A recent article by Release Fact’s Bryan Harris presents a brewing showdown in Wisconsin, one of many states where the political action committee End Citizens United (ECU) is working to end big money – that is, the unlimited and undisclosed money in politics – through ballot measure campaigns as well as by electing “campaign finance reform champions,” according to its website.
One of those champions is Randy Bryce, whom ECU have endorsed to run against House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Politico calls Wisconsin a GOP stronghold, where Republican hopefuls are already securing big donors for their super PACs, as End Citizens United tweeted on October 12:
@StopBigMoney GOP is out of touch with the American people. Instead of appealing to voters, they’re reaching out to mega-donors. https://t.co/2oVsFantwL
Politico continues: “Some of the communication with donors this year would be illegal if it took place between a candidate and a super PAC. But there’s nothing keeping soon-to-be candidates from recruiting such support before they declare a run for office.”
The fact that billionaire backers are a must-have, even before candidates announce their campaigns, is symptomatic of a bigger problem when it comes to campaign finance, which Republican leaders like Speaker Ryan have been fighting to deregulate for years. According to Harris, Ryan came out strongly against reform legislation like the DISCLOSE Act and McCain-Feingold, parts of which were struck down when Citizens United, a PAC supported largely by the Koch brothers, challenged the law’s limitations on political spending by corporations.
In contrast, says Harris, “Randy Bryce is running on a platform that emphasizes not only campaign finance reform in general but the overturning of Citizens United specifically,” which as its name suggests, is ECU’s ultimate goal. One powerful tool they bring to bear is their grassroots network, demonstrating political power doesn’t require a big payout; within weeks of the ECU endorsement on August 16, the Bryce campaign announced that it had raised more than $353,000 in individual contributions, 82 percent of which were small donations under $200.
Harris argues that campaign finance has been flooded with money from corporations, special interests, and the very wealthy since the Citizens United ruling, “drown[ing] out the voices of smaller players.” The End Citizens United PAC is working to change that, through legislation like the revived DISCLOSE Act of 2017 and by supporting Democratic candidates in high-impact races like the one in Wisconsin that could potentially unseat the Republican House leader. With $4 million raised as of an April 2017 financial report and $35 million projected for the 2018 election cycle, they may be closer than ever to achieving their goal.
For details: www.factcheck.org/tag/end-citizens-united/