Introducing the Government By the People Act

By Emily Scarr
State Director

Today, Rep. John Sarbanes introduced the Government by the People Act, a small donor empowerment bill aimed at providing an equal voice to everyday voters currently drowned out by super PACs and wealthy contributors. Candidates who reject large and corporate contibutions can qualify for matching funds for small donations they receive. We strongly support these type of programs for a number ofreasons:

  • First, they encourage participation. Provide matching funds for small contributions from constituents.
  •  Second, they elevate the voices of everyday people by matching small contributions on a scale with the smallest donations matched at the highest rate.
  • Third, they expand opportunities for people to run for office. People qualify by building support in their community. This allows people from all backgrounds to run for office. They are able to run on the strength of their ideas, not access to money. It helps build a diverse and representative government.
  • Fourth, they keep big money out. Participating candidates cannot accept large contributions  or corporate contributions.

The Government By the People Act has three main components:

  1. Empower citizens with a $25 tax credit to make a campaign contribution.
  2.  Amplify the voice of individuals by matching each small-donor contribution.
  3. Protect the voice of the people from being drowned out by Super PACs and shadowy outside groups.

One hundred forty-eight original cosponsors joined Rep. Sarbanes for the Government by the People Act’s reintroduction, including Maryland Congressmen Brown, Delaney, Cummings, Hoyer, Raskin, Ruppersberger.

Maryland PIRG co-leads the Fair Elections Maryland Coalition which helped pass a small donor empowerment ballot initiative in Howard County, Maryland, parts of which are in Rep. Sarbanes’ own congressional district.

Now we are calling on the Howard County Council to finalize their program this spring. Previously, Maryland PIRG and the Coaliton helped make Montgomery County, Maryland the first community in Maryland to establish a small donor program. Candidates are now beginning to file to use the program for upcoing County Council and County Executive races.

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