Legislation to provide public funding to candidates for major DC offices would increase the racial, gender, and economic diversity of people who give – and the people who run – for Mayor, the DC Council, and Attorney General. Public financing would encourage more people to donate to campaigns and to run for office. It would be especially helpful to candidates who do not have large networks of major donors, including first-time candidates. Bringing in more diverse voices to major DC elections would strengthen DC democracy.
The Citizens Fair Election Program Amendment Act would provide public funding to candidates for Mayor, DC Council, and Attorney General who collect a specified number of small donations from DC residents, a sign that they have a base level of support. Public funding would include both a base amount and 5-to-1 match for all donations under $100. Candidates would have to agree to not accept donations above $100.
This would be good for the District for several reasons:
- The Citizens Fair Elections Act would give low-and moderate income residents, communities of color, and women a much larger voice in DC elections. Most current donors to DC elections are white, and most have incomes above $100,000. A majority of the largest donors are men. By contrast, half of donors who gave $25 or less in the 2014 mayoral race were people of color, while half of donors who gave $50 or less were women. Limiting donations to $100 would increase the role of low-and moderate income residents, communities of color, and women in DC elections.
- The Citizens Fair Elections Act would encourage more people to give to campaigns, particularly low-income residents and residents of color. The public match of 5-to-1 would give residents the sense that their donation is meaningful. The $100 donation cap would help small donors understand that their donation is not overshadowed by large donations from higher-income residents.
- The Citizens Fair Elections Act would encourage more people to run for office and increase the economic and racial diversity of candidates. First-time candidates and candidates from lower-income communities are less likely to have access to large donors than incumbents or candidates from higher-income communities. This creates a serious barrier to considering running for office, and thus restrains democracy. The public financing available under the Citizens Fair Election Act would enable many people to run for office who otherwise would not.
The DC Fiscal Policy Institute encourages the Council to adopt this important legislation.
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