State and local governments across the country are leading the way to ensure every voice is heard in the political process. Nearly 30 jurisdictions since 2016 – from Albuquerque, New Mexico to New Haven, Connecticut – have passed innovative public financing programs intended to give candidates an incentive to reach out to a greater share of prospective voters beyond the traditional donor class.
Campaign Legal Center advised the D.C. Fair Elections coalition in advancing citizen-funding elections in the nation’s capital with the Fair Elections Act, which was signed into law in March 2018. CLC testified in support of the measure before the D.C. Council.
The momentum from these measures stems in large part from the growing resentment from Americans that candidates rely on a tiny segment to bankroll their campaigns, and in turn, curry favor and influence.
According to a recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, even as the total number of Americans donating to presidential and congressional campaigns has risen in recent elections, federal candidates increasingly rely on a tiny segment of the U.S. population to bankroll their campaigns.
D.C.’s Fair Elections Act creates a hybrid system of public financing for district elections in which participating candidates will receive both an initial lump-sum grant of public funds upon qualification and a $5-to-$1 public funds match for small contributions raised from district residents during the campaign. The Act caps the total amount of matching funds available to each participating candidate in an election cycle, and a participating candidate must abide by special fundraising and spending rules throughout the campaign.
The people of D.C. have spoken. Where will citizens take up the cause next?