HR 1, the For the People Act, is an omnibus voting reform bill that has many progressive measures concerning voter registration, voter roll purges, voter-verified paper ballots, early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, presidential candidate tax returns, gerrymandering, and more. But progressives should say not so fast. Buried in the middle of the bill is a public campaign finance program that merely takes on the veneer of a true public funding program that instead fails to stop the overwhelming domination of big private money in federal elections.

Read Howie’s Policy Paper on HR1

Progressives should be demanding full public funding based on equal grants for all qualified candidates and a constitutional amendment to end the US Supreme Court imposed doctrines that limit public regulation of campaign funding in public elections. Instead, HR 1’s partial public campaign finance program based on matching funds merely adds a token patina of new public money on top of the swelling ocean of private campaign spending. 

The program simply accepts the domination of big private donations, including unaccountable dark money, in campaign financing. In fact, it eliminates the current limits on the expenditure private money for candidates who accept public funding. It deceptively creates a token program of small-donor public funds that diverts attention from the mountains of big-donor private funds.


In short, the HR 1 public campaign finance system is a scam to add public campaign subsidies to all the private money that corporate major-party incumbents can raise, while making it nearly impossible for challengers, whether inside a major party or in a third party, to even qualify for public funding. Republicans won’t vote for this, but if it passes, no doubt they will be happy to get in on the scam.

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Howie Hawkins 2020

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