We’re fighting to make our democracy more inclusive by empowering voters. By helping to lead the DC Fair Elections coalition, we are working to create a limited public matching funds program for qualified candidates by passing the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.” This voluntary program will strengthen local democracy by allowing candidates and elected officials to spend more time with their constituents, and reign in the influence of big money in our elections by balancing the scales in favor of the people who live and vote here.
The voluntary program we are proposing is a simple and straightforward system – similar to what has already passed in Montgomery County, Howard County and even New York City. Candidates who wish to participate in it agree to only accept small dollar donations in exchange for a five to one match on all eligible contributions and receive a startup grant. This means that a $50 contribution would be matched with $250 for an effective donation of $300, ensuring that candidates who participate in the program are competitive in their races.
The program would not restrict outside campaign activity such as independent expenditures.
How Would Candidates, Voters and Residents Benefit?
Our campaign finance arrangement is out of balance and Fair Elections would correct it by providing a powerful incentive for candidates to fundraise in their communities and to encourage voters to become more involved in elections.
DC’s current donor class is whiter, wealthier, older, and more male than the District’s population. More than 60% of campaign contributions come from either individuals who don’t live in DC, or from corporations and PACs, while only 5% came from voters giving $100 or less.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Fair Elections Act of 2017 would maximize the impact of small dollar donations and free candidates from having to devote their time to seeking large contributions. It would promote a system that better represents the people who live and vote here, especially women and people of color.
Who is Eligible for the Program?
The program would be available to candidates running for Mayor, Attorney General, Council or Board of Education. To qualify, candidates must accept lower campaign contribution limits and collect a minimum number and amount of small contributions depending on the office they are seeking.
The program’s qualifications guarantee that before a candidate receives public funds, they demonstrate grassroots support by making a serious effort to compete.
Who Supports Fair Elections?
A super-majority on the Council introduced the legislation in March of 2017, with nine co-introducers, Councilmembers David Grosso, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Trayon White, with Anita Bonds co-sponsoring the bill.