Reflecting on Gorsuch’s confirmation
Last Friday, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court, reinstating a majority on the Court that will likely continue to side with billionaires and corporations over everyday Americans when it comes to who has power in our democracy.
I have devoted my life’s work to changing the way we fund campaigns so that regular people have a real voice, and I’ll be honest: Gorsuch’s swearing in was painful to watch. As I’ve had a couple days to reflect on it, I have come to one conclusion.
Winning the kind of policies that we fight for at Every Voice, the kind that empower small donors, is more important than it’s ever been. That’s because these policies change the balance of power between billionaires and the rest of us.
But it is also because these policies are already constitutional and will remain so, even with a conservative majority on the Court.
In fact, small-donor funded elections are already in place and working in places around the country like Maine and New York City. Small-donor funded elections match small contributions with limited public funds, and participants agree to forego larger contributions to participate in the program. That means candidates are more accountable to their constituents, not to big money donors.
That’s not to say that having a Supreme Court where the majority of justices think billionaires and special interests should be able to spend heavily to influence our elections isn’t a problem. It will make our work together, building a strong democracy where everyone’s voice is heard, harder. That’s exactly why we opposed Gorsuch’s confirmation and worked hard to defeat him.
But we will not let the Supreme Court stop us from making progress to fight big money. In fact, the new makeup of the Court only emphasizes how urgently needed small-donor funded elections are as a way for regular people to be heard over corporate power.
Maine and New York City already have strong small-donor elections programs for state and local elections, and other places are following in their footsteps. In Connecticut, a majority of state legislative candidates have opted in to their program. In Montgomery County, Maryland, nine county candidates have said they’ll use the new program. Across the country in Seattle, where we worked with local partners to pass a first-of-its-kind program in 2015, the first candidates for city office have begun collecting Democracy Vouchers. That means every single voter can be a donor no matter their income.
And right now, we’re working with partners in Oregon; Washington, DC; Howard County, Maryland; and elsewhere, to support small donor elections bills to help break down barriers for everyday people to run for office and support candidates from their communities.
There are even bills in Congress — the Government by the People Act in the House and the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate — that would create six-to-one small-donor matching systems for House and Senate elections nationwide.
This work is not easy. Wealthy special interests don’t give up their power without a fight. We know that by working together, we can win victories that give everyday people a bigger voice in our elections.