Our Power, Our Democracy: Combating Money in Politics in the United States

Our Power, Our Democracy: Combating Money in Politics in the United States - Proteus Fund

With Democracy in America at a crossroads and the concentration of power in the hands of a privileged few, there is an alarming trend of disillusionment with a large majority of voters believing the government serves the powerful elites rather than ordinary people.

Reducing the influence of money in politics has emerged as a top priority – resonating across the political spectrum. Remarkably, a PEW Research poll ranked it third on the list of policy priorities, highlighting its significance as a structural reform issue.

While the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision fourteen years ago has significantly limited our ability to restrict dark money, public financing remains one of the most powerful tools to mitigate the influence of large mega-donors. This time-tested policy (whether through democracy dollars or matching programs) has proven effective in increasing political participation and fostering more competitive races, resulting in more representative bodies of government. By boosting engagement with voters, public financing lays the groundwork for a more inclusive and responsive democracy.

That is why there has been growing momentum for reform across the nation with advocates and organizations experimenting with a variety of strategies – from California to Pennsylvania, New Mexico to Minnesota.

Last year, Piper Fund hosted a national convening “Our Power, Our Democracy” to hear more about the unique work and understand frontline needs throughout the country. During our time together, we were in community with over 70 advocates and organizations from across 17 states who shared stories of success and lessons learned as we look ahead at this critical year (and years) to come.

Takeaways from the Field:

During our time together, there was a consistent recognition that the money in politics space offers hope. To fulfill the promise of our democracy, we must not only play defense but provide space and funding for the critical work of strengthening and transforming democracy.

The following recommendations provide a clear pathway for organizers in this space and also how we, as funders, can better support the efforts happening on the ground.

Money Intersects with All Issues:

Money in politics underlies most issues that people care about. To effectively engage the public, advocates must frame their campaigns in the context of these broader issues, meeting people where they are and addressing their immediate concerns. By acknowledging and addressing the real-life experiences of individuals, advocates can mobilize support and push for systemic change that aligns with people’s interests.

Stories from the Field: Hear more from Oakland Rising on their work to connect the dots between the issues being blocked and the flood of big money. Watch the Video →

Early Funding for Success:

Investments made during the early stages of campaigns are crucial for setting advocates up for success. Early funding during incubation and planning phases not only influences the types of relationships formed with stakeholders but also enhances the capacity of coalitions to front-load their efforts. Recognizing the significance of early funding underscores the importance of strategic planning and resource allocation in advancing reform agendas.

Stories from the Field: Hear from Washington Bus on the leading work happening in Seattle and the emerging coalition’s efforts to renew and expand public financing. Watch the Video.→

Fighting money in politics is a marathon, not a sprint. Every win, regardless of size, contributes to the broader goal of structural change in our democracy. This necessitates a holistic and long-term approach to organizing and advocacy, one that transcends short-term cycles and invests in the infrastructure needed to support organizations from policy incubation to implementation.

Stories from the Field:
Hear more from Citizen Action New York about their work to successfully pass statewide public financing and continue to defend these efforts for successful implementation this year. Watch the Video.→

There are deep demands for our attention to defend democracy. However, if we are to build toward a vision of a multi-racial, inclusive democracy, we have to make room for proactive reform efforts. Advocates understand that true democratic renewal requires bold policy reforms that dismantle structural barriers to participation and empower communities to wield lasting influence.


To learn more about the work following the convening, please contact Money in Politics Program Officer Tiffany Mendoza.

Piper Fund hosted the national convening Our Power, Our Democracy in Seattle with over 70 grantees and partners from 17 states. We heard from grantees the clear value of investing in a longer framework for organizing toward and winning public financing solutions.