Eighty-five percent of the funding for Congressional campaigns comes from a tiny fraction of the population: no more than .05% of Americans gives even the maximum amount to one candidate for Congress. The number giving $10,000 or more is less than .01%.
This concentration gives the funders of political campaigns enormous power, either directly (through contributions) or indirectly (through lobbying and super PACs). As Members of Congress become dependent upon these funders — spending anywhere between 30% and 70% of their time raising money — the influence of these funders grows. A trivial number of large contributors can and do block progress on many issues which directly impact the vast majority of Americans. As a recent study from Princeton concludes, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. governmental policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”
This dynamic is not partisan. It blocks reforms on the Left and Right. It blocks substantial legislative initiatives — such as climate change legislation, or meaningful healthcare reform. It also blocks efforts to simplify taxes or shrink the size of government: All things being equal, complicated taxes and a more extensive government increase the ability of Members of Congress to raise money. As Robert Kaiser details in his book, So Damn Much Money (2010), that fact interferes with the legislative agenda of the Right as much as of the Left.
The founders and supporters of Mayday PAC believe that this dynamic has destroyed the capacity of the United States government to govern. We believe it is critical to find a way to change the way elections are funded — to free legislators to do the jobs they were elected to do, and to give Americans the voice that it is our right to have in our democracy.