H.R.1 was passed by the U.S. House on 3/3/2021.  S.1 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on 3/17/2021. S.1 is a shell bill intended to eventually be a copy/paste of H.R.1.
While the Illinois Green Party (ILGP) supports many of the reforms in this bill such as protecting voter rights, expanding voters access to vote for two party tyranny candidates, election integrity and security, ethics for the three branches of government, and independently drawn congressional districts, there are also dangerous undemocratic poison pills that must be removed.
The ILGP insists that the changes to the Matching Funds Public Campaign Finance Program for Presidential and Congressional Candidates section must be removed from the bill because it contains the following poison pills:

Poison Pill #1 – Increases the limit a political party’s campaign committee can contribute to their presidential candidate from $5,000 to 100 million dollars (a 2 million percent increase!)

This democracy killing poison pill increases the amount of private money in politics by allowing influence buying donations to be funneled from big money special interests into national political parties which become super bundlers that could in turn launder up to 100 million dollars in special interest donations to their presidential candidates’ campaigns per cycle.

And it gets much worse. In practice, the two corporate parties each have three campaign committees that contribute to their presidential candidates, so this change would allow each party to actually contribute up to 300 million dollars to each of their presidential candidates.

This poison pill is the most undemocratic attempted change to our representative democracy by the two party tyranny since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010. Citizens United allowed unlimited money to flow to Super PACs which could use that money to influence our elections, but at least the unlimited special interest money cannot flow directly to candidates. This poison pill would open the floodgates for up to 2 million percent (to be precise the exact increase is 1,999,900%) more private money in our elections, funneled through political party campaign committees.

Poison Pill #2 – Quintuples the Amount of Donations a Presidential Candidate must Raise Before they Qualify for Matching Funds

This poison pill quintuples the amount of donations a presidential candidate must raise from at least 20 states from at least $5,000 to $25,000 per state before they qualify for matching funds.

Since two party tyranny candidates each typically raise around a billion dollars in donations, this change effectively does not delay at all when they would qualify for matching funds, if poison pill #3 is not eliminated.

For third party candidates and grassroots candidates within the major parties this poison pill will cause significant delays on the order of weeks or even months before they will qualify for matching funds, if they qualify at all. This will greatly harm alternative candidates’ campaigns.

Poison Pill #3 – Eliminates the Cap on Presidential Donation Matching

In addition to making it harder to qualify for Federal Matching Funds, the ILGP does not support eliminating the current private spending cap, which in 2020 was around $50 million in private spending in the primary.

In recent elections, major party presidential candidates have shirked the Federal Matching Funds system, because it placed a cap on the amount of private money that they could spend in the primary. They chose to not seek matching funds, because accepting the funds limited the amount they could spend on the primaries. Most of the 2020 Democratic field could have qualified for Federal Matching Funds in 2020, as could the Libertarians. The Green Party qualified for and received Federal Matching Funds in 2012 and 2016 and our 2020 candidate qualified and applied for the funds, but as of yet, has not received any money.

This bill also increases the presidential public matching fund ratio from 1-to-1 to 6-to-1. With the lifting of the spending cap already discussed, this has the potential to massively increase payouts from the Matching Funds Program and possibly putting its solvency in jeopardy over the course of a few election cycles with the floodgates now wide open.

Note that due to state election laws passed by the two party tyranny, third parties must run presidential candidates because many states use presidential election results as a path to achieving statewide and federal ballot access.

Poison Pill #4 – Eliminates the General Election Campaign Block Grants

General election block grants provide presidential candidates a set, lump sum of public funding for campaign expenses that political parties can access by winning at least 5% of the vote in the previous presidential election. This provision was created to give a fair shot to alternative political parties that demonstrate significant public support.

This poison pill replaces the general election block grants with extending Federal Matching Funds through Election Day — a huge step backwards for public campaign finance reform — using the criteria described in poison pill #3 designed to squeeze out alternative political parties and independent candidates.

If this bill was law for the 2020 election, the two corporate controlled party candidates would have been eligible for 10.8 billion dollars ($1.8B x 6) in matching public funds most likely resulting in the bankruptcy of the matching fund system, which would not harm the two party tyrants but would leave little or no matching funds for third party candidates that qualify. Even if the matching fund was not bankrupted, it would give the two corporate controlled parties an even greater unfair advantage over the third party candidates regarding campaign financing inequality.

 

Instead of hiding poison pills in this bill in order to try to fool American voters, the Green Party calls for real reforms to democratize elections such as:
  • Equal ballot access for all political parties and independent candidates,
  • Proportional representation via multi-member districts,
  • Ranked Choice Voting,
  • Public only financed elections with all qualifying candidates on the ballot receiving equal funding,
  • Inclusion of all candidates on the ballot in debates and media coverage,
  • Paper ballots and hand counts, and
  • Allowing Election Judges representing all political parties on the ballot (in Illinois the two party tyrants have passed abusively undemocratic laws (10 ILCS 5/13-1, 3rd paragraph) that only allow their party members to be election judges).

In summary the ILGP agrees with 2020 Green Party Presidential Nominee Howie Hawkins’ position to cut the HR1/S1 changes to the matching funds public campaign finance program for presidential and congressional candidates, which contains the above poison pills.

“Progressives should push Congress to cut the matching funds public campaign finance program for presidential and congressional candidates from HR 1 because it does not limit private campaign financing, its 6:1 match increases funding disparities seven times, and it increases qualifying threshold for presidential primary matching funds by five times, which is too high for third-party candidates and many major-party challengers. Progressives should urge Congress to take up campaign finance reform in separate legislation rather than ram this problematic matching funds program through in order to get the other good reforms in HR 1 enacted.”, Howie Hawkins, Green Party 2020 Presidential Nominee.

The Illinois Green Party opposes the For the People Act of 2021 (HR1/S1) unless these poison pills are removed because they open the floodgates even further for private money in our elections, while making it harder for third party, independent, and grassroots major party presidential candidates to receive public funding. We need election reforms and must defend against the Republican attacks against voting rights taking place in many states.  But without the necessary changes, the For the People Act is a Trojan horse for more money in politics.

If the U.S. Senate removes these poison pills, the Illinois Green Party urges the U.S. Senate to pass the For the People Act of 2021 (S1).
Sources:
  1. HR 1’s Campaign Finance Program: A Reform that Doesn’t Reform – Howie Hawkins, 2020 Green Party Presidential Nominee
  2. Stop the poison pills in HR 1 – Green Party of the US
  3. U.S. House Bill H.R.1
  4. U.S. Senate Bill S.1