Testimony to DNC Platform Committee

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Testimony of Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative before the Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee


Members of the Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee, thank you for allowing me to speak on behalf of the Democracy Initiative and our 30 million members of groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers, Common Cause, NAACP and the AFL-CIO.

Our democracy is under siege. The political system is overwhelmed by wealthy donors and corporate money. And the fundamental democratic value of “one person, one vote” is under attack in states across the country.

The 59 organizations that have united under the Democracy Initiative – representing civil rights, labor, voting rights, environmental, democracy and other like-minded organizations - bring together voices who know that we must break free from our individual issue silos to build a movement sufficiently powerful to create the long-term change our democracy requires and constituents demand.

Combining the power of organizations that work on money in politics with those that focus on voting rights, and linking these issues together, boosts the prospects for winning on both. To not do so would be the equivalent of tying one hand behind our backs. We collectively understand that achieving success in civil rights, climate change, women’s rights and worker’s rights, racial and economic inequality – the very same issues  that will be reflected in the platform of this party and positions on which candidates run – all are inextricably linked to the victories on these core issues of our democracy. We are calling for an end to the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, preventing the systemic manipulation and suppression of voters, and addressing other barriers to significant reform, like the Senate filibuster rules, which the nation witnessed play a key role in our democratic process just this week.

There are two obvious truths about the increased threats to the fundamental principles of political equality in our country – the rise in systemic voter suppression and disenfranchisement and massive influx of big money in American politics.

While there is no one silver bullet to reinvigorate our democracy, we all know well that there are a suite of comprehensive reforms and fixes that would breath life back into our democracy and none of them works alone. Many have come before me and will come after to talk about the specific policies we must include in the platform. But highlights include:

  • We need strong disclosure laws so that those receiving government contracts cannot secretly funnel money to elect and re-elect the very law makers that grant the contracts; 
  • We need both voter modernization which enfranchises eligible Americans, to adopt automatic voter registration in all 50 states and to implement the recommendations of the bipartisan presidential commission to make registering to vote simple and easy;
  • We need citizen-funded elections which allow people without access to big money to run successfully and greatly enhances the impact of small donors in our elections;
  • We need to pass the Democracy for All amendment to overturn Citizens United;  
  • And, we need to restore the Voting Rights Act.

Let me add this critical point – the next President of the United States must have the political will. The political will to use his or her political capital to join with us and mobilize millions of Americans into a powerful movement that will force action on money in politics and voting rights reforms in Congress, in our state legislatures, and in our city councils.

We need a pro-people, pro-community platform from both political parties. We applaud your recognition of the problem. But what we truly need is action that demonstrates that fixing our threatened democracy is a top priority and that priority will be reflected in the choices you make as to where to invest resources.

We all know the problem. We all know the solutions. We know that a broad political force is building to create change. Actions have been taken in Oregon, West VA, on automatic voter registration, or public financing in Seattle, Maine or Montgomery County Maryland.  And, we are committed to building on that change.  What we – the American people – need now is a major commitment of the next President and the Democratic Party leadership to invest the political will and resources necessary to win..... And, to make clear that the President and elected officials, supported by the party and accountable to the voters, will not rest until that is accomplished.