Cleaning Up Our Elections

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Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanseburg, waves to the gallery after being sworn in to office in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Campaign finance reform was central to Tkaczyk's campaign. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanseburg, waves to the gallery after being sworn into office in the Senate Chamber at the New York State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Tkaczyk defeated Republican George Amedore by 18 votes in the 46th Senate District. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Candidates spend less time chasing big donations from corporations, lobbyists and the rich in states and cities where campaigning for office is publicly financed.

Public finance systems reduce the role of money in an election, increase the role of small donors and generally make elections more competitive. Proponents believe such funding encourages more people from diverse backgrounds to run for office. What’s more, by agreeing to accept small contributions from regular voters — matched by a public fund — officeseekers and incumbents can spend more time with their constituents talking about issues and working on policy solutions.

In New York City, if you’re running for citywide office or city council, any private contribution you receive up to $175 is matched six to one. Spending limits vary depending on the office for which you’re running. Fourteen states including Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina use similar citizen-funded election systems for at least some of their elections with great success.

This week on Moyers & Company, Jonathan Soros, co-founder of “Friends of Democracy” a SuperPAC seeking to counter the influence of money in politics, tells Bill that he thinks this new city and state public finance groundswell has a chance of renewing the grass roots movement for campaign finance reform: “In the beginning there’ll be people in the system [or] out of the system — that’s okay… We think we can create a kind of a norm in which it becomes a benefit to be part of a fair elections, a clean elections system.”

Learn more about clean, fair elections at the following links.

Fair Elections for New York
Learn more about how public financing has expanded the pool for candidates and increased small donor participation in New York City, the coalition of groups who support it and how Governor Cuomo wants to make the public fund statewide. Download the fact sheet.

Brennan Center: Public Financing
More about the New York City public financing system including a report on how it works and a proposal for expansion of the program in other states and municipalities.

Common Cause: Public Financing in the States
Fourteen states provide direct public financing to candidates. Find out what the rules are in each state.

Huffington Post:Public Financing Of New York Elections Picks Up Key Vote With Cecilia Tkaczyk Senate Victory” – Jan. 18, 2012

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