Democracy For The People

Arizona PIRG Education Fund is pushing back against big money in our elections and working to educate the public about the benefits of small donor incentive programs, to amplify the voices of the American people over corporations, Super PACs and the super wealthy.

The money election

One person, one vote: That’s how we’re taught elections in our democracy are supposed to work. Candidates should compete to win our votes by revealing their vision, credentials and capabilities. We, the people, then get to decide who should represent us.

Except these days there's another election: the money election. And in the money election, most people don’t have any say at all. Instead, a small number of super-wealthy individuals and corporations decide which candidates will raise enough money to run the kind of high-priced campaign it takes to win. This money election starts long before you and I even have a chance to cast our votes, and its consequences are felt long after. On issue after issue, politicians often favor the donors who funded their campaigns over the people they're elected to represent.

Image: Flickr User: Joe Shlabotnik - Creative Commons

Super PACs and Super Wealthy Dominate Elections

Wealthy donors have always had an outsized influence in our democracy, but misguided jurisprudence, like the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, has opened the floodgates for mega donations and corporate spending in our elections.

Spending on political races has skyrocketed, and running for office has never been more expensive. The 2020 election cycle was the most expensive in U.S. history with over $14 billion spent. As a result, unless candidates are independently wealthy, they often need to court contributions from mega-donors or corporate interests to be competitive in their races.

Our currect campaign finance system gives a very small number of people massive influence on who runs for office and, often, what issues they decide to talk about. In 2016, fewer than 400 families gave more than half of all of the money raised in the presidential race. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. Our democracy is supposed to be based on the principle of one person, one vote.

Ultimately, we need to overturn Citizens United and make other systemic changes if we want to get big money out of our elections. But large-scale changes like these take time, public pressure, and elected leaders who are committed to making it happen. That’s why we’re researching and supporting small donor empowerment programs, that will bring power back to the people.

It's time to reclaim our democracy and bring it back to the principle of one person, one vote. 

RECLAIMING OUR DEMOCRACY

Small donor publc financing programs match contributions of ordinary people with public funds. Candidates access these funds when they opt into the program and refuse to take large and corporate contributions. This means anyone with enough public support can run for office, those candidates can raise enough money to be competitive, and they will be answerable to their constituents, not a handful of mega-donors and corporations.

Communites across Maryland have established small donor public financing to give everyone a voice in our elections and keep big money out.  Montgomery County's program was in effect for the first time for the 2018 elections. To participate, candidates must reject contributions over $150 and money from corporations. Maryland PIRG Foundation analysis found:

  • Candidates who had qualified received nearly twice as many donations from Montgomery County residents than those not participating.
  • Those not participating received only 8 percent of their donations from people giving less than $150, while those participating received more than 90 percent of their donations from people giving less than $150.
  • By the June primary, more than half of all candidates, over 30 total, participated in the program. Ultimately, 22 qualified for the program — candidates from both parties and from a wide range of backgrounds who were able to run competitive campaigns based on support from the communities, not large donors.  

Together, we can win real changes now in how elections are funded throughout America — so more candidates for more offices focus on we, the people, instead of we, the megadonors.

Issue updates

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Organizing is Driving Youth Turn Out

Millennials and Gen Z make up the largest group of potential voters in the country. Historically, youth voters have been underrepresented in politics due to low voter turnout, but early voting rates and a swell of activism this year show that young people are posed to reverse this trend in 2020.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Arizona PIRG Students Mobilize on National Vote Early Day

The Student PIRGs New Voters Project joined more than 2,500 partners across the country to celebrate National Vote Early Day, the first civic holiday to help Americans take advantage of their options to vote early. In Arizona, 50 students involved with Arizona PIRG Students called and texted thousands of their peers to help them make plans to vote. Dozens of student organizations, community groups, and faculty joined the massive outreach effort. Supporting first time voters navigate the process is critical in helping ensure they turn out.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

What you should do now to safely vote in Arizona during COVID-19 | Diane Brown

In-person voting on Election Day is on the relatively higher-risk end of activities. That is why states across the country have been scrambling since the outbreak began to adapt their voting systems to accommodate more mail-in or absentee voting, while maintaining sufficient and socially-distant in-person locations. With less than six weeks before Arizona’s primary election and less than five months until the November general election, state and local officials need to keep that effort going full steam.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Let’s Keep Breaking Voter Turnout Records | Diane Brown

The majority of counties in our state recently broke their record for voter turnout in a primary election. The uptick in voters in these counties contributed to a new voter primary election turnout record not only for individual counties but also for our state. While we applaud the increase in voter turnout, we know Arizona can do better.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

National Voter Registration Day Provides Good Reminder: Register & Vote

Tomorrow as part of National Voter Registration Day in-person voter registration opportunities will exist at college campuses, shopping centers, restaurants and other venues in Arizona and across the country.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Organizing is Driving Youth Turn Out

Millennials and Gen Z make up the largest group of potential voters in the country. Historically, youth voters have been underrepresented in politics due to low voter turnout, but early voting rates and a swell of activism this year show that young people are posed to reverse this trend in 2020.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Arizona PIRG Students Mobilize on National Vote Early Day

The Student PIRGs New Voters Project joined more than 2,500 partners across the country to celebrate National Vote Early Day, the first civic holiday to help Americans take advantage of their options to vote early. In Arizona, 50 students involved with Arizona PIRG Students called and texted thousands of their peers to help them make plans to vote. Dozens of student organizations, community groups, and faculty joined the massive outreach effort. Supporting first time voters navigate the process is critical in helping ensure they turn out.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

National Voter Registration Day Provides Good Reminder: Register & Vote

Tomorrow as part of National Voter Registration Day in-person voter registration opportunities will exist at college campuses, shopping centers, restaurants and other venues in Arizona and across the country.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

New study shows potential impact of a small donor matching program on 2016 presidential race

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

SUPREME COURT RULES FOR ANOTHER FLOOD OF BIG MONEY

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. Arizona PIRG Education Fund research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

This report examines how the 2016 presidential race would be reshaped by a public financing system that amplifies the voices of small donors in our elections. The 2016 election will likely break all previous campaign spending records. But more important than the amount of money spent is where that money is coming from. Under our current system, courting wealthy mega-donors – who often have different priorities and policy preferences than most voters – has taken precedence over appealing to everyday Americans.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Demos analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates winners and losers.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Elections Confidential

Elections Confidential describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Democracy

What you should do now to safely vote in Arizona during COVID-19 | Diane Brown

In-person voting on Election Day is on the relatively higher-risk end of activities. That is why states across the country have been scrambling since the outbreak began to adapt their voting systems to accommodate more mail-in or absentee voting, while maintaining sufficient and socially-distant in-person locations. With less than six weeks before Arizona’s primary election and less than five months until the November general election, state and local officials need to keep that effort going full steam.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Let’s Keep Breaking Voter Turnout Records | Diane Brown

The majority of counties in our state recently broke their record for voter turnout in a primary election. The uptick in voters in these counties contributed to a new voter primary election turnout record not only for individual counties but also for our state. While we applaud the increase in voter turnout, we know Arizona can do better.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Millennials and Gen Z make up the largest group of potential voters in the country. Historically, youth voters have been underrepresented in politics due to low voter turnout, but early voting rates and a swell of activism this year show that young people are posed to reverse this trend in 2020.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

The Student PIRGs New Voters Project joined more than 2,500 partners across the country to celebrate National Vote Early Day, the first civic holiday to help Americans take advantage of their options to vote early. In Arizona, 50 students involved with Arizona PIRG Students called and texted thousands of their peers to help them make plans to vote. Dozens of student organizations, community groups, and faculty joined the massive outreach effort. Supporting first time voters navigate the process is critical in helping ensure they turn out.

Blog Post

In-person voting on Election Day is on the relatively higher-risk end of activities. That is why states across the country have been scrambling since the outbreak began to adapt their voting systems to accommodate more mail-in or absentee voting, while maintaining sufficient and socially-distant in-person locations. With less than six weeks before Arizona’s primary election and less than five months until the November general election, state and local officials need to keep that effort going full steam.

Blog Post

The majority of counties in our state recently broke their record for voter turnout in a primary election. The uptick in voters in these counties contributed to a new voter primary election turnout record not only for individual counties but also for our state. While we applaud the increase in voter turnout, we know Arizona can do better.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Tomorrow as part of National Voter Registration Day in-person voter registration opportunities will exist at college campuses, shopping centers, restaurants and other venues in Arizona and across the country.

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