For Immediate Release
February 5, 2013
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
Councilmember David Grosso Introduces Campaign Public Financing Bill
Washington, D.C. - Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) co-introduced the "Public Financing of Political Campaigns Amendment Act of 2013." The bill would allow candidates to run for office on a blend of small contributions from individuals and limited public funds.
The introduction of the bill followed passage of Grosso's resolution to declare the Sense of the Council that the Citizens United decision was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court of the United States and to call upon Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision that allowed unlimited corporate dollars to flow into elections.
Under the bill, candidates would qualify for public financing by raising contributions of $100 or less from individuals. Candidates would then receive a grant for the primary and general election, and could continue raising unlimited small contributions. Each additional $100 raised would be matched by $400, ensuring that candidates who use the system could compete even against well-financed opponents. States including Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina use similar citizen-funded election systems for at least some of their elections with great success.
"The insidious presence of corporate dollars flowing into our elections has tilted the playing field away from everyday citizens. We have faced this issue here in the District where corporate money has tainted our elections process. On both the national and local level we must empower citizens and engage them in the government. Corporate dollars often corrupt politicians and drown out the electorate. We must have local and national campaign finance reform."
"I am happy to co-introduce this significant bill with Councilmember Grosso," said Councilmember McDuffie. "Public financing is a very important issue that the Committee on Government Operations will explore with public hearings over the coming months."
The full text of Councilmember Grosso's introductory statement follows.
Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Public Financing of Political Campaigns Act of 2013
February 5, 2013
Today, I am introducing the "Public Financing of Political Campaigns Act of 2013." I want to thank Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Chairman of the Government Operations Committee for joining in this introduction.
The intent of this bill is to seek out and to hear all the voices in our democracy, to level the playing field for candidates, and to return the attention of lawmakers to the work at hand as opposed to riding a treadmill of fundraising activity in order to survive in public service. Today, I am asking that the D.C. Council step up like Maine, Connecticut, Arizona and North Carolina and pass a law that embraces citizen funded elections.
Support for candidates in the District of Columbia today generally comes from three sources:
- Friends who know of the candidates qualifications and support their aspirations for democracy and the common good;
- Citizens who have views on governance and public policy, or citizens with grievances with governance;
- Individuals with commercial interests that either benefit or risk loss due to decisions of governance.
All of these sources are appropriate in a functioning democracy. The situation we face today is that we are out of balance. Forces with something to gain from political influence by far outweigh all other citizens and interests.
We cannot return the balance by simply punishing one source or another. The appropriate solution is to return to the balance that has served our democracy over many generations and increases the number of engaged residents who have a stake in their leaders.
My "Public Financing of Political Campaigns Act of 2013" helps restore that balance. The following are some of the bills key features:
- Candidates qualify for public financing by collecting seed money contributions of up to $100 per person.
- Qualified candidates receive grant funding from the government in primary and general elections to appropriately convey their electoral message.
- Public debates will be convened at appropriate times for all voting audiences to enhance the civic discussion of public issues and office holder responsibility.
- Administration and oversight of the program will ensure fairness, success in message delivery, and address concerns of citizens and financial supporters.
This legislation provides for financing these election costs through assessing a small fee on all government contracts that are over $1 million a year.
Our fledgling democracy in the District of Columbia depends largely on campaign donations from special interests who need government influence for commercial reasons. As a government, we are overdue to build interest and activism from citizens who have a stake in our city's future. A focus on small dollar donations with a matching public grant to pay for elections will enlarge the voices of every day D.C. residents.
Thank you for considering this legislation. I hope that all of my colleagues will stand up for publicly funded elections and cosponsor this legislation.
Communications Director & Community Affairs
Councilmember At-Large David Grosso
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004