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BK Blog Post
Posted by Jeffrey Clements.
Jeffrey Clements is a cofounder and general counsel of Free Speech for People, a national, nonpartisan campaign to oppose corporate personhood and pass the People’s Rights Amendment.
Democracy works best when our representatives are focused on their constituents, rather than dialing for dollars from large donors or courting the favor of special interests. In the District of Columbia, candidates for office too often must depend on wealthy donors who can give far more than the average D.C. resident can afford.
The undemocratic role of big money is especially exclusionary for people of color, who are severely underrepresented in the “donor class.” We know that in the current campaign finance system, wealthy donors making large campaign contributions can drown out the voices of everyday D.C. residents. There are solutions available that advance racial equality in our democracy and promote government of, by, and for the people.
Campaign finance programs that empower small donors would fight the influence of big money, empower everyday D.C. residents, make sure every voter’s voice matters in our elections and promote racial justice. Small donor empowerment programs provide public matching funds to campaigns for small contributions, allowing candidates that focus on seeking the broad support of the public to compete with candidates who rely on a narrow set of large donors. In exchange for receiving matching funds, candidates must forgo large contributions, and turn down money from special interests.
The track record of small donor systems is impressive. In New York City, where small contributions are matched at a six-to-one ratio, small donors of all means have played an increasingly meaningful role in funding campaigns. For example, in the 2013 city council race, participating City Council candidates got 61% of their contributions from small donations and matching funds. That year, 92 percent of candidates running in the primary participated. Neighboring Montgomery County Maryland adopted a similar program in 2014 and small donor programs are being considered by localities across the country.
Below is a summary of the key policy components of a small donor system for D.C. that would cover the offices of Mayor, Council, and Attorney General. It is based on legislation introduced by D.C. councilmembers David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie, model federal legislation, and similar policies from other localities.
Match small contributions with limited public matching funds to amplify the voices of small donors:
Candidates that choose to participate in the program must forgo large contributions and all special interest contributions:
Candidates must demonstrate a robust level of public support to qualify for matching funds:
A small donor matching program requires effective oversight and a stable source of funding:
The post Towards a Small Donor Democracy in the District of Columbia appeared first on Free Speech for People.