PA-7 Residents Agree on Reforms to Reduce Role of Money in Politics

Rep. Wild Attends “Citizen Panel Forum” to Discuss New Findings – 

In a unique survey of 436 residents of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, majorities of Republicans and Democrats approved of a number of proposals under consideration in Congress to curb the influence of big campaign donors.

The survey results were released at an online “Citizen Panel Forum” on Saturday. Congresswoman Susan Wild attended and discussed the findings with dozens of the residents of the 7th District who took the online survey.

The survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, showed that large bipartisan majorities favored a number of reforms under consideration in Congress to address the role of money in elections including:

  • reforming campaign finance by encouraging donations by small donors,
  • strengthening requirements for public disclosure of campaign donations and expenditures,
  • a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United.

“In standard town hall meetings, members of Congress put forward their views and citizens respond,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “In a Citizen Panel Forum the views of a representative sample of citizens are first put forward, then the member responds and there is a discussion.”

“In this intense period of polarization, we want to create opportunities for Americans to focus on where we agree and how our policies can reflect that agreement,” said Jillian Youngblood, executive director of Civic Genius. “Working together across divisions doesn’t require anyone to leave their values at the door; it just requires a willingness to listen and engage.”

Four hundred thirty-six Pennsylvania residents from the 7th District participated in the online survey, initiated by the nonpartisan organizations Voice of the People and Civic Genius. Respondents went through a process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that gives users information and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker. Respondents are provided a briefing, presented with pro and con arguments, and then asked to weigh-in with their specific recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by experts on all sides to assure accuracy and balance.

The survey and the Citizen Panel Forum are part of a larger Citizen Panel Initiative, sponsored by Voice of the People and Civic Genius, that seeks to give citizens tools to more effectively understand and weigh-in on decisions before Congress, to give members of Congress a better understanding of their constituents, and to discern the potential for bipartisan convergence.

The proposals that received the highest levels of support were ones that required greater public disclosure of campaign-related donations to counter what critics call “dark money.” For example, 82 percent (Republicans 77 percent, Democrats 88 percent) favored the FCC requiring the public disclosure of significant donors paying for TV or radio ads in support of candidates or controversial public issues.

To counter the influence of large campaign donors, 74 percent (Republicans 70 percent, Democrats 79 percent) favored the government providing a 6-to-1 match for donations by small donors to Congressional or Presidential candidates who agree to only take small donations. Respondents were informed that these matching funds would be paid for by slightly increasing the fines that individuals and corporations pay if they violate federal laws.

The most significant proposal – a Constitutional amendment to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing Congress and the states to directly regulate campaign financing, and to allow restrictions or prohibitions on corporate spending to influence elections – was supported by 76 percent (Republicans 75 percent, Democrats 81 percent).

The views expressed in Pennsylvania’s 7th District were similar to those in nationwide surveys with samples of more than 2,000 voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough.

Members of the public can go through the same policymaking simulation at: https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6203446/Campaign-Finance-Reform-Public

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