What We Do

"Wealth Primary"

US elections are now subject to a de facto "wealth primary" that effectively excludes nonwealthy voters and candidates from meaningful participation in the political process. The wealth primary is the process by which the person who collects the most money — the "winner" of the wealth primary" — almost always goes on to capture his or her party's nomination. It also means that those campaign contributors with the most money or access to money, choose the candidate who almost invariably goes on to win. Candidates who cannot compete in the wealth primary stand little or no chance of competing in the formal state-run elections. While all US citizens nominally enjoy the right to stand for elective office, exponential increases in the cost of running for office now ensure that low income citizens cannot mount viable campaigns on their own behalf, nor can they identify candidates reflective of their own backgrounds on the ballot. Those who cannot compete in the wealth primary cannot find representation in government.

Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights, 1965
The Facts: Our Money-Driven Elections

Our current system of financing electoral campaigns now stands where the poll tax and the high candidate filing fee systems once stood.

The facts speak for themselves:

There are moments in our nation's history when a tradition once thought of as constitutional becomes constitutional no more. The history of the right to vote in this country includes, in fact, a series of such moments. Once held only by white male property owners, the right to vote has been expanded continuously as disenfranchised peoples have organized and struggled for an America that lives up to its legal and moral promise of political equality. Over time, the nation has seen the elimination of numerous barriers to voting rights — from property, race, gender, and age qualifications to exclusionary white primaries, poll taxes, high candidate filing fees, and vote dilution schemes.

Today, we must face up to the newest voting-rights barrier: the "wealth primary." Those who do not raise enough money — that is, who lose the wealth primary — rarely appear on the ballot, much less win office. The rest of us, the vast majority of American people, are shut out of a critical part of our election process. Our right to vote, including our right to equal and meaningful participation, is debased and undermined. Like the poll taxes of the past, our campaign finance system has been assumed to be constitutional. Legislators, citizens, and ultimately the courts must recognize the reality of our degraded electoral system, must acknowledge that it discriminates against those who cannot "pay-to-play", and must admit, at last, that this system is constitutional no more.

For more information on the Wealth Primary: