Some people make headlines while others make history." -- Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Californians are not the only Americans angry that special interest money has taken over the electoral process. Americans in every state in the nation are also crying out for reform to restore democracy by giving ordinary voters an equal voice.
Although Clean Money in Vermont and Massachusetts has faced setbacks due to attacks from entrenched politicians who don’t want any competition, Clean Money in Arizona and Maine has taken hold and is already changing the system dramatically for the better.
Clean Money has lowered overall campaign spending, freed candidates from fundraising, increased turnout, and encouraged more qualified people to run including women and minorities.
“Clean” candidates, running free of financial dependence on private donors, have done extremely well. Seven out of nine statewide office holders in Arizona, including the governor, were elected after running “clean” elections. In Maine, candidates who ran “clean” now hold over half of the state assembly and over three-quarters of the state senate.
Just as importantly, races in states having Clean Money aren’t being decided by which candidate has the most money anymore. With fair funding for all qualified candidates, money doesn’t make a difference – only the candidates and voters do.
Clean Money is also taking hold in other arenas. In October 2002, North Carolina became the first state in the country to provide full public financing of judicial election campaigns, so judges don't have to be beholden to campaign contributors. This breakthrough has spurred clean elections efforts for judges in more than a half dozen states. In March 2003, New Mexico enacted full public financing for the Public Regulation Commission, so commissioner candidates won’t have to accept political contributions from the same corporate interests they are running to regulate. Other efforts to pass Clean Money are proceeding across the country.
Nationally, revulsion over the misdeeds of corporations such as Enron and Arthur Andersen that gave millions to members of Congress and both the Clinton and Bush administrations helped lead to the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. While it only bans unlimited, “soft money” contributions to the national parties, McCain-Feingold is a start at controlling the worst campaign contribution excesses. And despite the deeply entrenched interests opposed toClean Money on the national level, a Clean Money, Clean Elections Act with full public financing has been introduced with multiple sponsors in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
What do all of these successes tell us? That Clean Money can pass and work despite all the efforts of embedded special interests to stop it. If it can pass in Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina, it can pass right here in California. And that would change everything.