Why America Needs H.R. 4177
Voters in both parties agree that we need to take our government back from the special interests.
The first step should be the Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act. All the members of the House Administration Committee – from both parties – already support the bill so strongly that they are cosponsors of it. Now we just need to get Congress to pass it.
I know, from personal experience, that the bill is urgently needed. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the DC office of Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-NC 9th District), my home representative. While I got to attend a few briefings, and give some tours, much of each day was spent hearing from constituents, either by mail or by phone. A few people contacted our office to tell the congressman he was doing a good job, but most of the calls and letters were not thrilled with either Congress, Congressman Pittenger, or both. One of the most consistent concerns was that democracy was being taken out of the hands of the people by big money donors and special interest groups. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all said the same thing: they were sick their representatives in Washington being more beholden to their wealthy donors than to their concerned voters.
Sadly, they are right to be concerned. Our electoral system increasingly rewards the candidate who can raise the most money. Candidates and elected officials, in order to win election, must either be independently wealthy or spend tremendous time and energy appealing and making promises to potential donors. It’s no wonder so many feel that their voices and their votes do not matter. They see and they feel that only those who can afford to write the big campaign check hold sway with their elected officials.
It is time that we the American people push for reforms needed to protect, and in some cases reclaim, our influence over those we elect to serve our interests.
There’s no silver bullet to keep big donors from impacting politics, and after a 2016 election where $10.5 billion was spent on campaigns, it is tough to even know where to start. But, I am optimistic. The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is a problem, and I left DC this summer convinced that a growing number of people on both sides of the aisle are standing up and saying “this is not what democracy is supposed to look like.” I am also optimistic because there are groups proposing common sense legislation to start chipping away at the stranglehold of big money.
Campaign finance reform group Take Back Our Republic has recently drawn attention to a loophole which allows foreign special interests to donate to American political campaigns. Although federal law prohibits campaigns from accepting donations from foreign nationals, donors can make a credit cards donation online without verification. If a Saudi businessman would profit from the United States decreasing domestic drilling, with a few clicks he can financially support American politicians who run on that platform. Worse yet, foreign governments can funnel money to help politicians who grant them political favors. It is bad enough that U.S. businesses and donors can get favors for donating, but giving foreign governments and special interests an opportunity to exchange money for influence is worse.
The bipartisan Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act was proposed to close this loophole. The bill is short and straightforward, and it fits on a single page. It merely requires that online political donors provide their credit card Credit Verification Value (the CVV number on the back of the card) and a billing address in the United States. These two steps determine whether someone is making a legitimate campaign contribution or illegally funneling foreign funds.
Campaign finance reform is sometimes complicated and controversial, but bills like this commonsense enforcement of an existing law prove that it does not have to be. If we, the American people, can set aside our differences and work together, campaign finance reform is achievable. We need to take a stand against big money in politics, because taking back our republic is not a partisan issue, it is an American issue.