Howie Hawkins For The Future
For immediate release: March 5, 2021
For more information: Howie Hawkins, [email protected], 315-200-6046
Enact the “For the People Act,” But Without the Matching Funds Program
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2020, said today that Congress must enact the For the People Act to protect voting rights from Republican voter suppression efforts in the states. But Hawkins wants it enacted without its matching funds program, which he says effectively excludes third party candidates from public funding and fails to stem the domination of campaign funding by big donors.
“Federal voting rights must be enacted defeat state-level Republican voter suppression bills that constitute the biggest assault on voting rights since the Jim Crow era. But the matching funds program should be cut from the For the People Act to protect third party candidates’ access to public funding and to reject its protections of big private donors,” Hawkins said.
“The matching funds program has nothing to do with voting rights. Congress should propose a progressive system of public campaign funding in separate legislation,” Hawkins added.
The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) passed in the House Wednesday night by a 220-210 vote with no Republicans in support. It now heads to the Senate where the Democrats do not have 60 votes for cloture to break a promised Republican filibuster. Meanwhile, over 250 voter suppression bills in 43 states introduced by Republicans are working their way through state legislatures. The conservative US Supreme Court is unlikely to overturn these laws when challenged.
“Now is the time for the Democrats to kill the filibuster in the Senate before racist senators use it again to block civil rights legislation as they have repeatedly since the 1950s. It is time for the Democratic leadership to play hardball and send the filibuster to the dustbin of history. If they fail, the Democrats are handing the power over to the Republicans even though they have the presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress,” Hawkins said.
The filibuster could be eliminated by a 51-50 vote if the Democrats all voted for it. Two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they will vote with Republicans against ending the filibuster.
Hawkins reiterated his position that the public matching funds program in the bill “is a reform that doesn’t reform.” Among the problems Hawkins sees in the provisions of the proposed matching funds program are:
- It effectively excludes third parties like the Green Party from public funding in presidential elections by increasing the qualifying threshold of small donations by five times.
- It increases the disparities among publicly-funded candidates by seven times with its 6:1 match for small donations.
- It increases the role of big donors by raising from $5,000 to $100 million the amount national party committees can contribute to the presidential candidates because big donors can give over $100,000 to each of the national parties’ three committees: their national committees and their House and Senate campaign committees.
- It does nothing to limit the hundreds of thousands of dollars that big donors can contribute to Victory Funds, which are joint fundraising committees of candidate committees and national and state party committees.
- It does nothing to stem the unlimited donations that can be made to SuperPACs for independent expenditures.
Hawkins said that a progressive public campaign finance program would include two tracks. The first would be a program of full public campaign finance program on the Clean Money Clean Elections (CMCE) model, in contrast to partial public funding on the matching funds model. With CMCE, each qualified candidate receives an equal public campaign grant and raises and spends no private money on their campaign. This program is currently in effect for presidential general election funding and for state elections in Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine. It is what progressives campaigned for in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then Senator Joe Biden co-sponsored a CMCE bill for congressional elections in 1997. Hawkins said the program should require publicly-funded candidates to participate in publicly-sponsored debates and require free and equal time for candidates on federally-licensed broadcasters.
The second track would be the proposed We The People Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn the rulings in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), Citizens United v. FEC (2010), McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), and other decisions that have held that artificial corporations have the same constitutional rights as natural persons and that money is speech, not property. This amendment would enable to public to fully regulate campaign finance, including enacting a system of full public campaign funding.