Climate & Energy Blog

Government By the People Act takes back political power from big polluters

Posted Apr. 24, 2014 / Posted by: Asha Sharma

On April 23, 2014, President of Friends of the Earth Erich Pica gave remarks at a press conference hosted by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) on the environmental benefits of the Government By the People Act, recently introduced by Sarbanes. The bill would provide tax incentives for small donors and match small donations made to candidates with federal funds, lessening the grip big polluters have on American politics. A companion bill, the Fair Elections Now Act, has been introduced in the Senate, led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). To learn more about the press conference, read this piece on WAMU, NPR’s local Washington, D.C., station. Also, learn about the coalition of supporters behind the bills, and read our statement on the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. FEC decision for more on the necessity behind this important bill.

Below are Pica’s full comments:

Good morning, my name is Erich Pica, and I am President of Friends of the Earth.  Our mission is to champion a healthy and just world.  And at the center of a just and healthy world is the ability of people to participate in the democratic process. 

Which is why I am proud today to be standing with my fellow leaders in the environmental community to support Congressman Sarbanes and the Government By the People Act. Passage of this bill is needed if we are to fight back against the copious sums of money unleashed by two disastrous Supreme Court decisions: Citizens United and McCutcheon.

From an environmental perspective, money in politics matter.  As the Oil Change International and Sierra Club report points out, industries such oil, coal and mining, which pollute our air, contaminate our water and  despoil our land contributed more than $110 million in 2012 elections.  Their reward for these contributions is a Republican House of Representatives hell-bent on gutting environmental laws, denying climate change and maintaining sweet-heart subsidies.

Large amounts of money in politics create two vicious cycles. First, the more money polluters put into the political system, the more money and favors they get out, making the environment worse.  Second, and more insidiously, these campaign contributions do not just buy access and influence, they are used to elect officials that seek to shut others out of the political process through laws and policies that create massive voter disenfranchisement as well as by contributing to the corrosive narrative that Washington is broken, and voting doesn't matter. 

The Government By the People Act begins to fix the power imbalance by giving more power to the people. It starts by providing a tax credit of $25 for people wanting to contribute to elections. Second, it provides candidates with a 6 to 1 campaign match for contribution up to $150. Third, it provides additional resources to candidates that are in high cost elections. And finally, it provides for citizen election committees that allow people to increase the power of their giving.

From an environmental perspective, this law begins to re-empower ordinary citizens from around the country to take back their elections and elected officials. These citizens believe in a cleaner and healthier planet. It's time we once again make good on a government for, of and by the people and pass the Government By the People Act.

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