part 1

The Distortion

Money distorts Congress. Not directly, not in a money-buys-results way, but through funding election campaigns. Elections are absurdly expensive. An average winning house campaign cost $1.6 million. The most expensive campaign cost $22.7 million.

The contest between Michelle Bachmann and Jim Graves in the Minnesota 6th Congressional District was the most expensive House race in the 2012 election cycle. Bachmann outspent Graves by almost 10 to 1. It was also one of the more closely contested. Bachmann won by 1.2% of the vote.

The Nevada 4th Congressional District race is representative of a typical competitive race in 2012. The winning candidate outspent their opponent, but not by large margins.

Why so expensive? In the 2012 house elections, 95% of the candidates who outspent their opponents won. Fundraising is a key advantage.

Of the $3 billion dollars raised in the 2012 cycle in house races, 70% came from big funders: corporations, unions, lobbyists, PACs.

These big funders represent less than 0.5% of American citizens, yet they wield enormous, outsized influence in congress's work.

The escalating need for election funding distorts Congress's agenda. To get funding, politicians prioritize issues big funders care about.

Meanwhile, policies that the public cares about, even those with broad public support, often languishes or are fiercely lobbied against.

The election game is fixed against the people, and against even the politicians themselves. Can we fix the game and free Congress?

Imagine if most election funding came from regular citizens' small donations. Freed from focusing on big funders, will Congress work better?

That's the vision for campaign finance reform. A Congress free to vote with their intelligence and conscience, not their electoral coffers.