In a post-Citizens United age, when corporations and interest groups can spend whatever they like to influence our elections, it’s more important than ever that we make sure that every American can be heard. Public financing for local elections advances that goal and promotes government that is more responsive and safeguarded from corruption and special interests.
California’s SB 1107, passed last year to strengthen the state’s Political Reform Act, allows municipalities to implement public financing systems. It’s currently being challenged in Sacramento Superior Court.
California Common Cause, along with the California League of Women Voters and the California Clean Money Campaign, filed a friend of the court brief with coalition partners this week to encourage the court to uphold SB 1107. The brief notes that the bill does not force localities to implement publicly financed campaigns, but allows them to participate if they choose. Courts across the nation have reinforced the arguments in the brief, concluding repeatedly that public financing can make for more competitive elections.
Public financing of local elections encourages candidates to solicit small dollar donors and therefore increases their importance. This can not only diversify the donor base, it makes candidates more responsive to people who might have otherwise been ignored. Wealthy donors often have a disproportionate influence on elections, and SB 1107 could combat that influence on a local level. Publicly financed campaigns also create a more level playing field, allowing newcomers to gain back some of the advantage typically held by incumbents.
Unlimited contributions pin candidates to large dollar donors with special interests, reducing their attention from more substantive issues. In localities that choose to opt-in, candidates are more likely to focus on policy issues and engage in voter outreach, rather than spending their time focused on raising money. For incumbents, it could break the vicious cycle of constant fundraising that deters from legislative progress.
SB 1107 encourages more competitive elections. Common Cause is committed to upholding the standards of our democracy and ensuring that every individual can have an equal voice in affecting election outcomes.
Issues: Money in Politics