Baltimore City Mayor Pugh Signs Fair Election Fund Charter Amendment
Voters Will Decide if City Moves Forward with Small Donor Public Financing
Baltimore, MD, July 30, 2018 – Mayor Catherine Pugh today signed Council Bill 18-0229, a charter amendment to establish the Fair Elections Fund and Citizen Commission. If approved by Baltimore voters this November, Baltimore City would join Montgomery and Howard Counties in creating a new way to fund elections. It would allow Maryland candidates to compete on the power of their ideas instead of the size of wealthy supporters’ bank accounts.
The Fair Elections Baltimore coalition applauded Mayor Pugh, Sponsor Councilmember Burnett and the full council for their support of the program.
“Baltimoreans deserve to have their voices heard in City elections,” said Damon Effingham, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “For the past three cycles, we’ve seen City elections become more and more expensive. We’ve seen more and more influence from Super PACs and corporate interests. We thank the Council and Mayor Pugh for recognizing this unfairness and efforts to focus on Baltimoreans and their concerns.”
“The days of big money politics in Baltimore are coming to an end,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “Thanks to Mayor Pugh, Baltimoreans can vote for the Fair Elections Fund this November and start building a democracy that works for us, not special interests.”
“Mayor Pugh’s actions today show that she understands that working families in Baltimore City deserve to have their voices heard,” said Maryland Working Families Acting Executive Director Jay Hutchins. “This effort will help empower voters, strengthen local democracy, allow candidates and elected officials to spend more time with their constituents, and rein in the influence of big money in our elections.”
“Baltimoreans want access to clean water and healthy air,” said Clean Water Action Maryland Program Coordinator Emily Ranson. “With the Fair Elections Fund, we can ensure candidates for city government can run campaigns without pressure to accept donations from polluting industries or corporations that value profit over protecting public health.”
The charter amendment was sponsored by Councilman Kristerfer Burnett and passed unanimously by the City Council. The Charter Amendment establishes the Fair Elections Fund and an independent commission to identify sources of revenue for the fund. If passed by voters, the City Council would need to finalize details of the program to provide limited matching funds for qualifying candidates who don’t accept large donations or special interest money. This would enable candidates without access to wealth to run for office and reduce the influence of large and corporate donors in the electoral process.
The Fair Elections program is expected to be ready for the 2024 elections and function in a way that’s similar to programs in Montgomery and Howard counties: participating candidates for City Council, City Comptroller and Mayor who reject all large (greater than $150 in Montgomery County) and special interest dollars and meet qualifying thresholds would be eligible for limited matching funds. That means no PAC, union or corporate donations are allowed. The matching funds amplify the power of regular Baltimoreans’ donations, while reducing the influence of developers, corporations and other wealthy interests that have previously wielded outsized influence in Baltimore city.