WASHINGTON -- The House Democratic leadership stepped out of the Capitol on Wednesday to offer their full support for a package of proposed electoral reforms, including a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.
The DARE agenda -- "disclose, amend, reform and elect" -- was endorsed at an afternoon press conference led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), House Democratic Caucus chair John Larson (Conn.) and Disclose Act sponsor Chris Van Hollen (Md.).
"If we're going to have policies that support the great middle class, which is the backbone of our democracy, we have to change the politics," Pelosi said. "And that's why we have issued this DARE."
The acronymed agenda calls for legislation to overturn Citizens United by amending the Constitution; to provide for public campaign financing through a small-donor matching program; to block efforts restricting ballot access, including voter ID laws; and to require currently non-disclosing political groups -- those organized as social welfare nonprofits and trade associations -- to disclose their donors when they run political ads.
Nick Nyhart, president of Public Campaign, was there to represent his and other campaign finance reform groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice and Americans for Campaign Finance Reform, that back the Democrats' endorsement.
"Americans want a political system of, by and for the many, not of, by and for the money," Nyhart said. "Politicians should be accountable solely to their constituents, the people who elect them, and not to the handful of people who can write them absolutely gargantuan checks."
Clyburn took the occasion to blast the House Republican majority for refusing to vote on legislation, recently passed by the Senate, that would extend the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, but would let the tax cuts for the wealthier expire. He accused the Republicans of being "in the grips of the Koch brothers and Karl Rove and other groups and other special interest groups that are funding attack ads and have created a stalemate here in Congress."
Van Hollen spoke about his signature legislation to increase donor disclosure by independent groups that have been empowered by recent court decisions to raise and spend enormous sums of money. "The Disclose Act is very simple: End the secret money," he said. "We believe voters have a right to know who is spending the millions of dollars to try and influence their vote."
Other Democratic lawmakers in attendance included Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.), who is working on small-donor public financing legislation; Reps. James McGovern (Mass.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.), who have both introduced constitutional amendments to reform campaign finance; and Reps. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) and David Cicilline (R.I.).