A Civil Rights Perspective on Money in Politics

The increasingly dominant role of mega-donors in funding American elections has reached a tipping point, further marginalizing those who are not independently wealthy or who do not have access to wealthy donors — particularly women and communities of color. This project features a diverse set of elected officials from across the country explaining how public financing systems provide a pathway toward a more equal and participatory democracy that gives these citizens a voice by:

Lowering Barriers to Entry that prevent candidates without access to large sums of money from running.

Changing the Way Politicians Campaign by encouraging them to focus outreach and fundraising efforts on average constituents rather than on large donors.

Increasing Citizens’ Engagement in the political process by ensuring they have a meaningful voice.

Enhancing Constituent Representation by giving elected officials the tools to govern without having to devote inordinate amounts of time to high-dollar fundraising.

View more Brennan Center work on Money in Politics.

The outsize role of big money in politics is both a symptom and source of inequality in America - making money in politics a civil rights issue of the 21st century. The  disproportionate over-reliance on white, male donors leads to policy decisions that limit progress toward racial, gender, and economic equity. This paper analyzes the way money exacerbates existing inequalities. 

The video Breaking Down Barriers: The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing features six elected officials who champion public financing as the best solution to address the outsize influence of money in politics, and explain how such systems’ boosted their own successful campaigns, while making them more responsive to average citizens once in office.