CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Campaign finance reform is the key to getting more women and minorities into Congress, says Nancy Pelosi.
At a breakfast hosted by Politico, the House Minority Leader bemoaned the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that changed the role of money in politics, paving the way for the prominent role that Super PACs now play in elections.
"I promise you this, and I know it for certain: you lower the role of money in campaigns, you increase the level of civility, and you will elect more women to public office, more minorities, more young people," she said.
"They don't have to build relationships over time; they can just get into the fray," she added. "They can come in much sooner, and I think that's a good thing."
There's plenty of room for growth: currently, women claim 73 of 435 House seats and 17 of 100 seats in the Senate, according to Rutgers University's Center for Women in Politics. There are also 44 African-Americans representatives and zero African-American senators, and two Hispanic senators and 25 Hispanic representatives, according to the National Journal Almanac.
Pelosi's remarks come amid a Democratic convention that has made many pointed appeals to women voters, with a plethora of women speakers addressing issues like abortion and equal pay, as well as high-profile roles for Hispanic leaders. The Republican convention last week in Tampa similarly involved heavy outreach to these groups.
If campaign finance reform efforts fail, said Pelosi, the future would be in the hands of a small group of donors like casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, who have investments in a variety of industries.
"We might as well cancel the election, forget the convention, and just go to the five guys and say, 'Who do you want to be president?'" said Pelosi.
She added that large campaign donations are "suffocating the airwaves, suppressing the vote, and poisoning the debate." That inundation of political messaging, she said, turns voters off and may turn them away from the polls.
"That's a victory for the special interests," said Pelosi.