(Really? Ya mean Californians care about a better and more effective democracy as well? ; ) – promoted by atdleft)
Clean money, or public financing of campaigns, is back on the agenda, this time on the federal level. On March 20, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a voluntary system of full public financing for congressional elections. The bill, called the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), is designed to curb the “pay-to-play” nature of politics in D.C. in which special interests have a disproportionate impact on the political process via their large campaign contributions. The logic of this ethical reform is identical to that of Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, but FENA is without many of the problems that led to the demise of Prop. 89.
Here’s how the public financing system would work under FENA: In order to qualify for public funds, should a candidate choose to use them, he or she must first gather a specific amount of “qualifying contributions” of exactly $5 each to show substantial support from the community. If candidates collect enough contributions, they are then eligible for public funds, the amount of which are based on the size of the state.
In addition, if a “clean money” candidate is running against an opponent who chooses to fund his or her campaign with private contributions, FENA provides “Fight-Fair Funds” for the participating candidate. These funds would increase the amount of funds to the participating candidate by up to 200%.
Essentially, FENA would create a win-win situation for everyone involved: candidates wouldn’t have to spend all of their time fundraising and could instead focus on the voters, and voters would gain more responsive representatives who make legislation in the interest of them, not big-time campaign donors.
California is absolutely critical to passing this much needed reform. Eventually, the House leadership from California, particularly Reps. Pelosi and Waxman, will be important in this process, but at this point, it is vital that Senator Dianne Feinstein support FENA. As the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the committee that has jurisdiction over FENA, she will be instrumental in getting this legislation passed.
A number of citizen groups, representing a variety of issues, have already showed their support for the Fair Elections Now Act. Among them are the NAACP, AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters, and the National Council of Churches. The San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial last December in which they encouraged the prospect of Durbin’s federal public financing bill. The editors there believe that “clean money” legislation, like the FENA, is the only way to “drain the swamp” of political corruption in D.C. and Sacramento that is inherently related to special interest money.
Already Durbin’s staff has been speaking with Senator Feinstein about the merits of this legislation. Common Cause and other good government groups have been working on this issue as well. They think she’ll come around, but a little coaxing from her constituents couldn’t hurt.