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Major Democratic donors press Congress for campaign finance reform

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A group of Democratic donors asked lawmakers in a letter to create a system to publicly fund U.S. elections to rein in outside influence.

Among the 60 signatories were major Democratic bundler Naomi Aberly, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, tech mogul David DesJardins, businessman Arnold Hiatt and Jonathan Soros, head of JS Capital Management, the Hill reported Friday. The Hill received a copy of the letter.

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"We who sign this letter raise and give substantial sums for elections. The influence that people like us have will be curtailed by the changes we seek, but our democracy must return to the First Amendment principle that all Americans, not just the wealthy, must have their voices heard," the signatories said in the letter, organized by progressive groups Public Campaign Action Fund, Voices for Progress and Friends of Democracy.

The donors who signed the letter have contributed about $12.4 million to federal candidates, political action committees and party committees, Public Campaign data indicated.

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"Anyone that's been through a lot of campaigns says that too much time is being spent with our elected representatives raising money," said Alan Patricof, founder of private equity firm Apax Partners, who signed the letter. "I'd rather have them tending to the people's business."

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Congressional Democrats introduced a public financing bill this week.

Sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., the Government by the People Act would use public money to match donations of less than $150 to congressional candidates at a 6-to-1 ratio. If candidates agree to accept only small donations, the match would increase to 9 to 1.

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Sarbanes told the Hill congressional Republicans, who control the House, haven't expressed much interest. His proposal does not affect Senate elections.

"I think we can build something that will be bipartisan over time," Sarbanes said. "It may not pass in this Congress; I'm not that naive. But when the window presents, we'll have a very strong coalition and strong momentum behind this. I think it can be successful."

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