Sarbanes Spotlights Historic Effort to Fight Big Money in Politics and Clean Up Corruption in Washington

Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Chairperson of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United Action Fund, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling and to highlight recent reforms passed in the U.S. House of Representatives to fight the corrosive influence of big money in politics.

On March 8, 2019, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a once-in-a-generation reform package to fight back against the deluge of big money in politics unleashed by Citizens United. By leading with H.R. 1, House Democrats made a clear commitment to put the public’s interests ahead of special interests and to restore trust, transparency, and integrity in Washington.

Like hundreds of other bills passed by House Democrats and supported by a majority of Americans, H.R. 1 remains blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Thank you very much. I want to thank Zoe for leading H.R. 1 though the House Administrative Committee. She did a brilliant job of that, and she continues to emphasize the importance of pushing back against the influence of big money.

“I have to salute Speaker Pelosi as well, because it was the Citizens United decision that was the occasion for her to begin pulling together a group in the House of Representatives to focus on how we could address the undue influence of big money in politics, and she created a Task Force almost 10 years ago to begin doing that. That’s now the Democracy Reform Task Force. It was the locust of our efforts to assemble all of these terrific ideas that came forward from our colleagues.

“But really, we’re translating what the public wanted to see in terms of getting its voice back, so I have to salute the Speaker for having the presence to do that in the wake of Citizens United, but also leaning on that to this very day in her support of H.R. 1, along with Congressman Hoyer.

“I want to thank Ben Ray Luján for the efforts he made to work with the incoming class of freshmen to make this a priority.

“This is a very sober anniversary. There’s no question, 10 years since the Citizens United case was handed down by the Supreme Court. It’s where it all began, and I don’t mean by that where money in politics and its influence began. It’s where this arrogance began on the part of super PACs and the super wealthy – armed with this idea that corporations are people, that money is speech. They were going to take over American politics.

“And when they did that, what it created was a deep sense of powerlessness in the country on the part of everyday Americans who looked at Washington, looked at politics, and looked government and felt like our voice doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the money people that call the shots, and it all began with this case of Citizens United.

“Well, through H.R. 1, which was a transformative anticorruption and clean elections package of reforms, we pushed back against the Citizens United case and other efforts to curb the voice of everyday Americans in our democracy.

“We put it on the floor in the first 100 days, as was promised. We passed it, and then we sent it to the graveyard to Mitch McConnell, who continues to stand with his arms folded on the Senate side, saying to the American people who want to see these changes, ‘You shall not pass.’

“But we’re going to keep up the pressure on Mitch McConnell to do the right thing on behalf of the American people. In many ways, he’s the chief architect of the influence that money has in our politics, if you look back over his decades-long career. He’s been promoting the influence of the insiders and the big-money crowd – and now what we call the super PAC.

“So, it’s a tough fight against McConnell, but it’s a fight that we’re ready to have, and we’ve done this with the support of many, many groups. I’m so pleased you’re going to be hearing from Vanita Gupta today and from Tiffany Muller, who have been core leaders in this effort to fight back on the influence of money and lift up people in our democracy.

“But we could not have done this, we could not have done H.R. 1 – and we would be unable to continue to translate the voices of people out in the country who feel left out and locked out – without the efforts of our freshmen class. These were people who ran last year, listened carefully, understood that the public wanted to see change in Washington. That they wanted to solve their anger, not by sort of grabbing for a slogan, like President Trump offered, but grabbing for real solutions in the form of legislation that could be put on the floor in the first hundred days.

“And the freshmen class was the tip of the spear. They were the ones that made this happen. So I’m very pleased to be able to introduce Chris Pappas from New Hampshire, who was one of the leaders in that effort.”