Nerd time! Saw a great segment on Nerding Out about campaign finance reform, which zeroed in on one possible alternative: a multiple matching model. Here’s what that means. You want to support a candidate running for Mayor, but you can only give $5. Your $5 will be matched – for example, in NYC right now, it would be matched 6 times so your contribution would be $35 instead of just $5. Same thing if you could give a $100, it would be matched 6 times to be $700. Donations up to $175 are matched in NYC. Which means people without lots of money (or wealthy friends/backers) can actually compete (and win) against candidates backed by big money.
It’s more than a model, it’s a real solution! What I described above is the public financing system which candidates running for city office in NYC can participate in (they opt in). New York City’s public financing system began in 1988 in the wake of a corruption scandal, but wasn’t that great until 2009 (when they 6:1 match was enacted). Now it’s held up as a model for other cities, states, and for the national level (source). “Multiple matching” amplifies the power of small donations so money from ordinary people matters more. The results are numerous:
It widens the focus of candidates and elected officials. It changes who runs. More women run, more people of color run, more working class people run (source). It changes how (and whom) candidates listen to, from just wealthy donors to their constituents. It also increases voter participation and diversity. It shifts some power back to the people, which has significant benefits later. It also helps breaks up concentrated power. It increases responsiveness and accountability, and benefits average citizens by enabling elections to actually be democratic.
And it doesn’t take changing the Constitution to implement it. What it takes is passing a law – on the city, state, or national level. Right now, 15 states have some alternative to the big dollar donor system. Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona are a few examples of states with multiple matching systems, similar to NYC. There’s already a national proposal before Congress too (source).
If you want to learn more, I recommend watching this MHP Show segment with Dorian Warren and Zaphyr Teachout. It’s an excellent conversation. “MSNBC contributor Dorian Warren breaks down the complicated and controversial issues around money in politics. Fordham law professor and Democratic candidate for New York governor, Zaphyr Teachout, explains the nuances of campaign finance reform, specifically how to counterbalance the influence of big money donors.” – Excerpt from The MHP Show