The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1404 / S. 750) would create a voluntary public financing system for Congressional elections. Under this system, House and Senate candidates would have the option of raising a small number of qualifying contributions from their constituents and then receive a lump sum of public funds with which to finance their campaigns. Publicly financed candidates who face privately or self-financed opponents could continue raising small donations from constituents that would be matched at a rate of four-to-one by the federal government. Publicly financed elections would magnify the impact of small donations, discourage out-of-state fundraising, curtail the distorting influence of special interests, and make elected officials more accountable to their constituents.
The 2010 midterm election was the most expensive midterm election cycle to date. More than $1.5 billion was spent on Congressional elections alone. Such large sums of money distort the election process, making participation more difficult for candidates without huge reserves of personal funds. It also forces public servants seeking re-election to spend more time raising money and less time responding to the needs of constituents. Public financing has the potential to change the rules of the game, thereby injecting new ideas and different kinds of candidates into our electoral system.
Jewish tradition recognizes the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. Deuteronomy 16 commands, "You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.” Talmud Tractate Kethuboth notes, “As soon as a man receives a gift from another he becomes so well disposed towards him that he becomes like his own person, and no man sees himself in the wrong.” In a modern democracy, it is still necessary for elected officials to be accountable to all citizens, not just wealthy and powerful moneyed interests.
Urge your Senators and your Representative to co-sponsor the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1404 / S. 750) and to vote for the legislation when it comes to the floor. The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121, or you can send an e-mail by entering your zip code below. For more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Zachary Rosenberg at 202.387.2800.