The Case for Cautious Optimism on Campaign Finance Reform

Aug 21, 2018
In The News

From a policy standpoint, Democrats are more serious now, in 2018, than they were in 2006, when they ran on a promise to, wait for it, “drain the swamp” (yes, like so much else in Trump’s rhetorical lexicon, there is a history). Back then, Nancy Pelosi offered a vague promise to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation” on “day one,” which translated into modest and largely ineffective lobbying reform. Today, Democrats are promising a small-donor campaign finance matching system, as the third and most transformative plank of Democrats’ Better Deal for Democracy program, developed by Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes. But if Democrats are going to campaign on anti-corruption, they’d better be serious about following through if/when they get back into power. That’s where things get a little more uncertain…. Rep. Sarbanes is right that the Democrats can’t just casually message on this. They have to commit. As he put it, “This reform message is not something you just wear for the evening, this is something you own.” The road to reform is challenging. But momentum is slowly building. There is now, for the first time in more than a decade, a real chance that good politics and good policy can actually come together in democracy reform. This is significant.