Victory: Montgomery County, MD Passes Small Donor Empowerment Bill
Washington, D.C.—National campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign applauded the Montgomery County, MD County Council for passing legislation to empower everyday people in the political process.
On Tuesday, the Council voted unanimously to create a small donor public financing system to increase political participation and raise the voices of county residents in elections.
“Today, the Montgomery County Council stood up to big money politics,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Their vote to raise up the voices of everyday people in politics is part of a growing movement of millions of Americans fighting for a democracy that’s truly of, by, and for the people.”
Simply, the voluntary program would allow candidates for Montgomery County Council and County Executive races to run competitive campaigns for office by relying on a blend of small dollar donations and public matching funds after showing a broad base of community support. It will be in place for the next county elections in 2018.
Here’s how it would work:
- The system is completely voluntary, but candidates who participate must limit their fundraising to individual contributions of $150 or less. They cannot accept donations from PACs, corporations, or labor unions.
- At-Large County Council candidates would need to collect 250 qualifying contributions of $150 or less to qualify for matching funds. Council candidates running in districts would need to collect 125, and County Executive candidates would need 500.
- Donations would be matched on sliding ratio of six-to-one, four-to-one, or three-to-one, depending on the size of the contribution.
- While there is a cap on the amount of public funds available, candidates can continue raising small donations for their campaign.
Montgomery County is the first county in Maryland to pass such a system since the legislature passed a bill in 2012 allowing for them.
Over the past year, Public Campaign staff has worked closely with Progressive Maryland and Common Cause Maryland, the leading organizations on this issue in state, providing on the ground support, witness testimony, and policy assistance.
“As a County resident, I’m proud that the Council acted to make sure that our policy making process is about bold ideas and not big checks,” said Will Roberts, Legislative Manager of Public Campaign. “Today’s vote will shift our elections away from big money, and put the ownership of our democracy squarely in the hands of the people."