Voters Should Ask Clinton and Trump About Their Campaign Finance Abuses (and Solutions) In Second Presidential Debate

A "dark" roll of hundred dollar bills


Dear Mr. Anderson Cooper and Mrs. Martha Raddatz,

Millions of Americans will tune into the townhall debate that you will be co-moderating on this upcoming Sunday.

Reducing the influence of money in elections is a top tier concern for voters this November, and we expect the audience of undecided voters be interested in hearing the candidates' views on democracy reform. Viewers in the first debate, particularly young millennial voters, made it clear they wanted to hear about the candidates’ solutions for campaign finance reform – but no questions were asked. Over 22,000 voters have called on the moderators to ask a question on the issue.

This is a timely and salient issue. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made fixing our “rigged” or broken political system a key talking point in their campaigns to rally supporters. But complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission this week by Campaign Legal Center show that both candidates are violating campaign finance law by working closely or “coordinating” with super PACs funded by unlimited corporate and wealthy-donor dollars.

The law requires super PACs to be independent of candidates, and the Supreme Court has said the reason super PACs can accept unlimited money from wealthy individuals is because they are independent. Without that independence, making a large contribution to a super PAC is the same as making a contribution to the candidate, and carries with it the same dangers of buying influence and access. It falls to the FEC to ensure that independence.

But there is clear evidence that both presidential candidates are openly coordinating with super PACs, in violation of the law, relying on the fact that the FEC is mired in dysfunction and is unlikely to take action to enforce campaign finance laws on the books.

The public deserves to know, now more than ever, why we can trust these candidates to address the outsized role of money in our political system. What, specifically, are Clinton and Trump going to do to fix the broken campaign finance system they are currently exploiting? Passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC is a lofty and ambitious vision, but we must demand more specific answers from these candidates about what they can do right now to ensure our current campaign finance laws are followed.

The next president will have a variety of tools at his/her disposal to address our out-of- balance political system. For example, the next president can prioritize legislation to promote disclosure, sign an executive order to ensure government contractors disclose political spending and appoint new commissioners to the FEC.

The presidential debate season should be the time for voters to hear how candidates plan to make democracy work for more Americans. Where do these candidates stand on candidates working with their so-called “independent” super PACs which raise and spend contributions that are illegal for the campaign to raise and spend? Will they make the passage of laws to increase transparency, enact citizen funded elections and establish reasonable contribution limits to curtail special interest influence a priority for their administration? Will a President Trump or a President Clinton appoint commissioners to the FEC who will actually enforce the law? Will a President Trump or a President Clinton support overhauling the agency?

It is critical that voters understand how our two major presidential candidates plan to ensure that every citizen is able to fully participate in our democracy.

Thank you,
The Campaign Legal Center

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter