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Rockville, MD – The Montgomery County Government Operations Committee today took a huge step forward for fair elections by passing Bill 16-14, which creates a program for county council and executive campaigns that would fight big money interests by empowering small donors in County elections.
“We’ve spent months at the doors of residents all across the county talking about small donor-based Fair Elections. It’s clear the community wants to shift the focus of campaigns away from wealthy donors and back to everyday people,” said Kate Planco Waybright, Executive Director of Progressive Maryland. “We’re thrilled the Council committee heard the will of the community and took action today in support of Fair Elections and we look forward to the full Council doing the same very soon.”
“We are pleased with today’s progress. The committee added a suite of amendments that were worked out in advance and strengthened the bill,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “We are concerned at a change that would allow out-of-state residents to not only give to a publicly funded candidate but allow that donation to be matched with county funds. We hope the Council will fix that amendment and move the bill without further changes when it hears the bill next week.”
"Maryland PIRG applauds the Montgomery County Council for taking a big step to get big money out of our elections," said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr, "With Maryland leaders in Montgomery County, the state legislature, and Congress introducing small donor incentive bills, we are truly leading the country in the fight to reclaim our democracy and return political power back to the people."
Nick Nyhart, President & CEO of Public Campaign, said “"Today's vote shows that there are elected officials who want to make sure that the voices of ordinary voters are heard in government. Right down the road in Washington, D.C. we're seeing a Congress awash in money from wealthy donors and special interests, a Supreme Court that continues to enhance the role big money plays in our democracy, and too few lawmakers willing to fight for change. Political leadership like what we have seen today from these Montgomery County Councilmembers can help further action at all levels of government. They are part of the fight back against big money and for getting regular folks back in. Now, the full Council should follow their lead and set an example for Washington and the rest of the country.”
Under the Fair Elections program, candidates for County Council or County Executive will raise low-dollar donations from individual donors in their district to qualify for matching funds, and in exchange turn down large donations from wealthy donors and corporations. In jurisdictions from Hawaii to Connecticut, research shows that small donor-based Fair Elections reform has improved the election process. These programs allow more diverse candidates to run for office, increase competitiveness in the process, and result in a more substantive legislative debate.
The full council is anticipated to take up the bill at their work session on September 23.
Fair Elections Maryland is a joint project of Common Cause Maryland and Progressive Maryland. The organizations have launched a campaign to establish working systems of public funding for county elections across the state as well as the state legislature. Coalition members include ACLU of Maryland, Brennan Center for Justice, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Communication Workers of America, Environment Maryland, Every Voice, Get Money Out-Maryland, Jews United for Justice, Maryland Green Party, Maryland NOW, Maryland PIRG, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Progressive Neighbors, Sierra Club Maryland, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, and Young Democrats of Maryland.
The bill file, including the language of the bill, is available here.
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