Where the 2016 candidates stand on money in politics

Where the 2016 candidates stand on money in politics
© Getty Images

Money in politics has become a heated issue the 2016 presidential race, with candidates from both parties at times decrying the state of the campaign finance system. 

Though candidates from both parties are tapping into voter anger, advocates for reform want more than just aggressive rhetoric, particularly from the Republican side.


“Politicians do acknowledge that they feel the same pain voters feel or see the same problems voters see as a way to relate to voters, but they don’t often offer substantive solutions to the issue,” said David Donnelly, president of Every Voice. 

“You see Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job MORE talking about income inequality, but it’s not as if he has a whole set of policies to close the gap between the rich and the poor. On money and politics, you see Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE blasting the Washington cartel and establishment, but his solution is to get rid of all limits to let more money flow into elections.”

Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus — a bipartisan group of former lawmakers pushing for campaign finance reform — says there are several policy proposals the presidential candidates should embrace to limit the influence of money in the political system. 

Their ideas include requiring more transparency and disclosure in political spending, improving enforcement of the law, severing the connection between lobbying and campaigns and overturning Citizens United — the Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on third-party spending on campaigns and candidates.

“It’s not a left issue or right issue. It’s not a blue state issue or a red state issue. It’s an American issue,” said former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), who serves as the caucus’s strategic adviser. “We need to fix our democracy and we can fix it.”

Proponents of campaign finance reform are hopeful that President Obama will help their cause by issuing an executive order before leaving office that forces federal employees to disclose their political spending. Roemer said it would be a “modest first step.” 

In the interim, Every Voice is tracking what the presidential candidates have said on the campaign trail when it comes to money in politics. Here’s a look at where they stand.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (D-Vt.)

Of all the presidential candidates, Sanders has been the most vocal about taking on the “rigged economy” and big-money politics. He has often touted during the race how he does not have a super-PAC, the type of groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money under the Citizens United ruling.

In policy plans on his campaign website, Sanders vows to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their campaign spending; direct financial regulators to issue disclosure rules; appoint Supreme Court justices who will make it a priority to overturn Citizens United; fight for a constitutional amendment that gives Congress and the states clear authority to regulate money in elections; and aggressively enforce campaign finance rules. 

Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE (D)

Like Sanders, Clinton promises to push for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to publicly disclose their political spending; and appoint Supreme Court justices who support campaign finance reform.

But she is also pushing for a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending, and called for a small-donor matching system for presidential and congressional elections to incentivize small donors to participate.

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE (R)

The billionaire businessman does not have a specific policy platform on the issue, but he has repeatedly said that America needs to find a way to keep money out of politics.

Trump, who is mostly self-funding his campaign, has disavowed super-PACs that he claims make candidates beholden to their big-money donors. 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

Kasich has not taken a strong stand on the issue, but has said he would prefer a system where smaller contributions fund a campaign instead of a handful of billionaires.

"I like the idea of smaller contributions. ... It would be much more effective than having to go suck up to billionaires,” he reportedly said in Iowa last month.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz in 2014 introduced legislation to eliminate caps on direct contributions to candidates from individuals and require all donations over $200 to be disclosed within 24 hours. He has coined the term “Washington cartel,” when referring to money in politics, accusing his opponents of being part of the problem.

But Cruz faced a campaign finance controversy of his own earlier this year when New York Times reported that he failed to disclose two bank loans he used to fund his 2012 Senate campaign, a mistake he blamed on a “paperwork error.” 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Campaign finance is not an issue that Marco Rubio has taken a formal position on. In an interview with WMUR “Conversation with the Candidates” in New Hampshire, however, he expressed support for increased disclosure of donations.

“I believe, that as long as it’s being disclosed, the people have a right to participate in our political process, and that includes firms that have an interest, and that includes individuals who have an interest,” he said.                                                 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)

Though his campaign said he’s called for unlimited campaign contributions with full transparency about donations, Bush joined Democrats last week in calling for Citizens United to be overturned.

"I would turn that on its head if I could,” the former Florida governor told CNN.

Dr. Ben Carson (R)

Carson has said little about money in politics during his presidential run. 

During a debate on CNN in September, the former neurosurgeon said he’s in "no way willing to get in bed with special interest groups or lick the boots of billionaires.”

“I have said to the people if they want me to do this, please get involved," he said. "And we now have over 500,000 donations, and the money is coming in, but the pundits forgot about one thing, and that is the people. And they are really in charge."