Democracy Initiative Partners and Allies Release Statements Supporting
Passage of Fair Elections in Montgomery County, MD
Landmark public finance legislation provides candidates matching funds for small donors
Washington, DC – This afternoon, Montgomery County Council passed Bill 16-14, a landmark fair elections law empowering small donors. Specifically, the bill allows candidates to raise low-dollar donations from individuals in their district to qualify for matching funds. Once a candidate meets the threshold to qualify, donations of $150 or less are matched with public funds, with smaller donations receiving a higher match. In exchange, candidates agree to turn down large donations from special interests.
Montgomery County is Maryland’s most populous county, home to more than 1 million residents according to a 2013 estimate. The bill’s passage is a major victory for fair elections advocates and is the first passed by a local government in Maryland since the state legislature allowed them in 2012.
Continue reading for statements highlighting the importance of this law from Democracy Initiative partners and to learn more, visit www.fairelectionsmaryland.org.
From Jos Williams, AFL-CIO Metro Washington Council President:
“This bill would put ordinary folks back in charge of elections, and put Montgomery County at the forefront of the fight against big money influence. This legislation would enhance the role of small donors and reduce the impact of big money. We hope to see cities, counties, and states follow their lead across the country, giving Americans an equal voice in the democratic process.”
From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President:
“We congratulate Montgomery County for taking a bold step toward making county elections accessible to all—not just those with means. With this legislation the county increases the participation of all citizens in our democracy and allows any candidate with broad public support a fair chance to take her or his case to the people.”
From Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Common Cause Maryland Executive Director:
“Voters expect public officials to make decisions that advance the public interest. But the hard truth is that special interests too often get special attention from candidates and officeholders.
“Voluntary small donor, public financing systems like the one before the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday put big ideas, not big money, at the center of our elections and make it possible for people of modest means and lacking connections to established power structures to run and win elections. We are thrilled that Montgomery County is leading Maryland forward by adopting this important reform.”
From the Communications Workers of America (CWA):
“The Communications Workers of America commends the Montgomery County, Md., Council for moving forward on efforts to establish public financing of elections for County Council and Executive. It’s a first step toward getting big money out of politics and increasing the engagement of citizens at every level of our elections.
“By moving toward a system of matching funds, Montgomery County is encouraging more participation in our democracy, by both voters and by potential candidates. The end result of this process will be to get big money out and get voters back in. That’s exactly the kind of reform our democracy needs.”
From Heather McGhee, Demos President:
“Dēmos applauds the Montgomery County City Council for the passage of Bill 16-14, which enacts a publicly financed election system. Montgomery County will join a growing number of municipalities and states that are leading the charge to ensure that everyone has an equal say in our democracy.
“As corporations and the donor class wield outsized influence through political spending and civic participation advantages, elected officials are turning away from the economic policies that benefit working families. The impact of public financing of elections, as we have seen in places like Connecticut, is that candidates and elected officials alike will become more responsive to the voting public, citizens will become more vested in the outcomes of elections, and ultimately, governance that reflects the partnership between elected officials and constituents will flourish.”
From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director :
“As we saw in this year’s primary elections, county council elections are requiring more and more money to be successful. The proposed Fair Elections bill in Montgomery County will help to restore the influence of voters in local elections. By providing public matching funds for small donations, and getting candidates to agree to not take big money contributions from rich interests, this law will go a long way in providing the rebalancing we need in our politics.”
From Anita Neal Powell, Montgomery County NAACP President, MD Branch 7022:
“In joining the leadership of the NAACP National Office and our partners in the Democracy Initiative, we believe that Montgomery County, in passing this legislation, will become a leader in the fight against big money influence and has put ordinary folks back in charge of elections. This Bill is a victory for democracy and restores public confidence in the election process, allowing candidates to spend less time talking to wealthy individuals and special interests and more time listening to all of their potential constituents.”
From People for the American Way:
“Legislators across the country should take note of what’s happening in Montgomery County. Polling consistently shows that the overwhelming majority of voters want to see elected officials work to lessen big money’s impact on our elections. In other words, Americans understand the problem but are hungry for solutions. Along with long-term fixes like pushing to amend the Constitution to overturn decisions like Citizens United, small donor public financing can be a way to put everyday Americans’ voices at the center of our political process, where they belong.”
From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:
“Today, the Montgomery County Council stood up to big money politics. Their vote to raise up the voices of everyday people in politics is part of a growing movement of millions of Americans fighting for a democracy that’s truly of, by, and for the people.”
From Craig Holman, Public Citizen Government Affairs Lobbyist:
“Montgomery County is about to show us how to conduct fair and clean campaigns, despite the recent setbacks in campaign finance reform imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, it is because of the new flood of unregulated money in elections stemming from the court’s decisions to allow unlimited corporate campaign spending and unlimited total contributions from wealthy individuals that makes the Montgomery County public financing proposal so necessary.”
The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a coalition of 51 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 30 million members nationwide.