How mainstream has advocating for public financing of elections become? So mainstream that moderate North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan endorsed the idea in an op-ed in Politico last week.
“Government is now being bought and sold on the auction block by unlimited money from anonymous buyers,” Dorgan, a former U.S. senator who was not known as a campaign finance firebrand, lamented in the piece. “The world’s greatest democracy is now witnessing the disgrace of its government being sold to the highest bidder.”
In the op-ed, Dorgan advocated for the passage of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation that he twice supported against GOP filibusters in the Senate. The bill is designed to create new reporting requirements for groups that air political advertisements.
But the campaign finance reforms Dorgan has come to embrace don’t stop there.
For the first time, Dorgan also endorsed legislation sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would create public financing for congressional elections as a “worthy idea.” And he recommended passage of a constitutional amendment aimed at mitigating the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that lifted restrictions on corporate and union spending on election ads. The op-ed also marks the first time that Dorgan has endorsed this proposal.
“I really think we’ve reached a tipping point,” Dorgan told the Center for Public Integrity in a telephone interview.
“I hope both political parties and people of all political persuasions will see this and be sickened by what’s happened to campaign finance,” he continued. “If we don’t fix this, there’s no honor in the way we select our leaders.”
While in the Senate, Dorgan never co-sponsored Durbin’s bill, and during his time as a federal candidate, he often relied on traditional sources of campaign cash: lobbyists and political action committees.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Dorgan raised more than $13.3 million over his career, with $6.6 million coming from PACs. And over his career, individual lobbyists, as well as PACs of lobbying firms, gave Dorgan about $650,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — more than any other industry except law firms.
During the scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff
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