Democracy For The People

MASSPIRG Education Fund is pushing back against big money in our elections and working to educate the public about the benefits of small donor incentive programs, to amplify the voices of the American people over corporations, Super PACs and the super wealthy.

The money election

One person, one vote: That’s how we’re taught elections in our democracy are supposed to work. Candidates should compete to win our votes by revealing their vision, credentials and capabilities. We, the people, then get to decide who should represent us.

Except these days there's another election: the money election. And in the money election, most people don’t have any say at all. Instead, a small number of super-wealthy individuals and corporations decide which candidates will raise enough money to run the kind of high-priced campaign it takes to win. This money election starts long before you and I even have a chance to cast our votes, and its consequences are felt long after. On issue after issue, politicians often favor the donors who funded their campaigns over the people they're elected to represent.

Image: Flickr User: Joe Shlabotnik - Creative Commons

Super PACs and Super Wealthy Dominate Elections

Wealthy donors have always had an outsized influence in our democracy, but misguided jurisprudence, like the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, has opened the floodgates for mega donations and corporate spending in our elections.

Spending on political races has skyrocketed, and running for office has never been more expensive. The 2020 election cycle was the most expensive in U.S. history with over $14 billion spent. As a result, unless candidates are independently wealthy, they often need to court contributions from mega-donors or corporate interests to be competitive in their races.

Our currect campaign finance system gives a very small number of people massive influence on who runs for office and, often, what issues they decide to talk about. In 2016, fewer than 400 families gave more than half of all of the money raised in the presidential race. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. Our democracy is supposed to be based on the principle of one person, one vote.

Ultimately, we need to overturn Citizens United and make other systemic changes if we want to get big money out of our elections. But large-scale changes like these take time, public pressure, and elected leaders who are committed to making it happen. That’s why we’re researching and supporting small donor empowerment programs, that will bring power back to the people.

It's time to reclaim our democracy and bring it back to the principle of one person, one vote. 

RECLAIMING OUR DEMOCRACY

Small donor publc financing programs match contributions of ordinary people with public funds. Candidates access these funds when they opt into the program and refuse to take large and corporate contributions. This means anyone with enough public support can run for office, those candidates can raise enough money to be competitive, and they will be answerable to their constituents, not a handful of mega-donors and corporations.

Communites across Maryland have established small donor public financing to give everyone a voice in our elections and keep big money out.  Montgomery County's program was in effect for the first time for the 2018 elections. To participate, candidates must reject contributions over $150 and money from corporations. Maryland PIRG Foundation analysis found:

  • Candidates who had qualified received nearly twice as many donations from Montgomery County residents than those not participating.
  • Those not participating received only 8 percent of their donations from people giving less than $150, while those participating received more than 90 percent of their donations from people giving less than $150.
  • By the June primary, more than half of all candidates, over 30 total, participated in the program. Ultimately, 22 qualified for the program — candidates from both parties and from a wide range of backgrounds who were able to run competitive campaigns based on support from the communities, not large donors.  

Together, we can win real changes now in how elections are funded throughout America — so more candidates for more offices focus on we, the people, instead of we, the megadonors.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Democracy

Election Modernization Coalition Statement on Chelsea Collaborative v. Galvin | Janet Domenitz

Court strikes down barrier to voting, coalition praises decision.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Democracy

Early Voting Awards

As part of the Election Modernization Coalition MASSPIRG Education Fund presented awards to 201 cities and towns for their early voting efforts. 

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Democracy

Real Power Lies in your Vote

Depending on one’s perspective (and not necessarily one’s party affiliation), this remarkable election season has created a bit of discussion over the phrase, "Make America Great Again."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Election Modernization Coalition | Democracy

Election Modernization Coalition Releases Status Update on Implementation of Early Voting in Massachusetts

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Press Statement on Governor Baker’s Veto of Early Voting Appropriation

From our earliest civics classes, we learn that when a bill becomes a law it must be enacted and enforced. This is a basic tenet of government, but it has been compromised by Governor Charlie Baker’s cut to the early voting budget. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Democracy

Early Voting Awards

As part of the Election Modernization Coalition MASSPIRG Education Fund presented awards to 201 cities and towns for their early voting efforts. 

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Democracy

Real Power Lies in your Vote

Depending on one’s perspective (and not necessarily one’s party affiliation), this remarkable election season has created a bit of discussion over the phrase, "Make America Great Again."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Election Modernization Coalition | Democracy

Election Modernization Coalition Releases Status Update on Implementation of Early Voting in Massachusetts

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Press Statement on Governor Baker’s Veto of Early Voting Appropriation

From our earliest civics classes, we learn that when a bill becomes a law it must be enacted and enforced. This is a basic tenet of government, but it has been compromised by Governor Charlie Baker’s cut to the early voting budget. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition Statement on Early Voting Costs

In response to a Politico Massachusetts article, released yesterday, titled Cities and towns fret over costs of early voting,” the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition has released a statement clarifying our position.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

CarMax Endangers Lives in Massachusetts

CarMax, the nation's largest retailer of used cars, is selling recalled vehicles with dangerous and potentially lethal safety defects to Massachusetts car buyers. Those unsafe vehicles are hazardous not only to the people who buy them, but to the cars’ passengers and everyone else who shares the roads and adjacent areas, including sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

This report examines how the 2016 presidential race would be reshaped by a public financing system that amplifies the voices of small donors in our elections. 

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Early Voting Principles

 In May 2014, the Massachusetts legislature passed an historic reform of our state’s election laws. As part of the new law, it established early voting starting with the November 2016 election. Early voting is one important way to expand access to our democracy. It allows people whose work or family obligations preclude them from standing in line or even getting to the polls on Election Day, more opportunities to vote. The early voting period starts 11 business days preceding the election.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Fighting Big Money, Empowering People

Like every generation before us, Americans are coming together to preserve a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people. American democracy is premised on the consent of the governed, and on the idea that we all deserve a say in the government decisions that affect our families. We stand united supporting commonsense protections that recognize the people as the ultimate check on the corrosive influence of money in politics, which is eroding the very foundation of self-government.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

With more than a year to go before voters cast their ballots for the next President of the United States, the race among candidates to build the biggest campaign war chest has already set records. The vast majority of the funds raised for the 2016 election have come from wealthy donors making contributions exponentially larger than most Americans can afford, typically to super PACs and other organizations that can legally accept donations of any size.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Democracy

Election Modernization Coalition Statement on Chelsea Collaborative v. Galvin | Janet Domenitz

Court strikes down barrier to voting, coalition praises decision.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Statement from the Election Modernization Coalition Praising Boston's Early Voting Efforts | Janet Domenitz

In an election year that promises to have record turnout, access to the polls will be more important than ever. That is why the Election Modernization Coalition is pleased that the City of Boston has released today a citizen’s survey to inform their early voting plan for this fall. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Court strikes down barrier to voting, coalition praises decision.

News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND

As part of the Election Modernization Coalition MASSPIRG Education Fund presented awards to 201 cities and towns for their early voting efforts. 

Media Hit

Depending on one’s perspective (and not necessarily one’s party affiliation), this remarkable election season has created a bit of discussion over the phrase, "Make America Great Again."

News Release | Election Modernization Coalition

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

News Release | MASSPIRG

From our earliest civics classes, we learn that when a bill becomes a law it must be enacted and enforced. This is a basic tenet of government, but it has been compromised by Governor Charlie Baker’s cut to the early voting budget. 

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Your tax-deductible donation supports MASSPIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and to stand up to the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

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MASSPIRG Education Fund is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.