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Pingree, Sarbanes, Neguse, and Clarke Reintroduce Government by the People Act to Counter Big Money Influence in Politics

To combat the perverse influence of big money in U.S. politics and return power to everyday Americans, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today joined Representatives John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce the Government by the People Act. This legislation would increase civic engagement and amplify the voices of all Americans over special interests by creating a small-donor public financing program for House of Representatives candidates. Core components of the bill have consistently been included in the For the People Act, which was passed as H.R. 1 in both the 116th Congress and 117th Congress.

More than three dozen states and localities currently have some form of public financing system. According to a 2023 report by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, 63% of Maine state legislative candidates participated in the Maine Clean Elections program in 2022. In a post-Citizens United world, small-donor public financing offers an effective way to reduce the influence of wealthy donors and encourage new and more diverse donor participation while providing opportunities for more diverse candidates.

“The Clean Elections system has been successful in the Maine Legislature and is expanding to our cities like Portland to rid elections of special-interest contributions,” said Pingree. “The Government by the People Act gives Congress an opportunity to take lessons learned from Maine’s successes to level the playing field in federal elections, focus on small donors and close the door on dark money in politics.”

“Big-moneyed special interests continue to stand in the way of the progress that voters overwhelmingly want on issues from climate change to reproductive rights and gun safety,” said Sarbanes. “It’s past time to end the reliance on wealthy donors by passing legislation that re-levels the playing field for voters. The Government by the People Act will provide candidates with the resources they need to run competitive campaigns without leaning on big money donors and special interests, helping return us to a government of, by and for the American people.”

Specifically, the Government by the People Act would establish:

  • A ‘Freedom from Influence Fund’ to multiply the influence of small-dollar contributions. The Fund—made possible by a new surcharge on corporate lawbreakers and tax cheats—would match contributions of $200 or less per individual, per election, provided that the receiving candidate forgoes special interest contributions and focuses on earning support from small-dollar donors. 
  • A ‘My Voice Voucher’ pilot program in three states to spur small-dollar donations to House of Representatives candidates. The pilot program would be overseen and administered by a state oversight commission and allow qualified individuals to request a $25 voucher to allocate in increments of $5 to candidates.

"We must do more to eliminate dark money from flooding our electoral system, and that is why I am proud to join Rep. Sarbanes in co-sponsoring this critical legislation and ensuring that every American is heard fairly at the ballot box," said Neguse.

“One of the founding principles of our nation is the idea that the federal government was made for the people and by the people. And the influence of big money in our political system demands that we work to fundamentally shift power away from special interests and give it back to the American people. That is why I am proud to join my colleague, Congressman John Sarbanes, in reintroducing the Government by the People Act—legislation that would counter the influence of big money in politics by increasing civic engagement and uplifting the voices of everyday people. This bill is part of the larger fight to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure the sanctity of our democracy. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring this bill to the House floor for a vote,” said Clarke.

The Government by the People Act was last introduced as H.R. 20 in the 115th Congress and had 163 cosponsors. This version has been slightly revised to reflect provisions as they were included in the House-passed For the People Act.


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