The greatest benefit of public funding of campaigns comes after Election Day

From a letter to the Washington Post editor:

The Sept. 26 Metro article “Montgomery vote nears on public funding of campaigns” focused on the reelection rates of political incumbents. The real value of public financing becomes apparent after Election Day. Candidates who rely on small donations supplemented by matching funds can make serving the public interest, not the private interests of their major donors, their priority.

Public financing also allows citizens of modest means, lacking connections to big-money interests, to compete effectively in the political arena. A 2008 Congressional Research Service report suggested that small-donor matching-fund programs allow a more diverse range of candidates to seek office.

In Connecticut, Arizona, Maine and everywhere else they’ve been given a fair shot, these systems have stimulated citizen involvement in government and proved to be worth their modest cost. They won’t solve every problem with our politics — we also need stronger campaign finance disclosure laws and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, among other reforms — but they’re an important, necessary step. Montgomery County should lead Maryland in taking it.