Ten years ago, Citizens United opened the floodgates to essentially unchecked political spending by megadonors and corporate interests, drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. In the 2016 presidential election, fewer than 5,000 donors provided over half of all campaign funding, while money from the 5 million donors who gave less than $200 made up just over one-fifth of donations. Power disproportionately rests in the hands of those who can pay. It’s no wonder that most Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the state of our nation’s campaign finance laws.
But even in the face of unlimited spending, there are meaningful steps we can take to strengthen our democracy — the most powerful of which is public campaign financing.
Public financing comes in different forms, including systems where small-dollar contributions are matched at a multiple rate with public funds. For example, with a matching ratio of $6-to-$1, a $10 contribution would get a $60 public match. This makes contributions from small donors more meaningful to candidates. Other programs give candidates block grants or provide residents with vouchers to donate to participating candidates.
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