A recent study show that more than 60 percent of D.C. election candidate funding comes from either corporations or non-District residents who are disproportionately white, wealthy and male.
To combat this, the city council’s judiciary committee on Wednesday, Nov. 16 revisited a bill aimed at empowering small donors and reducing the influence of special-interest groups in city elections.
At-Large Councilman David Grosso, who introduced the Citizens Fair Election Act of 2015, is among several council members pushing for the bill’s passage.
“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said at a press conference last December. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”
His legislation would match small campaign contributions to local candidates with limited public funds at a rate of five-to-one.
For example, any D.C. resident who made a $100 campaign contribution to a participating candidate essentially would be giving $600.
Candidates participating in the program would be required to demonstrate broad public support and accept lower maximum contribution limits.
In the future, those running for mayor, city council and attorney general would be eligible to participate.
“Democracy falls short when the views of a few wealthy donors carry more weight than the needs of thousands of working families,” said Delvone Michael, executive director of D.C. Working Families. “Those who donate the most money to campaigns should not wield a disproportionate amount of influence, and this bill goes a long way toward changing that.”
So far, 40 organizations have joined the DC Fair Elections coalition to encourage the council to pass small-donor empowerment legislation.
Leaders of the respective coalitions say they are in the process of collecting thousands of petition signatures from around the District to demonstrate support.
Co-introduced by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council members Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman and Mary Cheh, they collectively agree that this law will increase public confidence in integrity of city elections.
“We need to put an end to the perception and sadly, on occasion, the unfortunate reality of pay-to-play politics in the District of Columbia,” Silverman said. “We need for residents to feel it’s their voice and vote — not simply money — that matters.”