02 December 2005

Time For Dems to Come Clean on Dirty Politics

Flavia Colgan - December 2, 2005

[...] The Democratic leaders should then announce that the very first act under a Democratic-controlled Congress would be to pass real campaign finance reform – Clean Elections.

This form of voluntary public financing of campaigns is the only proposal that is guaranteed to make special interest money a non-factor in politics. Here’s how it works. If you want to run for office as a Clean Elections candidate, you must raise a certain number of qualifying $5 contributions from your district to show some level of support from your constituents. The money goes to the Clean Elections Fund, not to your campaign. If you qualify, that’s it, you receive a check to fund your campaign, but you are forbidden from accepting any additional money. Should you run against a candidate who is not participating in the system, the Clean Money Fund will match what your opponent spends – dollar for dollar to a set amount – so that it’s unlikely you will ever be outspent.

On the state level, it is already showing dramatic results. In Arizona, the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and corporation commissioners were all Clean Election candidates, meaning they did not take one drop of special interest money. A Republican and Democrat in the Maine House of Representatives coauthored an op-ed that read, “We are happy to say that public funding has given us the freedom to spend more time with our constituents discussing important issues. We are no longer stuck in the "dialing for dollars" game, in which we would need to spend long hours on the phone asking special interest donors and lobbyists to contribute to our campaigns.”

Interestingly, this proposal has passed in red states and blue states – from Maine to North Carolina and Massachusetts to Arizona. Like fraud itself, the desire to fundamentally change the system crosses party lines. Backing Clean Elections could therefore win a good number of marginal districts for the Democrats, possibly enough to return control of Congress to them. Let Republicans try to oppose this earthquake of an idea, and explain to people why special interest money is needed in government.


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