Why Money Matters in PoliticsIn a democracy, politicians are expected to represent each person equally, regardless of their financial status. The principle of “one-person, one-vote" means that no matter who we are, our rights to health care, education, housing, and other basic needs are equally important.
Money in politics complicates this system. When politicians receive large financial contributions from organizations, corporations, campaigns, or individuals, they are inclined to be more responsive to their needs. This puts the voices of everyday citizens at a disadvantage.
The involvement of money in our elections is a huge barrier for ordinary residents who want to run for public office but lack significant financial resources. Every person has the right to run for public office — but because the role money plays in our elections, not everyone has an equal shot.
Reducing Money’s Political Influence
The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County is committed to reforming our county's campaign finance system to protect the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process.
Our League advocated for The Fair Election Fund, a program that allows participants to register to receive public funding to run for elected county positions. Participation is voluntary and any candidate for county executive or county council has the opportunity to opt-in. The fund allows up to $150,000 in support for $15,000 raised in a county council race and $1.4 million in the county executive race for $50,000 raised.
Our League was invited to participate in the County’s Fair Election Fund Working Group. The working group was tasked with making recommendations for qualification standards, matching contributions for tiers, dollar amounts and total contribution limits for county executive and county council elections. Our League representative testified in support of the legislation (County Council Bill 102-21), which passed in 2021.
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Fair Election Fund Background
In recent years the cost to run for Baltimore County Council has dramatically increased, and candidates for County Executive have consistently raised or spent in the multi-millions. In 2019, the county executive laid the groundwork for small donor public financing of county elections. Our League joined partners such as Maryland PIRG, Common Cause Maryland, and the Yes for A! Baltimore County Citizens' Election Fund to promote the pass of the ballot measure amend the Baltimore County Charter to establish the Citizens’ Election Fund and Commission. The ballot measure (Question A) passed in November 2020.
“The Citizens’ Election Fund can expand opportunities to run for office, so more women and people of color can compete for County Council and County Executive races,” explained Common Cause Maryland executive director Joanne Antoine. “We are thrilled that voters have supported Question A to help build a more reflective and representative government.”
The Fair Election Fund working group testified before the County Council in December 2021. Two additional amendments were added to the bill.
- County executive candidate expenditures are limited to $1.4 million of citizen funding and county council candidates are limited to $150,000 of citizen funding, and
- The qualifying standards for county executive were changed from $40,000 raised from at least 500 contributors to $50,000 raised from 550 contributors, and county council qualifying standards from $10,000 raised from at least 125 contributors to $15,000 raised from at least 150 contributors.
League of Women Voters of Maryland Efforts
LWVMD has supported campaign reform bills in three major areas: voluntary programs that prohibit accepting large campaign contributions and encourage candidates to accept small donations from a large pool of donors in order to qualify for matching public funds; legislation that increases transparency in campaign fundraising, spending, refinements to campaign finance laws that increase compliance; and legislation that seeks to eliminate outright deception in campaign advertising.
League of Women Voters of the United States Efforts
The LWVUS is committed to creating a more transparent and equitable small dollar funding system for elections, so all voters are valued no matter how much they can contribute to the candidate of their choice. Making sure that candidates are elected based on their positions instead of their funds, and communities are empowered over organizations.
Across the nation, the League of Women Voters works to ensure that our government serves the people, not wealthy special interests, by promoting transparency, limiting SuperPACs, and eliminating dark money.