Issue: Big money in politics undermines our democratic system. As more and more money is spent to win elections, fewer people are able to run. And many of us without much money to contribute begin to wonder what our voices mean in relation to the voices of big donors. Washington Public Campaigns is working to reduce the importance of money in politics with public financing of elections.
Background: Public financing means candidates no longer need to spend time “dialing for dollars.” Instead, there is more time to talk with voters about important issues. To qualify for public financing, which is voluntary, candidates collect a signature and a small donation (for example, $5 to $25) from a set number of individuals in their district. They agree to accept no other private funding and then receive a set amount of public campaign money, based on the average cost of campaigns for that position in previous years. Washington Public Campaigns estimates that the cost would be $3.36 per Washington resident per year—a bargain for helping to ensure that our elected representatives put their constituents first.
Public elections financing has worked in other states. In Arizona in 2002, Janet Napolitano became the first governor to be elected under a clean money election law. In 2004, 10 out of 11 statewide offices were held by those running with public funds. In Maine, 77 percent of house members and 83 percent of senators used the clean money system.
Participation in both states has been equally Republican and Democrat. Minor party candidates have participated as well. Legislators are freed from seeming indebted to big donors. They can vote according to constituents’ desires, without worrying that big campaign contributors won’t fund their next campaign. Both Arizona and Maine subsequently have enacted tough laws bringing down the price of prescription drugs, expanding affordable health care, and closing unnecessary tax giveaways to special interests. These are benefits we need in Washington.
This year, the Washington legislature is considering a number of clean election bills that range from simply allowing local governments the option to publicly finance local races (House Bill 1551/Senate Bill 5278), to creating a state system of publicly funded elections for judicial positions (HB 1589/SB 5226 and HB 1186) and legislative and executive races (HB 1360/SB 5510.)
Action: Contact your legislators today and tell them you are concerned about the growing influence of big money on politics and public policy and that you strongly support publicly funded campaigns as a means of restoring democracy to ordinary citizens.
To find your legislators, visit www.leg.wa.gov and click “find your district.” You can also call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and provide the operator with your address. They’ll look up your districtand make sure your message gets delivered to all three of your legislators.
For more information, visit www.washclean.org.
Want your own guide to all your elected officials that fits nicely in your purse or backpack? The Seattle League of Women Voters They Represent You 2007 is out, and you can pick up your copy at Real Change or by contacting the League at www.seattle.wa.lwv.org.
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/02/07/feb-7-2007-entire-issue