H.R. 1 is for the politicians, not the people
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This week, Democrats will bring their No. 1 priority piece of legislation to the House floor: H.R. 1, The For The People Act. It’s a bill that lines the pockets of every politician by publicly funding campaigns, federalizes our election system, and restricts your First Amendment right protected by the U.S. Constitution – a strong point of opposition from the ACLU. That’s not a bill for the people, that’s a bill for the politicians.

H.R. 1 creates public subsidies for campaigns through a six-to-one taxpayer match on small-donor campaign contributions of up to $200. For every $200, the federal government will pay $1,200 of taxpayer dollars to a congressional or presidential campaign. Meaning regardless of whether you support my bid for reelection, $1 million in public funds would have been to get me reelected last cycle had H.R. 1 been enacted.

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I’ve spent much of my career working to prevent the blurred line between campaign and official uses of taxpayer dollars by creating transparency around what members of Congress can spend their official allowances on. I now serve as the ranking member on the Committee that works to ensure members of Congress are using their official allowances on official and representational duties only. In 2015, the Committee on House Administration overhauled the rules to limit the use of private planes and prohibited reimbursement of mileage for campaign vehicles. Now, instead of getting money out of politics, the Democrats on this committee voted to pass a bill that will publicly fund – campaign travel, campaign dinners, and in some cases, the politicians themselves.

While there is no doubt our campaign finance laws need reviewal, creating taxpayer subsidies to fund campaigns is not the way to go about it. I support exposing dark money in politics. If your campaign is largely financed by people outside of your district, I believe voters deserve to know. I offered an amendment during our committee markup of H.R. 1 to ensure more accountability and transparency for the largest, most common amount of out-of-district donations aggregating in large sums. It was voted down by the Democrats on the committee. In fact, not one of the 28 amendments our committee Republicans offered was accepted by the Democratic majority. Campaign finance reform should not be partisan.

Another reason this bill is for the politicians and not the people is it violates Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution by impeding states’ constitutionally mandated right to decide how their elections should be administered. States know their residents’ election needs much better than a federal bureaucracy does. Instead of trying to deal with voting issues on a case-by-case basis and working with localities and states, H.R. 1 is a federal takeover of our election process. It’s a takeover without any safeguards against irregularities within our voting system.

Violating your First Amendment rights isn’t “for the people.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization typically in support of the policies advanced by the Democratic Party, opposes this bill because of the many provisions in H.R. 1 that would “unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations. They will have the effect of harming our public discourse by silencing necessary voices that would otherwise speak out about the public issues of the day.”

This bill is an infringement of states’ rights to administer elections. Unfortunately, H.R. 1 was written without any input from the election officials and administrators who actually have experience running elections and without consultation with Republicans. 

We are failing the people if we don’t do our due diligence to ensure H.R. 1 will protect each American’s vote. This bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Democrats should start over and work in a bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that is truly for the people, not the politicians. Every American deserves their vote to be counted and protected.

Davis represents the 13th District of Illinois and is ranking member of the Committee on House Administration.