Today we submitted this testimony on Delegate David Moon's bill to ban corporate campaign contributions.
Testimony on HB1287
Ways and Means, March 6th, 2018
Election Law - Business Entity Campaign Contributions – Prohibition
Maryland PIRG is a state based, citizen funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state and a student funded, student directed chapter at the University of Maryland College Park. For forty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
We need to create a campaign finance system where every citizen, regardless of wealth has more or less equal opportunity to influence the actions of our government. To build political equality in our democracy, campaign contributions should be limited to what the average American can afford, and candidates should only be able to raise money form the people they would represent – not corporate interests. This bill is a step in that direction. By banning corporate campaign contributions, we can build a government where elected officials are accountable to people, not corporate interests.
It is time for Maryland to ban corporate contributions to campaigns. There are twenty-two states that prohibit corporations from contributing to political campaigns. Unfortunately, Maryland is not yet one of them.
Corporations are given special power to amass money for economic purposes. Corporate treasury funds do not represent public support for the corporation's political ideas; it is therefore inappropriate to use these funds to influence public policy.
Allowing a CEO to direct funds aggregated from commercial enterprise to support a candidate fundamentally skews our democratic process to favor the profit imperative above the public interest and allows big money to flood our elections, weakening the voice of average people.
With this ban, business owners can make political contributions from their personal finances, like every other citizen.
BACKGROUND: Large campaign contributions - which only a fraction of Americans can afford to make - have unduly influenced who can run for office and who wins elections in the United States. Much of the money raised by candidates and political parties comes from corporations, sources that are not even permitted to vote in the election they seek to influence.
In recent years, our state and national campaign finance laws have been under attack. Banning corporate campaign contributions is a strong and forceful actions that Maryland can take to reign in the influence of private interests on our political system.
While the Supreme Court has gutted limits on corporate spending through independent expenditures, the Court has turned down requests to consider lifting bans on direct contributions to candidates from corporations. These bans are a strong tool that we should be using.
In addition to our fundamental opposition to corporate campaign contributions, there are additional negative side effects to the meteoric rise of corporate election spending:
1. Candidates and elected officials are often trapped spending an increasing amount of time fundraising from large and corporate donors, giving them less time to hear from and serve their constituents.
2. The rise of corporate spending in elections has exacerbated the already shrinking faith that citizens have in their elected officials and government, as evidenced in the downward trend in voter participation.
Never before has the public had such a solid understanding of why contribution and spending limits are important and never before has the will for reform been so strong.
It’s time to start fixing our broken campaign finance system and return to a government of, by, and for the people. I urge you to give a favorable report on HB1287. Thank you.