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(Rockville) – Today the Montgomery County Council made a critical investment in democracy by adding $5 million to its public election fund in its FY2017 budget. While this amount is only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the County’s overall budget, it represents a real commitment to amplifying the voices of small donors in county politics and diluting the influence of wealthy special interests. With adequate funding, the program will be up and running for the next county elections, encouraging more voters to participate in county elections and providing opportunities for a wider range of candidates to run for office.
A citizens’ task force suggested $10 million is needed for the program to succeed and recommended a $4 million installment for FY17, but County Executive Ike Leggett only included $1 million in his FY17 budget. The $4 million, added to the Executive’s $1 million and the existing $1 million from FY16, puts the Public Campaign Fund on track to be fully funded and successful.
“Montgomery County made history by creating the first program in Maryland for small-donor fair elections,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “We praise the action Council took today. They showed strong support for this critical program, and backed up their words with strong action.”
“In our democracy, the depth of your pocket should not dictate the volume of your voice,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “We’re thrilled that the Montgomery County Council increased their commitment to getting big money out of local elections by making strong investment in their small donor matching program.”
“There is no doubt that national eyes are on this program in Maryland. By putting small donor incentives into action in Montgomery County, the public will get to see the effectiveness of the program, building the support and track record we need to pass state and federal reforms,” said Larry Stafford, Director of Progressive Maryland.
Concerned citizens had testified at the budget hearings and made hundreds of emails and calls into Council office asking the County Council to put $4 million into the budget to fund the fair elections program.
In a small donor fair elections system, candidates for County Council or County Executive who turn down large contributions and contributions from special interests can receive limited matching funds for small contributions from their county. Candidates must qualify to participate in the program by showing strong support from citizens in their district.
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