I’ve been a fan of Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD) (son of Paul Sarbanes) for sometime. I wrote about his Grassroots Democracy work in HuffPo last December. Today, Sarbanes did something critically important for the anti-corruption movement: He introduced, with a significant number of co-sponsors, the most ambitious set of ideas for “Citizen Funded Campaigns” that we have seen in many years — The Grassroots Democracy Act.
Sarbanes was a co-sponsor of the Fair Elections Now Act. That statute was a matching fund statute — small contributions were multiplied by matchin grants. This bill includes a matching fund provision, but adds (1) tax credits for small dollar contributions, (2) a pilot for a version of the idea Ayres/Ackerman originally proposed and which remixed and called “Democracy Vouchers,” (not visible in the website summary), and (3) a clever (though we’ll see what the Court thinks of it) way to deal with outside spending.
This is important legislation to support and watch. We should all be grateful to Sarbanes for bringing it forward — especially in a political context that seems deeply committed to forgetting the issue.