Debates Largely Avoid the Issue of Campaign Finance Reform

Last Wednesday and Thursday, 20 Democratic Presidential hopefuls took the stage to address the many issues of 2019 and explain their priorities and stances. But one topic was largely missing among these priorities – campaign finance reform. Part of this was due to the moderator’s questions, none of which directly addressed campaign finance reform or corporate interests and lobbying. However, some candidates did go out of their way to mention money in politics and campaign finance.

 Here is a quick summary of what the candidates had to say on Night 1:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

It has been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions, have been funding the super PACs, have been out there making sure that their influence is heard and felt in every single decision that gets made in Washington. Where I want to start this is I want to return government to the people, and that means calling out the names of the monopolists and saying I have the courage to go after them.”

“When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy that does great for those with money and isn’t doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple. We need to call it out. We need to attack it head on. And we need to make structural change in our government, in our economy, and in our country.

“Now, look, we’ve had the laws out there for a long time to be able to fight back [against corporate consolidation]. What’s been missing is courage, courage in Washington to take on the giants. That’s part of the corruption in this system.

Sen. Cory Booker

 This is one of the reasons why well before I was running for president I said I would not take contributions from pharma companies, not take contributions from corporate PACs, or pharma executives, because they are part of this problem.”

 At the end of the day, we have too much of a problem with corporate power growing. We see that with everything from Citizens United and the way they’re trying to influence Washington. It’s about time that we have a president that fights for the people in this country…”

 Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke

 A new democracy that is revived because we’ve returned power to the people, no PACs, no gerrymandering, automatic and same-day voter registration to bring in more voters, and a new Voting Rights Act to get rid of the barriers that are in place now…”

 Here is a quick summary of what the candidates had to say on Night 2:

 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

“… the truth is, until you go to the root of the corruption, the money in politics, the fact that Washington is run by the special interests, you are never going to solve any of these problems.”

“I have the most comprehensive approach, that experts agree is the most transformative plan to actually take on political corruption, to get money out of politics through publicly funded elections, to have clean elections. If we do that and get money out of politics, we can guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege, we can deal with institutional racism, we can take on income inequality, and we can take on the corporate corruption that runs Washington.”

“You heard from the Republicans that the reason why the Trump tax cut had to be passed is because they had to pay back their donors. You heard it. They actually said those words. So the corruption in Washington is real, and it is something that makes every one of the plans we’ve heard about over the last several months impossible… And I have the most comprehensive approach to do it with clean elections, publicly funded elections, so we restore the power of our democracy into the hands of the voters, not into the Koch brothers… We were talking about issues. Imagine — we’re in Florida — imagine the Parkland kids having as much power in our democracy as the Koch brothers or the NRA.”

“But let me tell you one thing about politics, because it goes to the corruption and the deal-making. When the door is closed and negotiations are made, there are conversations about women’s rights and compromises have been made on our backs… And I have the most comprehensive approach for getting money out of politics with publicly funded elections to deal with political corruption.”

 Sen. Bernie Sanders

 “It’s not generational. The issue is, who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country?”

 Sen. Michael Bennet

 “We need to root out the corruption in Washington, expand people’s right to get to the polls, and I think then we can succeed.”

 “I’ve had two tough races in Colorado, but by bringing people together, not by making empty promises. And I believe we need to build a broad coalition of Americans to beat Donald Trump, end the corruption in Washington, and build a new era of American democracy and American opportunity.”

Interestingly, only six of the twenty candidates mentioned anything remotely related to campaign finance reform. And for the most part, what they had to say lacked specific details or plans on how to accomplish their priorities.

This was, in part, due to the moderator’s seemingly blatant disregard for any question related to the topic. Moving forward, it would be great to hear more direct questions so that, as voters, we can get a better idea of where each candidate stands – will they actually ensure that your vote isn’t diluted by powerful corporate interests?

So far, it seems like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand were the most serious of the candidates on the issue of money in politics, but hopefully, we will see more discussion in the coming debates and leading up to the 2020 election so that you can know which candidates will protect your vote.

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