Reduce Money’s Influence
Require dark money groups to meet the same disclosure standards as political action committees.
There are a number of wealthy, influential special interest groups in Texas who are able to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections without having to disclose their donors to voters.
Yet, everyone has a right to know who is trying to influence our views and our representatives.
Through a number of Supreme Court decisions and loopholes in campaign finance laws, some nonprofit organizations and corporations have found ways to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections without the public knowing who is behind the spending.
There are few disclosure requirements for many of these organizations. By enacting strong transparency rules for organizations that can now spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, voters would have a chance to see who is behind the TV commercials and online ads that are not directly affiliated with a candidate’s campaign. The Supreme Court has long upheld laws requiring transparency in political spending despite other rulings that have undermined various other campaign finance laws.
Transparency is key to an informed citizenry. Without strong money in politics disclosure laws, voters are denied their right to know who is trying to influence their votes.
Disclosure is a common sense, bipartisan solution that stops backroom deals and ensures everyone knows when money is changing hands.
Pass campaign finance reforms that would empower small donors and give everyone a more equal voice.
Public policy bends in the direction of donors and under our current system, candidates for public office have to spend far too much time raising money and listening to the wants of big money donors, instead of talking with constituents and voters.
We should establish a voluntary campaign finance system that amplifies small donations to candidates for state offices with matching funds, provided that participating candidates agree to lower contribution limits.
What if people like us could get elected? Regular people—and not just those connected to the wealthy donor class—would have a chance to run and win.
Citizen funded elections help break down barriers to participating in our democracy, creating a government that looks more like us and works better for us:
- More ordinary people are able to run for public office;
- Candidates spend more time listening to and meeting with their constituents, instead of consistently focusing on raising big money from just a handful of donors;
- Elected officeholders are reflective of the community at large and share similar values and experiences with voters;
- Elected officials are less indebted to a narrow set of big money funders, and are more accountable to all voters;
- Policies and laws are more responsive to public needs and less skewed by wealthy special interests.
Expand Voting Rights & Election Integrity
Allow Texans to register to vote online.
Texas is one of the few states left in the country that has still not joined the modern age and adopted online voter registration.
This commonsense policy would:
- Cut wasteful spending and save taxpayer money;
- Make voter lists more accurate;
- Make our registration system more safe and secure.
A vast coalition of legislators, election administrators, local officials and nonpartisan experts have endorsed the concept of online voter registration for Texas.
Adopt voting machine standards that include voter-verifiable paper receipts and post-election audits.
We have not adequately invested to improve the resilience of our election systems by replacing unverifiable voting machines, improving cybersecurity of election officials’ systems, and promoting audit methods that can confirm outcomes.
We must safeguard elections from cyberattack by requiring voting machine to have voter verifiable paper auditable receipts and mandate risk limiting post-election audits.
The integrity of our voting system is important for all of us. It’s one of the foundational principles of our democracy — our votes should count, and our elections should be fair.
But our election infrastructure remains vulnerable. Outdated voting systems must be replaced. Voters must be able to mark paper ballots which they can verify — and which can serve as a backup. Election results must be audited to establish high confidence that the outcome is correct. Our democracy depends on it.
We deserve to be confident that our election results are accurate and protected from sophisticated cyber attacks. We must ensure the fairness, accuracy, and security that befits the greatest democracy in the world.
The most effective solutions are simple and common sense: machines in every county that produce paper receipts, a mandatory audit of these receipts to confirm election results, paper back-ups of our voter registration databases, and improved cybersecurity resources for local election officials.
Protecting our democracy is not a partisan issue — when a foreign government or a foreign entity tries to influence our elections, it weakens all of our votes and voices. The American people deserve answers and real solutions to secure our elections moving forward.
Mandate that the Secretary of State publish a list, available online, naming which high schools are and are not complying with the mandate that they offer voter registration forms to eligible students at least twice each school year.
Texas high schools are required by law to offer voter registration forms to eligible students at least twice a year but only 34% of schools were complying with this law as of February.
Our schools have a duty to help young people prepare for the future, and that includes teaching them how to participate in our democracy. There are a number of things that state can do to make sure school administrators are aware of this law and make it easy for them to comply with it, including:
- The Secretary of State could implement additional outreach methods to make sure schools understand their legal requirements,
- voter registration forms could be affirmatively mailed to schools rather than waiting for schools to request forms,
- a specialized form could be created just for high schools so that it would easier to track compliance,
And we could increase transparency and accountability by mandating that the Secretary of State publish a list, available online, naming which high schools are and are not complying with the mandate that they offer voter registration forms to eligible students at least twice each school year.
Create Ethical & Open Government
Support reforms that would strengthen disclosure requirements of the Texas Public Information Act.
For more than 40 years, Texas’ open records law was one of the nation’s strongest but two state Supreme Court decisions in 2015 put many government records off limits to citizens.
The Texas Public Information Act, originating during a time of scandal in the early 1970s, presumes all government records are available to citizens, unless there’s a specific exception preventing release of the document.
The so-called Boeing ruling allows all sorts of contracts the government holds with private businesses to be sealed from public view. The government or the private entity simply must claim a record’s release would lead to a competitive disadvantage – not a decisive disadvantage, but any disadvantage.
Do you want to see your school district’s bus or food service contracts so that you know whether your taxpayer money is being well spent? Good luck. Already, some of those basic documents have been ruled unobtainable. The same has happened to requestors seeking taxi and ride-sharing company filings with the government. Small business owners who want to view the winning contracts awarded by a local community college also have been thwarted.
Last session, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, worked together on the bipartisan issue of protecting the public’s right to know and each filed bills to reconstruct what the Texas Supreme Court dismantled. We plan to help get those bills passed in the 2019 legislative session.
Require personal financial statements to be posted online.
Personal financial statements can offer clues to the financial interests of local officials and improve government transparency — that is, if more residents had a clue about how to find them.
The little-known and rarely accessed statements contain potentially valuable disclosures from select public officials about their own property holdings, stocks and bonds, outside business interests or employment, even gifts granted to them during their public service.
But an investigation by the Denton Record-Chronicle found that efforts to make the information public have fallen short, in part because the documents are hard to find, the rules governing them are complicated and the disclosures are hard to interpret.
The filing form itself, promulgated by the commission, can reach 16 pages, or longer, yet it allows officeholders to provide vague answers that are difficult to interpret.
For example, many elected officials, including county officials who are paid a salary, maintain outside employment and business interests. Those declarations can be sprinkled through several different parts of the form. Interests in oil and gas development, for example, could be found in several different areas of the personal financial statement, depending on whether the official holds stock in an energy company, has mineral rights in a piece of property or owns interest in a limited liability corporation exploring for oil and gas. But none of those declarations allows a voter to easily determine whether that financial stake represents a major investment or results in significant income.
Require presidential candidates to submit tax returns in order to qualify for ballot access.
President Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns — which leaves critical questions unanswered about his potential conflicts of interest and ties to Russia, among other issues.
We must require presidential candidates to publicly release their full tax returns for the three most recent taxable years to qualify for the Texas ballot.
The American people deserve answers about the business dealings and assets of those who seek to lead us.
Donald Trump broke with decades of bipartisan precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during his presidential run (and refusing to place his assets in a blind trust after winning). And there are already plenty of examples of him and his family personally profiting from the presidency.
If we let Trump — or any other candidate — conceal his tax returns, Americans will be completely in the dark about their potential conflicts of interest and ties — or whether they paid taxes at all.
We deserve to know the President’s background, experience, and business interests. The President conducts the people’s business from the highest office in the land — so we deserve to see how they have conducted his private business too.
Ensure Fair Districts & Reflective Democracy
Create an independent commission to draw all legislative and congressional districts.
When politicians control the redistricting process, they manipulate districts to keep themselves and their party in power.
Setting up independent redistricting commissions will allow voters to choose their elected officials, instead of politicians choosing their voters
We must end gerrymandering and enact Fair Maps so that all of our votes count.
In America, elections are supposed to represent the will of the people, not politicians. But partisan politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves and their party in power. We need to reform the rules and make the process of drawing districts impartial, so that our government is of, by, and for the people.
Democracy requires empowering voters to hold their elected officials accountable on Election Day. We must end gerrymandering to create a democracy where everyone’s voice is heard.
Letting politicians manipulate voting maps is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Politicians in power shouldn’t be allowed to draw voting maps that benefit themselves.
We have a proven solution: independent, impartial, and nonpartisan citizen-led redistricting commissions. States like California and Arizona have shown that these types of commissions work and create a fair system so redistricting is designed to give our communities a voice and not to protect politicians from voters.
By taking the power to draw district maps away from gerrymandering politicians, and giving it to We The People, we can ensure that everyone is heard in our democracy, and that our process is fair and transparent.
Require a super-majority vote in the legislature to adopt any redistricting plan.
Gerrymandering has been a huge problem in Texas for decades – regardless of which party was in control.
The problem of extreme gerrymandering exists almost exclusively when one party has control of all of the levers of power.
We can break that up by requiring a supermajority, which will go a long way towards creating fairer maps.