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Government "By the People" Makes a Comeback in Congress

PHOTO: Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., is the lead sponsor of the "Grassroots Democracy Act." Courtesy of Rep. Sarbanes.

PHOTO: Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., is the lead sponsor of the "Grassroots Democracy Act." Courtesy of Rep. Sarbanes.


February 10, 2014

WASHINGTON - Backed by government reform groups and a growing list of other organizations, 128 members of the House of Representatives last week introduced the "Government by the People Act" to encourage citizens to take their government back from free-spending corporations. Its goal is to counteract the damage sponsors say has been caused by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that corporate donations are a protected form of political speech.

Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, a Democrat, is the lead sponsor of the new legislation, and explained where the momentum is coming from.

"People are increasingly angry at this sense that they can't be heard in Washington, that they're being left out, their voices are being rolled over by super PACs and big-money interests here," he declared.

The bill creates a tax credit for contributions to Congressional campaigns, and a matching public fund to amplify the influence of regular citizens in Congressional campaigns. Five Democratic representatives from Illinois are co-sponsors of the legislation.

According to Sarbanes, government reform groups such as Public Citizen have been joined by civil rights, environmental, and other groups not normally involved, because those organizations know they can't accomplish their goals if corporations have vastly more influence than they do, thanks to the outsize campaign contributions they make.

"And it's the presence of groups like that, who can bring to bear significant pressure in districts all across the country, that will help us build additional support for this within the chamber," the lawmaker declared.

He added that polling data show that not just Democrats but unaffiliated voters and Republicans, too, are concerned about the influence of big money on politics.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL