FAQ

Not at all. We believe that every American is a patriot. The donors who give money to politicians, and the politicians who take it, are just doing what they have to do. If you’re a wealthy Republican and you don’t donate to candidates, you know that Democratic donors will control our politics. Democratic donors are in the same boat. And if you’re a politician, you can’t run for office unless you raise tons of money from high-dollar donors. (Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who raised large amounts from small-dollar donors, are the exceptions who prove the rule.)

Democracy Dollars is in the best interest of every American.  Although big donations do buy influence, it’s influence within a broken political system that isn’t really working for anyone. What the business community most needs from government is stability and predictability, and that has gone out the window in our country. Unless we improve our schools, rebuild our infrastructure, and reduce the cost of health care – a major drag on our economy – American business cannot remain competitive. And big donors have grandchildren just like the rest of us. They know we can’t save our grandchildren from climate change disaster unless we can make our government work again.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

The fiercest opponent of campaign finance reform is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), while the author of the best Democracy Dollars law is a House Democrat, Ro Khanna. However, most politicians of both major parties have no stomach for leading on the issue of campaign finance: you can’t condemn big money while talking to the voters, and the next day call up your donors for more fat checks. This is why Save American Democracy is needed: we will make Democracy Dollars popular enough, among voters of all parties, that politicians see a win for themselves in making Democracy Dollars the law of the land.

Before launching Save American Democracy, Dan McMillan was a Democrat. He supported Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 primary, because Warren at least talked about the problem of money in politics, and she saw that Americans want fundamental change. After founding our organization, Dan changed his registration from Democrat to Independent, and pledges to not support any candidate, or any policy other than Democracy Dollars, until our victory is won. Dan did not vote in 2016 because he was disgusted by Hillary Clinton’s lack of respect for the voters, as seen in her “basket of deplorables” remarks about Donald Trump’s supporters.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

We have no crystal ball, but we can say this: the United States will continue to have a two-party system, which served the country well in earlier decades before our democracy began to fall apart. However, both major parties will change, and in ways that are good for our country.

Since politicians will get their campaign cash from the voters instead of from big business and billionaires, both parties will better represent the needs and wishes of the voters. The G.O.P. may go back to what it used to be – more the party of small business than big business. The Democratic Party probably won’t be so cozy with Wall Street, and instead of being the party of liberal elites, may return to being the party of the “little guy” and organized labor.

The most important point here is that both parties will have to adapt and learn to represent voters instead of high-dollar donors. The two major parties will take turns in power as they have done ever since the Civil War, but with Democracy Dollars, they will be guided by the solid common sense of the American people, instead of by the narrow desires of special interests.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

TV political shows don’t help us understand any aspect of politics terribly well. However, they’re especially bad when it comes to the money problem. Journalists only mention money when doing their “horserace” coverage, telling you which candidate is pulling ahead or falling behind, based on how much money they have raised. The TV talking heads never connect the dots: they don’t explain that candidates are beholden to the people who have donated to their campaigns, and that this dependence shapes policy in a bad way.

Campaign cash has damaged every aspect of our political system. It corrupts our politicians and forces them to spend 20-30 hours a week on the phone with donors instead of doing the people’s business. It makes government neglect our needs – for jobs, education, health care and more – because the donors can buy all the services they need privately, and don’t want to pay the taxes needed to fund public services. Big money produces special favors for every industry and big corporation, but at the cost of massively wasteful government spending, and a loss of our economic competitiveness. Although we can still vote, we have little to vote for, because the donors have picked the candidates – you can’t run a competitive campaign or get media attention unless you raise a lot of money, and you won’t get this money if your ideas don’t appeal to the donor class. How did Barack Obama get taken seriously as a presidential contender for the 2008 election? He stunned the political world by raising more money than Hillary Clinton during the first three months of 2007. And you can take this to the bank: he didn’t rake in those big donations by telling billionaires he was planning to raise their taxes.[1]

Big money fosters partisan hostility between Republicans and Democrats, because we blame each other for being powerless, not understanding that the money is our real enemy. Politicians and voters no longer respect each other: voters know that most of what politicians say is phony,  while politicians see us as children whom they have to manipulate in order to get our votes. Barack Obama showed his lack of respect for voters in 2008 when he said unemployed Midwesterners “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them;” Mitt Romney told his donors in 2012 that at least 47% of Americans – including the tens of millions who depend on Social Security and Medicare – would support Obama because they are freeloaders who take no responsibility for their lives; worst of all, Hillary Clinton told her laughing audience of wealthy donors in 2016 that Donald Trump’s supporters (i.e., half of the American people) were either morally depraved bigots or desperate, easily misled losers.[2] Perhaps worst of all, our political leaders and many of our citizens have forgotten the true essence of our country’s greatness – that we invented modern democracy and have made heroic sacrifices as the world’s foremost champion of democracy. Our leaders don’t talk much about this proud history anymore, probably because they understand, better than anyone, that our country is no longer a democracy. We have forgotten who we are and what we stand for.

Since money shapes our politics in every way, why do TV talking heads say so little about it? Most television personalities are multimillionaires and they work for large corporations – they and their employers may not be unhappy that big money dominates our politics. Journalists also take their cues from politicians: they talk about what politicians think is important. Politicians don’t like to tell us how they suck up to donors and ignore the voters.  This is why, although Americans understand that they are powerless and that their government isn’t working, they don’t know that it was campaign cash that took their vote away.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

[1] Jake Tapper, “Obama Bests Clinton in Primary Fundraising,” ABC, 4/5/07: https://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=3008821&page=1, accessed 8/20/20.[2] Ed Pilkington, “Obama angers midwest voters with guns and religion remark,” The Guardian, 4/14/08: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/apr/14/barackobama.uselections2008, accessed 8/20/20; Molly Moorhead, “Romney says 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax,” POLITIFACT, 9/18/12: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2012/sep/18/mitt-romney/romney-says-47-percent-americans-pay-no-income-tax/; Katie Reilly, “Read Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Remarks About Donald Trump Supporters,” Time, 9/10/16: https://time.com/4486502/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables-transcript/.

No, it just proves that money alone isn’t enough to win. A candidate also has to have some experience and political talent. Steyer was running for the White House without any previous political experience. Bloomberg had been Mayor of New York City, but he entered the 2020 primary far too late, has no charisma, and is a terrible debater. The important point to remember is that without a lot of money, it is almost impossible to win elective office. No candidate can raise this money if he or she voices ideas which displease big donors, so the donors, by default, choose the candidates we get to vote for, and determine the policies these candidates can support once they are in office. Overwhelmingly, during the last 20 years, winning congressional candidates outspent their opponents,[1] while one expert calculated in 2017 that it took $500,000 to $2 million to run a “credible” campaign for the House.[2] In 2016, the average cost of a winning campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate was just shy of $20 million.[3]

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

[1] “Did Money Win?” on Open Secrets, the website of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics: https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/winning-vs-spending, accessed 8/11/20.[2] Bonnie Berkowitz and Chris Alcantara, “How to Run for Congress,” The Washington Post, 11/15/19:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/11/15/how-run-congress/?arc404=true, accessed 8/11/20.
[3] Soo Rin Kim, “The price of winning just got higher, especially in the Senate,” Open Secrets, 11/9/16: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/11/the-price-of-winning-just-got-higher-especially-in-the-senate/, accessed 8/16/20.

Some object to the cost. If every eligible American registered to vote (currently only 80% of eligible Americans are registered), this program would cost about $4.9 billion a year. This is serious money. However, Democracy Dollars would pay for itself many times over by letting us eliminate wasteful government spending. (Watch this 10-minute video on government waste: [link]). The non-partisan watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste argues that we can trim $3.9 trillion over the next five years by reducing or eliminating 620 wasteful programs.[1] Very many of these programs are goodies which lobbyists have secured for the industries and corporations which hire them. Lobbyists have political muscle because they control money that politicians need to get elected: the lobbyists’ clients donate money to campaigns; lobbyists stage fundraisers for candidates; and lobbyists actually give money out of their own high salaries to politicians they want to influence (yes, this is legal!).[2] With Democracy Dollars, politicians can tell the lobbyists to take a hike, and Congress can cut the waste which lobbyists have created.

Others question whether the voters will really use the Democracy Dollars they are given. After all, only about 60% of eligible Americans actually voted in the last presidential election, and in the off-year congressional elections, it’s usually not much more than a third who vote. And will the voters donate their campaign cash wisely? We are not concerned! Donating your Democracy Dollars will be a lot easier than voting – you do it on your computer or smartphone, in the privacy of your home, whenever you like. Once voters are donors, and see that politicians listen to them, the American people will become more interested in politics and better informed about the issues. Elites complain that Americans are poorly informed about politics. We say: why should they inform themselves? Big money has made Americans’ votes nearly meaningless, which is why so many of us don’t vote at all. Democracy Dollars will change this for the better.

Others fear that Democracy Dollars will block Americans from donating as much as they want to politicians they favor. Not to worry! You can still donate as much as you like.

If big business and billionaires can still make huge donations, will Democracy Dollars really change anything? Yes, because there will be so much money in the Democracy Dollars system that every capable candidate can raise enough money from the voters to fund a competitive campaign.[3] Any candidate who chooses, instead, to rely on big donations from special interests, is going to have to explain this to the voters, and this will not be a fun conversation for the candidate. This political incentive should greatly reduce the power of high-dollar donors.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

[1] Each year Citizens Against Government Waste publishes its recommendations under the title “Prime Cuts:” the Prime Cuts report for 2019 can be found here: https://www.cagw.org/reporting/2019-prime-cuts, accessed 8/19/20.[2] An excellent and very entertaining exposé of the lobbying industry is Robert G. Kaiser, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government (New York: Vintage Books, 2010).
[3] In a presidential election year, every registered voter would receive 50 Democracy Dollars. With 200 million registered voters, this means $10 billion in public financing for election campaigns, all controlled by the voters, as compared to the $6.5 billion in private money which paid for the 2016 elections for White House and Congress: Christopher Ingraham, “Somebody just put a price tag on the 2016 election. It’s a doozy,” The Washington Post, 4/14/17, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/14/somebody-just-put-a-price-tag-on-the-2016-election-its-a-doozy/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0a04f23d1018. The $6.5 billion figure comes from a report by the campaign finance watchdog group The Center for Responsive Politics.

Even if they want to support Democracy Dollars – and we believe very many do - our politicians are stuck in an awful Catch-22. They got into office by raising tons of money from high-dollar donors, and need to go back to these donors to get reelected. They can’t tell the voters that money in politics is evil, and the next day call their donors and ask for more money. Our political leaders are trapped in their dependence on the billionaires and corporations who pay for their campaigns. At Save American Democracy, our job is to make Democracy Dollars so popular among the American people that politicians can vote for it and kiss their donors goodbye.

In the 2020 election campaign, only three politicians spoke about how campaign cash has damaged our democracy: Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. They could talk about this issue only because they did not depend heavily on high-dollar donors. Steyer is a billionaire who funded his campaign out of his personal fortune, while Sanders and Warren raised most of their money in small donations. Unfortunately, none of these candidates explained to the voters how money works in politics, none of them offered a solution, and there are not enough small donations available to let many candidates run the kind of campaign Warren and Sanders did. Most Americans can’t afford to donate at all.

Because politicians almost never talk about money in politics, the journalists who cover them don’t talk about it on TV. For this reason, although journalists and politicians know that money rules our politics, no one has explained this terrible reality to the American people. Americans know our political system is broken, but few voters understand that it was big money that caused the worst damage and took their vote away. Our job at Save American Democracy is to educate our fellow Americans about this problem, and show them how Democracy Dollars will fix it.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

 

How will democracy dollars change policy?

In one sense, this question is not even worth asking, because the most important thing about Democracy Dollars is that it will give the American people the government they want, so we at Save American Democracy don’t care how Democracy Dollars will change public policy. Still, it is an interesting question. Not having a crystal ball, we can only venture some educated guesses.

On social issues like abortion and the rights of gay and transgender Americans, it is hard to see how Democracy Dollars will have any direct impact. These are not economic issues that motivate the billionaires and corporations who pay for politicians’ campaigns.

That said, Dan McMillan would like to share his personal opinion on the abortion debate, even though Save American Democracy will never promote either pro-life or pro-choice views. Dan thinks that abortion is a moral issue of national importance, an issue that is far too important to leave to unelected judges or to state governments. He believes there should be an open national debate, centered on congressional hearings, in which every point of view is thoroughly aired. Then the American people, following their sound moral instincts and acting through their elected representatives, should enact a single national law which applies to the whole country. Then we should all accept the result and move on.

In Dan’s opinion, there are strong moral arguments to be made both for and against keeping abortion legal. He believes that a fetus has human attributes and at least some rights, and that killing it is a kind of moral harm. He also believes that it is a kind of moral harm to force a woman to bear a child when she is unwilling to be a mother, or (as is so often the case) unable to give her child a decent start in life. He also sees it as a moral harm to bring an unwanted child into the world. Any decision about the legality of abortion is a choice between the lesser of these evils, and there is no objectively correct answer, because all moral judgments are inherently subjective. Every unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy, there are no happy endings here, and for most women who have an abortion, this is the most painful decision they will make in their entire lives.

As tragic as the abortion question inevitably is, some good can come out of it if the American people can come together, in a spirit of mutual respect, and resolve this issue the way we should resolve every important issue: democratically, not by leaving it to unelected judges or bureaucrats. This could be a great opportunity for both voters and politicians to relearn the democratic process, which all too many of us have forgotten across the long decades of our democracy’s decline. Indirectly, Democracy Dollars can contribute to this way of resolving the abortion conflict, by reviving the democratic process in our country.

On gun control democracy dollars should make it easier to enact modest gun safety measures which most Americans support, like background checks or banning assault weapons, since the NRA and the gun manufacturers won’t be able buy so many members of Congress. However, gun laws won’t change much beyond that, because about one American household in three owns at least one gun. Gun owners like their guns, for many good reasons, and feel strongly about their gun rights. They vote, they’ll have their Democracy Dollars, and they can block unreasonable gun control measures.

We think Democracy Dollars is a win both for gun owners and for advocates of gun control. It should make possible reasonable reforms which gun owners can accept, while giving them the political clout to defend their gun rights against governmental overreach.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate

By making our political system a democracy again, Democracy Dollars will make Americans more active in politics, better informed, and more likely to ask critical questions when our leaders are thinking about going to war. Also, if our 1.4 million men and women in uniform, our 1.1 million reservists, the 861,000 civilian employees of our Department of Defense, our 22 million veterans, plus all of their family members and friends, each had 50 democracy dollars to contribute to politicians’ campaigns, maybe our presidents would think more carefully before putting our troops in harm’s way. Perhaps we could have avoided the disastrous Iraq War. Maybe we would not have fought an unwinnable 18-year war in Afghanistan, a war that Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump all lied about to the American people. Also, if our veterans, and the men and women who currently serve, and all their friends and families, had Democracy Dollars, maybe our government would stop treating our veterans as if they were disposable, denying them adequate health care and letting many veterans sleep on the street.

Democracy Dollars should also help us spend our defense dollars more wisely, according to what our military needs, instead of according to what defense contractors want. At present, defense contractors are constantly selling the government new and expensive weapons systems, weapons that we may not really need. Defense contractors can sell these new weapons because they and their lobbyists give so much money to politicians. Once politicians get their campaign funds from voters instead of from defense contractors, lobbyists will have much less power, and Congress can make smarter decisions about what weapons our troops really need.

Join us! Let voters be donors. Spread the word, tell your friends, show your support by donating $5 or more.
Donate