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Keeping Elections Clean: The Battle Continues

PHOTO: Campaign money played a bigger role in 2014 than in any midterm in history. But that's not stopping civic and community groups from trying to keep elections clean. Image credit: jdurham/Morguefile.
PHOTO: Campaign money played a bigger role in 2014 than in any midterm in history. But that's not stopping civic and community groups from trying to keep elections clean. Image credit: jdurham/Morguefile.
March 9, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The corrupting influence of money in politics is getting worse, according to recent reports by Clean Slate Now and the Center for Responsive Politics. They show that last year's midterm election was the most expensive in history.

Outside spending on Senate elections has more than doubled since 2010, and campaign contributions from political action committees rose by 34 percent for U.S. House candidates in 2014.

Clean Slate Now's executive director Mark Mehringer sees a bright side in the growing movement for clean elections and says an increasing number of candidates are choosing not to take PAC money.

"It's essentially a way of taking a principled stand and making it clear to voters that you care about not being bought and you're going to do something," says Mehringer. "You're not going to come out with this line that everybody else does of, 'Well, they can contribute to my campaign but they're not buying my vote.' Nobody believes that line."

The League of Women Voters, with more than 150,000 members and supporters nationwide, recently testified before the Federal Elections Commission, urging the agency to set new rules requiring full disclosure to help stem the tide of money flowing into elections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

Mehringer says disclosure is a key component for clean elections, and that making it possible for average citizens to play a bigger role in campaign finance could be a game changer. Clean Slate Now recently endorsed the Government by the People Act, which would provide matching funds for candidates who refuse PAC money.

"Instead of congressional candidates relying on special-interest groups for their funding, the matching funds from the Government By the People Act will ensure that individual contributions matter as much or more than those special-interest group contributions," he says.

The nonpartisan group Represent Us is working to introduce Anti-Corruption Acts in states, cities and towns across the nation.

Mary Kuhlman/Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - IL