Political Editors / May 3, 2019

Gillibrand Plan: A Voter Slush Fund

The Democrat’s plan to have the wealthy pay toward the campaigns of candidates they may oppose.

Mired in the middle of the pack of 22 Democrat presidential candidates, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently released her new plan to “clean up” elections. Dubbed “Democracy Dollars,” Gillibrand claims her plan would “attack the corrupting influence of money” in elections by making the wealthy shell out money to voters, who would then funnel that money to the candidates of their choice.

As Reason reports, “Gillibrand says she’ll finance her plan by eliminating a tax loophole for CEOs — which, between the various nominees, is starting to sound like a cure-all for society’s ill. Those making more than $1 million or 25 times the median salary of their employees — whichever is less — would finance Democracy Dollars with $60 billion in additional taxes over 10 years, according to Gillibrand’s plan.”

Gillibrand says her inspiration was Seattle’s Democracy Voucher. Seattle’s program allots $100 to every eligible voter to donate to the candidate of their choosing. However, the results of that program had a measly 3.3% participation rate, with incumbents backed by the establishment dominating. In other words, no change to the system.

Furthermore, as Ethan Blevins, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation observed, “When you say that we are going to allow public funds to go to candidates, voters are going to give the vouchers to people they are familiar with, they know, that they are comfortable with, and those are going to tend to be incumbents.” In other words, those who’ve worked to embed themselves within the established system.

Finally, the biggest objection to Gillibrand’s ill-conceived plan is that it steps all over the First Amendment by forcing the wealthy to fund candidates they may object to. So it’s unlikely that this poor policy idea will go anywhere, but it got Gillibrand a few headlines and reminded Democrat voters that she’s still there.

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