency get skirted by shell organizations that shelter donors and hide sources of money—a legal form of political money laundering. A revolving door starts in Congress and leads to industries that lobby Congress; and then to an executive position in the White House to do oversight on the industry that employed you. Spouses and children get plum paid positions on boards. Sadly, that’s fairly normal in America.
“The temple of our democracy is packed full of money changers. A lot of this flows out of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that said political spending is protected by the First Amendment; our right to free speech. With this decision, the Supreme Court overturned election spending restrictions that were more than 100 years old. Previously, American courts had upheld certain spending restrictions on the grounds that the government had a role in preventing corruption.
“But in 2010, our highest court decided after 100 + years that it had been wrong all along, and that unlimited cash flow in politics was not in fact a risk factor for corruption.
“Our own court system and laws have paved the way for this new 21st-century corruption which more than a century ago other Americans were smart enough to see and smart enough to understand how it muddied our politics, how it controlled our government, and how it shut out the American people from participating in democracy and governance.
“Today, our nation is drowning in divisive, partisan politics. Awash in campaign funding and campaign spending — a product of the never-ending campaign cycle. We feel divided from our government and bitterly divided against each other. Our Congress is locked in near unbreakable gridlock, unable or unwilling to tackle the major reforms that our country is so desperately in need of. Only a major reform of our election laws will clean it up. HR 1 is that major reform.
“As I said at the beginning. The concerns about money in politics are not partisan - they are shared by all types of Americans, in every part of my district and every part of the country.
“These problems will not take care of themselves. The corrupting force of money in politics and in government operations can only be cleaned up if we find the political will to clean it up ourselves.
“I’m proud to get out the broom and start the cleaning, because our country and our democracy are worth fighting for. It’s been done successfully by generations that have come before us. It’s not too late to follow their example and reestablish an age of clean politics and a return to a government that doesn’t serve special interests and their shadowy backers or the super-rich and well-connected, but that works instead for all of us, for the American people.”
The For the People Act would make comprehensive change to laws governing voting and the public disclosure of political funding. The landmark legislation includes provisions to:
- Shine a light on dark money in politics by mandating new political ad disclosures online, forcing organizations involved in political activity to reveal their large donors, and empower the Federal Elections Commission to better enforce the law.
- Mandate that voting machines be made inthe United States;
- Establish a clean elections system for federal campaigns similar to the one that exists in Maine, but funded through penalties paid by corporations and individuals for financial crimes;
- Strengthen the ability of active duty servicemembers to vote;
- End partisan gerrymandering by using independent commissions to oversee redistricting
- Ensure all votes have a paper back-up;
- Remove barriers to voting with automatic voter registration and expanding early and absentee voting; and
- Strengthen ethics regulations and increase accountability for government officials to ensure they act in the public interest.
Golden also secured two bills in the final legislation. These provisions would further increase transparency and accountability by:
- Helping ensure that political advertisements are only purchased by individuals in the United States, and requiring media outlets to do due diligence in preventing foreign actors from purchasing political advertising in the U.S.;
- Making the labels on political advertisements “sticky” — that way, they follow the post, instead of being stripped off when shared on social media;
The bill has widespread support from a number of pro-democracy organizations, including End Citizens United, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the Maine League of Women Voters.
“Congress is on the brink of making history with HR 1, a bold set of reforms that will tear down barriers to voting, increase election security, crack down on corruption, and shine a light on secret money in political campaigns. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is a grassroots organization working to ensure that Maine’s campaign finance laws, elections and government serve the public interest. We believe that HR 1 is the set of reforms our country needs and that voters want. HR 1 will reduce the influence of money in politics, increase transparency, and return more power to ordinary citizens. These common sense reforms will benefit everyone…” - Anna Kellar, Executive Director Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
“H.R. 1 ensures that all voters have an equal and full voice in our democracy with provisions such as online and same-day voter registration, Clean Elections, paper ballots, and ending gerrymandering through independent redistricting commissions. These measures help to ensure that no matter where you live, you can vote and have your vote counted.” - Jill Ward, President, Maine League of Women Voters
“[HR 1] cracks down on that coordination that we’ve seen between candidates and super PACs, it prevents Members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, something that feels pretty common sense to most people, it limits the influence of big donors, and [it] makes small dollar donors the most powerful force in campaigns. We know how successful that is, Maine has already done it.” - Tiffany Muller, President & Executive Director, End Citizens United
You can read more information about the 2019 version of H.R. 1 here.
The link to Golden’s full press conference about H.R. 1 can be found here.