Montgomery County, Md., gave campaign finance reform a test drive during last year's election when candidates could opt in to a matching funds program. A recent report from Maryland PIRG deemed the program's inaugural run a success.
The nonpartisan public interest research group outlined in its report, released Thursday, how Montgomery County's program led to greater participation and small-dollar donations. The matching funds boosted fundraising for qualifying candidates to make their average contribution totals comparable to non-participating competitors.
Average contributions for qualifying candidates totaled $306 — almost $10 more than the average donations given to non-participating candidates.
This story was updated Thursday evening with new developments.
Taxpayer-funded political donation vouchers in Seattle can continue because they don't restrict any voter's free speech rights, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled Thursday.
The unanimous decision, upholding the only program of its kind in the nation, is a potential milestone for the cause of revamping the way money flows in politics.
While the city's vouchers are unique, the judicial blessing is nonetheless welcome news for the public financing systems created in seven other cities and counties across the country since Seattle established its program four years ago. It is also a sign that various ideas for government subsidizing of campaigns — which are under discussion in dozens of local jurisdictions, have advanced halfway through Congress this spring and also become a topic on the Democratic presidential campaign trail — will remain open to debate without being readily swept away as violating the Constitution.
The most expansive proposal to reform the political system (so far) by a presidential aspirant comes from Kirsten Gillibrand, who says every voter should get $600 in taxpayer money to donate to candidates for federal office.
The New York senator, who's among more than a dozen candidates mired in single digits in early polling in the 2020 Democratic race, unveiled her "Democracy Dollars" plan Wednesday in an interview with NBC News.
Her rationale for such a bold approach to reducing the role of big money in politics: "If you want to accomplish anything that the American people want us to accomplish — whether it's health care as a right, better public schools, better economy — you have to take on the greed and corruption that determine everything in Washington."
This looked to be the year when the effort to bring public financing to campaigns would score its biggest victory to date, a huge boon for those who argue the idea is essential to improving democracy. But that has not happened.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his fellow Democrats in charge of the New York Legislature were unable to strike a deal that would have put taxpayer money to work in the fourth largest state's political system. Facing a deadline last weekend, the best they could come up with was creating a blue-ribbon commission to develop a system for matching small-dollar campaign donations with $100 million a year in state money. Those who thought they could ween the political system off big-moneyed interests were disappointed in the outcome.