Sarbanes said he doesn't expect the bill, which has 38 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, to get much traction until after the election. But he's hoping it will attract some interest after November.
"The average member of Congress is now spending 30 to 70 percent of their time fundraising," Sarbanes said, noting that time leaves representatives "highly distracted" from the job they were sent to Washington to do.
A representative from Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes campaign finance reform in the interest of eliminating undue influence of big money in American politics, was not immediately available for comment, but the group endorsed a similar campaign finance bill, of which Sarbanes is a co-sponsor.
Like Sarbanes' Grassroots Democracy Act, the Empowering Citizens Act, introduced Sept. 20 by U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen, a Kensington Democrat, and David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, would creating a matching fund system for candidates raising money through small, grassroots donations.
"By empowering small donors, the act will dilute the role and importance of influence-seeking money, reduce the opportunities for government corruption and provide candidates with an alternative way to finance their campaigns without having to sell their souls to their funders," Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said in a statement.
However, the outlook for either bill in the Republican-controlled House does not look good.
Sarbanes's bill has a 3 percent chance of being enacted (Van Hollen's and Price's bill has a 0 percent chance), according to GovTrack.us, a legislative tracking tool operated by Civic Impulse LLC, a Washington-based organization that build tools to foster civic participation, education and government transparency.
Still, Sarbanes remains hopeful.
"We can continue to have a system where campaigns are underwritten by the special interests and the big money," Sarbanes said. "And when it comes time to make policy, that's where we'll turn."
Or, he said, politicians can restore power to their constituents and allow the community to have the influence.
"All I'm saying is why not," Sarbanes said. "Why not create an option, so if I want to try to do it a different way, there's a way to do it."