Now that Pete Buttigieg has effectively torpedoed his own candidacy after a stunning ascent through the polls by offering an answer to a question about the measles epidemic that sounded suspiciously similar to something an anti-vaxxer would say, other oft-ignored Democratic candidates are apparently seeing an opening, and are trying to force their way back into the headlines with outlandish policy proposals like this one.
NBC News reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled a plan on Wednesday to give every voter up to $600 in what she's calling "Democracy Dollars" which they can donate to candidates for federal office.
Apparently, with Wall Street and the Health-care industry up in arms about the Democratic field's shift to the left, Gillibrand is trying to chart a policy path that still involves wasting hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal budget without upsetting any of the special interests that have backstopped the Democratic Party for years.
In terms of policy, supporting "clean elections" is more than a little passe: It got a lot of attention in the aftermath of "Citizens United" ten years ago, but it hasn't really been a priority of any agenda in the years since.
Unsurprisingly, Gillibrand is trying to spin this as a stepping stone toward enacting other progressive policies like "M4A" or better public schools. Because in order to win the Democratic Primary, a candidate will need to offer at least some sops to the left. But if her aim is to curb the influence of big money in politics, well...she might already be a little late.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News to discuss the roll out of her first major 2020 policy initiative, Gillibrand said her "Clean Elections Plan" would help reduce the influence of big money in politics.
"If you want to accomplish anything that the American people want us to accomplish - whether it's healthcare as a right, better public schools, better economy - you have to take on the greed and corruption that determine everything in Washington," she said.
Under Gillibrand's plan, every eligible voter could register for vouchers to donate up to $100 in a primary election and $100 in a general election each cycle, either all at once or in $10 increments to one or more candidates over time. Each participant would get a separate $200 pool for House, Senate and presidential contests for a total maximum donation of $600 for those federal offices.
There would be strings attached for both donors and candidates. The money could go only to elections in the donor's state, although they could be used for House candidates outside the voter's district.
In order to break the grip of big money donors, Gilibrand would require any participating candidates to forswear donations larger than $200 per donor.
Politicians would face much tighter limits on donations. To be eligible to receive "Democracy Dollars," a candidate would have to voluntarily agree to forgo any contributions larger than $200 per donor. That’s a big drop from the current maximum of $2,800 per primary cycle and $2,800 for the general election.
Gillibrand predicted candidates would opt into the voucher system "because the potential of how much you could raise in this system is exponentially higher."
She envisioned a system in which campaigns adjusted their strategies to win donations from local voting blocs that would otherwise go overlooked from a fundraising standpoint.
"They would campaign in all communities," she said. "They would be going to low-income communities, they would be going to rural communities, they would be asking people to support them not only with a vote, but with (financial) support for their campaign."
What's next? Opening a farm-to-table-restaurant in every poor community to fight poor nutrition.