Not at all. The donors who give the money and the politicians who take it are just doing what they have to do. If you’re a wealthy Republican and you don’t donate to candidates, you know that Democratic donors will control our politics. Democratic donors are in the same boat. And if you want to run for office you have to raise tons of money from high-dollar donors. (Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have raised a lot from small-dollar donors, are the exceptions who prove the rule.)

Democracy Dollars is a win for every American.  Although big donations do buy influence in Washington, it’s influence within a broken system that isn’t working for anyone. What business most needs from government is political stability, and that has gone clear out the window. Also, unless we improve our schools, rebuild our infrastructure, and reduce the absurdly high cost of health care – a major drag on our economy – American business can't compete in international markets. But for every good idea for fixing one of our problems, some group of donors will block it because it hurts their bottom line. That’s why we need to let the voters be the donors.

We have no crystal ball, but we can say this: both major parties will change, and in ways that benefit our country.

Since politicians will get their campaign cash from the voters instead of from big business and billionaires, both parties will better represent the needs and wishes of the voters.

Both parties will have to adapt and learn to represent voters instead of high-dollar donors. The two major parties will take turns in power as they have done ever since the Civil War, but with Democracy Dollars, they will be guided more by the wishes and needs of the American people, instead of by the narrow desires of special interests.

Campaign cash has devastated our political system. It corrupts our politicians and forces them to spend 20-30 hours a week on the phone with donors instead of doing their jobs. We can't solve our problems, because for every solution some group of big donors can block it if it cuts into their profits. Why do we spend at least twice as much for prescription medicines as Germans, Canadians, or the people of any other wealthy country? Because Big Pharma gives big money to candidates in every election. This money gets special favors for every industry and major corporation, causing massively wasteful government spending, and making American business less competitive in international markets.

Although we can still vote, our vote doesn't count for nearly as much as it should, because the donors have basically picked the candidates we get to vote for. You can’t run a competitive campaign or get media attention unless you raise a lot of money, and you won’t get this money if your ideas don’t make the donors happy. This is why we often feel we're just voting for the lesser of two evils. The big money controls both parties, so neither party has much to offer for the rest of us.

Money also stokes anger between Republicans and Democrats, because we blame each other for feeling powerless, not understanding that the money is our real enemy. In addition, office holders and voters no longer respect each other. Voters know that a lot of what candidates say is phony.  Politicians see us as children they need to manipulate, instead of as thinking adults they should persuade with good ideas.  Worst of all, our leaders have forgotten that America stands for noble ideals, including government by the people. We haven't always lived up to our ideals, but just about every American wants us to.

Since money damages our politics so gravely, why do we hear so little about the money on television? Journalists take their cues from politicians: they talk about what politicians say is important. And politicians can't tell us that they spend all their time with donors and ignore the voters.  This is why, although we feel that we have little say in Washington, and that our government isn’t working, most of us can’t see that it was campaign cash, more than anything else, that stole our rightful say in how we are governed.

Our quest at Save Democracy in America is to bring all of us together, to help our country live up to the ideals which make us Americans. We think the best first step is using Democracy Dollars to cut the big money down to size.

No, it just shows that money alone isn’t always enough to win. Winning candidates usually have political experience and certain skills. Steyer ran for the White House without any political experience, while Bloomberg entered the 2020 primary far too late and didn’t debate strongly. The essential point is that without a lot of money, it is almost impossible to win elective office. No candidate can raise this money if they voice ideas which displease big donors. So the donors, by default, choose the candidates we get to vote for, and limit the policies these candidates can support once they take office. Overwhelmingly, during the last 20 years, winning congressional candidates outspent their opponents,[1] while one expert calculated in 2017 that it took $500,000 to $2 million to run a “credible” campaign for the House.[2] In 2016, the average cost of a winning campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate was just shy of $20 million.[3]

[1] “Did Money Win?” on Open Secrets, the website of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics: https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/winning-vs-spending, accessed 8/11/20.[2] Bonnie Berkowitz and Chris Alcantara, “How to Run for Congress,” The Washington Post, 11/15/19:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/11/15/how-run-congress/?arc404=true, accessed 8/11/20.
[3] Soo Rin Kim, “The price of winning just got higher, especially in the Senate,” Open Secrets, 11/9/16: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/11/the-price-of-winning-just-got-higher-especially-in-the-senate/, accessed 8/16/20.

Some object to the cost. With 168 million registered voters this program would cost up to $6.3 billion a year. This is serious money. However, Democracy Dollars would pay for itself many times over by letting us eliminate wasteful government spending.  The non-partisan watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste argues that we can trim $3.9 trillion over the next five years by reducing or eliminating 620 wasteful programs.[1] Very many of these programs are goodies which lobbyists have secured for the industries and corporations which hire them. Lobbyists have political muscle because they control money that politicians need to get elected: the lobbyists’ clients donate money to campaigns; lobbyists stage fundraisers for candidates; and lobbyists actually give money out of their own high salaries to politicians they want to influence (yes, this is legal!).[2] With Democracy Dollars, politicians can tell the lobbyists to take a hike, and Congress can cut the waste which lobbyists have created.

Others question whether the voters will really use the Democracy Dollars they are given. After all, only about 66% of eligible Americans actually voted in the last presidential election, and in the off-year congressional elections, it’s usually not much more than a third who vote. And will the voters donate their campaign cash wisely? We are not concerned! Donating your Democracy Dollars will be a lot easier than voting – you do it on your computer or smartphone, in the privacy of your home, whenever you like. Once voters are donors, and see that politicians listen to them, the American people will become more interested in politics and better informed about the issues. Elites complain that Americans are poorly informed about politics. We say this is because money has made our votes count for so little, which is why so many of us don’t vote at all. Democracy Dollars should change this for the better.

Others fear that Democracy Dollars will block Americans from donating as much as they want to politicians they favor. Not to worry! You can still donate as much as you like.

If big business and billionaires can still make huge donations, will Democracy Dollars really change anything? We think so, because there will be enough money in the Democracy Dollars system that every capable candidate can raise enough money from the voters to fund a competitive campaign.[3] Any candidate who chooses to take money from special interests will to have to explain why. This political incentive should greatly reduce the power of high-dollar donors.

[1] Each year Citizens Against Government Waste publishes its recommendations under the title “Prime Cuts:” the Prime Cuts report for 2019 can be found here: https://www.cagw.org/reporting/2019-prime-cuts, accessed 8/19/20.[2] An excellent and very entertaining exposé of the lobbying industry is Robert G. Kaiser, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government (New York: Vintage Books, 2010).
[3] Every registered voter would receive 100 Democracy Dollars in presidential years, and $50 for the Congressional midterms. With 168 million registered voters, this adds up to $25.2 billion for each four-year period, averaging out to $6.3 billion a year

Even if they want to support Democracy Dollars – and we believe very many do - our politicians are stuck in an awful Catch-22. They got into office by raising tons of money from high-dollar donors, and need to go back to these donors to get reelected. They can’t tell the voters that money in politics is evil, and the next day call up their “evil” donors and ask for more evil money. Our leaders are trapped in their dependence on the billionaires and corporations who pay for their campaigns. At Save Democracy in America, our job is to make Democracy Dollars so popular among the American people that office holders can make it law and kiss their donors goodbye.

Because politicians almost never talk about money in politics, the journalists who cover them don’t talk about it on TV. For this reason, although journalists and politicians know that money rules our politics, no one has explained this terrible reality to the American people. Americans know our political system is broken, but few voters can see that big money caused the worst damage and took their vote away. Our job at Save Democracy in America is to help our fellow Americans understand this problem and show how Democracy Dollars can fix it.

In one sense, this question is not even worth asking, because the most important thing about Democracy Dollars is that it will give the American people the government they want, so we at Save Democracy in America don’t care how Democracy Dollars will change public policy. Still, it is an interesting question. Not having a crystal ball, we can only venture some educated guesses.

By helping to restore government by the people, Democracy Dollars could make Americans more active in politics and better informed, because we'll know that our opinions really count for something in Washington. Also, if our 1.4 million men and women in uniform, our 1.1 million reservists, the 861,000 civilian employees of our Department of Defense, our 22 million veterans, plus all of their family members and friends, each had 100 democracy dollars to contribute to politicians’ campaigns, maybe our presidents would think more carefully before putting our troops in harm’s way. Also, if all these military families had Democracy Dollars, maybe our government would treat our veterans better, improving veterans’ health care and ending homelessness among our veterans.

Democracy Dollars should also help us spend our defense dollars more wisely, according to what our military needs, instead of according to what defense contractors want. At present, defense contractors are constantly selling the government new and expensive weapons systems, weapons that we may not really need. Defense contractors can sell these new weapons because they and their lobbyists give so much money to politicians. Once politicians get their campaign funds from voters instead of from defense contractors, lobbyists will have much less power, and Congress can make smarter decisions about what our troops really need, including better housing and schools for military families.

Join us! Let the voters be the donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.