“The facts, ma’am. Nothing but the facts.” -- Sergeant Joe Friday, Dragnet
List of All Questions Answered Below
1. What is "Clean Money Campaign Reform?"
Clean Money Campaign Reform is a movement to provide qualified candidates who can prove a strong base of support a set amount of public funds to run for office. Candidates who chose to qualify agree to limit their spending and reject contributions from private sources.
In California, our goal is to establish this system for those running for State Assembly, State Senate, and Statewide offices [Gov., Lt. Gov., Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Controller, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization]. Candidates will qualify as "Clean Money Candidates," or "participating" candidates, and receive a public grant for the primary and general elections, if they are successful raising a required number of $5 contributions and signatures of support from residents within the district they hope to represent. Candidates have a choice NOT to run as "Clean Money candidates" as well, and may run as "non-participating" candidates who commit to the more "traditional" approach of raising only private sources of funds to run for office.
3. Doesn't McCain-Feingold Solve most of the Problems with our Campaign Finance System?
There is no question this CONGRESSIONAL legislation, which bans "soft money" contributions - unregulated funds spent on behalf of candidates through political parties - are a step in the right direction. However, even the sponsors will tell you it won't solve the crisis in our campaign finance system. First of all, their rules only affect FEDERAL races - for the U.S. House and Senate - NOT for State of California offices or Legislature. Second, both bills DOUBLE the amount of "hard money," or direct contributions to candidates allowed. As these limits are "per election," a typical candidate for the House of Representatives can still receive $4,000 from a single individual per election cycle -- $2,000 for the primary election, and $2,000 for the general election. Therefore, the link between special interest donors and candidates/elected leaders will not be severed, and ultimately access will still be granted to these larger donors and special interests.
4. Would "Clean Money" completely overhaul the current campaign finance system in California?
Clean Money Campaign Reform is a voluntary system of public finance, providing not an overhaul - but an alternative - to the more traditional system of campaigns funded by wealthy individuals and large private interests. Candidates can choose to try and qualify for Clean Money public funds, or opt to follow the more "traditional" system of raising private funds.
5. Will candidates who qualify for Clean Money receive sufficient funds to run a competitive campaign?
Candidates who qualify for Clean Money funding will get the average dollar amount spent by those seeking that office in recent elections. One great advantage to the system is that participating candidates will no longer have fundraising expenses. So, Clean Money Campaign Reform will help hold down the overall cost of campaigns, as the grant given to qualifying candidates can go directly to getting their message to voters.
6. Won't participating "Clean Money candidates" still get outspent by wealthy, self-financed candidates who can spend as much as they want?
Under Clean Money Campaign Reform, participating candidates will get a dollar-for-dollar match, up to a set limit, if a non-participating opponent spends more than the basic public financing grant, or if said participating candidate is the target of an independent expenditure. This won't mean an unlimited amount of money, but non-participating candidates will have to think twice before deciding they want to surpass the Clean Money cap, and be responsible for additional public funds going to their opponent. Further, recent history shows there is a limit to how much buying of an election the public will tolerate in California.
7. Will candidates be willing to adopt a Clean Money System?
There are strong incentives for candidates to try and qualify as "Clean Money candidates." No elected official should have to spend the vast amounts of time raising money that the current system demands. No challenger looks forward to the task of trying to raise the huge sums of money required to mount a viable campaign against an incumbent. In fact, these obstacles discourage many good candidates from running for office. Moreover, what candidate or elected official enjoys the public perception that they are compromised by their acceptance of large contributions from special interests?
8. Won't the "usual suspects" run for and win political office under Clean Money Campaign Reform?
Clean Money Campaign Reform encourages more competitive elections, especially because it provides funding for Party primaries as well as general election campaigns. It empowers candidates with no personal wealth or access to big financial contributors - but who have a proven base of public support - the means to compete for office with the "usual suspects." In their defense, incumbents and the more familiar faces who decide to run as "Clean Money candidates" will be freed of the pressures to grant access to large donors and special interest contributors that they have faced in the past, which is, after all, one of the major objectives of Clean Money Campaign Reform.
9. Would I still be able to give money to my favorite candidates?
Under Clean Money Campaign Reform, people can still donate money to candidates they support. During the pre-primary period, they can give not only the small $5 qualifying contribution, but also up to $100 during a short "seed money" period the total sum of which is capped to help their favorite candidate get the word out that they are in fact trying to qualify as a participating, Clean Money Reform candidate.
10. Would a Clean Money system undermine the strength of, and need for, political parties in the electoral process?
Californians will still be allowed to make a financial contribution to a political party under the Clean Money system. Further, it is our belief that under a Clean Money system, political parties can and should remain active in the nomination and endorsement of candidates; identifying, researching, and developing the Party's positions on issues; and carrying out non-candidates specific voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives and other "party building activities." Clean Money reform allows political parties to play a vital role within the political process as long as they do not serve as a conduit through which special-interest campaign contributors can gain access to elected officials, which our current system under Proposition 34 allows them to do.
11. Does Clean Money Campaign Reform Suppress First Amendment Rights to Free Speech?
If anything, Clean Money Campaign Reform would finally grant political speech to those who never really feel they've had it. It is a voluntary system designed to give a voice to those potential candidates who do not have personal fortunes or instant access to special interest contributions. Our political and policy debate, as well as our democracy itself, will only be revitalized and diversified by this system. In addition, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, public financing of election campaigns is constitutional as long as the system is voluntary.
12. Are There Any Examples That This Works?
Versions of Clean Money Reform have passed in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. In Arizona and Maine, who have now experienced full elections cycles using Clean Money Reform, there has been an increase in qualified candidates for office, more competitive elections, and a decrease in private money in the political system.
13. Will Clean Money Campaign Reform in California enable "fringe candidates" to run for office with public money?
While the public certainly has a right to support whichever candidates it chooses, the qualifying requirements for Clean Money campaign funds are stiff enough to deter fringe candidates with little or no support from getting public funds. Some form of public financing already exists in 22 states and a number of municipalities. Where these systems are in place, fears about public money spurring fringe candidates have proven to be unfounded.
14. Will the Clean Money system open the ballot up to so many people that the reform will "break the bank?"
One of the goals of Clean Money Campaign Reform is to open up the system to as many qualified people as possible, and to help establish a more level campaign playing field. But, again, the qualifying requirements are stiff enough so that anybody considering a run for office will think long and hard about the seriousness of their efforts before embarking on a campaign to qualify for funds. It is therefore unlikely that "too many" candidates will qualify for Clean Money funds. Moreover, the required number of qualifying contributions can always be raised if experience shows us that it was set too low.
15. Does the public really support taxpayer funding of campaigns?
Clearly, the public distrusts politicians, and taxpayers are wary of new public expenditure. However, Clean Money Campaign Reform will save California taxpayers money in the form of wiser, well thought out public policy decisions. The wealthy individuals and powerful corporations and special interests who supply most of the money for political campaigns are the recipients of millions of dollars in "corporate welfare" subsidies, unnecessary tax breaks, and regulatory exemptions. By eliminating Clean Money candidates' dependence on these big-money donors, Clean Money Campaign reform in California will give elected leaders more freedom to say "NO" to these kinds of costly giveaways without feeling like theyre putting a source of funds for their next election at risk. One needs to look no further than our energy crisis in California to see the kind of access to the State Capitol the power companies and special interests were able to purchase. Their contributions gave them the kind of blanket access and influence that allowed them to orchestrate a UNANIMOUS vote of the Legislature to deregulate our electric utilities industry.
16. How will a Clean Money system be funded in California?
Revenue for a State Clean Money System will come from a combination of the $5 qualifying contributions collected by participating candidates, and a direct appropriation of just 2 cents per day, per year, per eligible voter, by the State Legislature. For the cost of a matinee movie a year, California taxpayers will take back control of their elections with Clean Money Reform as public policy in this state.