Local Campaign Finance Reform
One person, one vote: That’s how we’re taught elections in our democracy are supposed to work. Candidates should compete to win our votes by revealing their vision, credentials and capabilities. We, the people then get to decide who should represent us.
Except these days there's another election: Call it the money election. And in the money election, most people don’t have any say at all. Instead, a few super-wealthy individuals and corporations back the candidates they think will raise enough money to run the kind of high-priced campaign it takes to win.
There are concrete steps we can take that will help push back against the tide of big money by strengthening the voices of and increasing participation among everyday Americans.
We can create a system that incentivizes candidates to voluntarily reject large and corporate contributions and instead rely on small contributions to fund their campaigns. Such a system serves the dual purpose of getting big and corporate money out of the process while bringing more people in to the democratic process. Due to the current political gridlock in Congress, more and more communities are taking matters into their own hands and taking on big money in politics at the local and state levels.
The Fair Elections Act of 2017 is a small donor empowerment program providing limited public matching funds at a 5:1 ratio to candidates who agree not to accept contributions over $100. This system would put voters back in the driver’s seat of our elections by allowing candidates relying on small donors to compete with big money candidates. Instead of dialing for dollars in search of the biggest checks, candidates could fund their campaigns by appealing to everyday constituents.
Where We Stand
We support improving methods of financing political campaigns to ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process.
The DC Fair Elections Coalition
We are a member of the DC Fair Elections Coalition - a group of organizations from the environmental, labor, economic justice, social justice, faith, and good government movements. The mission is to pass meaningful campaign finance reform in D.C. to empower everyday residents and make sure every voice is heard in our democracy.
Where We Are Now
To fight the influence of big money, empower everyday D.C. residents, and make sure every voter’s voice matters in our elections, a new bill introduced to DC Council that creates a small donor campaign financing program in the District of Columbia that matches small contributions with limited public funds to candidates who voluntarily forgo large and corporate contributions.
The Fair Elections Act of 2017, B22-0192, was co-introduced by Councilmembers Grosso, Cheh, Silverman, Allen, R. White, Nadeau, McDuffie, T. White, and Chairman Mendelson, and co-sponsored by Councilmember Anita Bonds on March 21, 2017. A public hearing of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety is scheduled on June 29, 2017.
About the Bill
What's in the bill? Here's a brief outline about the bill:
- Would cover the offices of Mayor, City Council, and Attorney General.
- Participating candidates qualify for the program by collecting a certain number of contributions of $100 or less from DC residents.
- The program provides a base grant to qualifying candidates and a 5:1 public match on all subsequent eligible contributions.
- Participating candidates cannot accept contributions larger than $100 and cannot coordinate with independent expenditure committees.
- The total amount of matching funds a candidate can receive is capped based on the average cost of recent winning campaigns for that office.
Get Involved and Take Action
Add your voice to the issue!
- Urge your council members to call for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The bill already has strong support in the Council and stands a real chance of passing this spring, but first it needs to make it through the Judiciary Committee. And to do that, we need a hearing on the bill.
- Ask your ANC or civic organziation to support the bill. ANCs 2A, 3E, 3F, 3/4G, 4D, 5D have already passed a resolution, but we still need folks to reach out to the Civic Associations in many of these areas.
- League of Women Voter's Issue Paper: Money in Politics, Action in the States, 2015.
- McElwee, Sean (June 23, 2016) DC's White Donor Class: Outsized Influence in a Diverse City, Demos.
- Kurzius, Rachel (May 26, 2016) Report: Majority Of D.C. Election Funds Didn't Come From Residents, DCist.
- Madden, Patrick (2014) The Cost of D.C. Council’s Power Over Contracts, WAMU.