Policy: Publicly Funded Elections
Few things have corrupted our ideals of democracy more than big money in politics. The core philosophy of ‘one person one vote’ rapidly breaks down when money enters the picture. Suddenly a candidate who can convince one millionaire to donate heavily to their campaign can gain far more resources than a candidate who can convince one hundred or even one thousand average Joes to do the same.
To get our country back on track to being a government for the people, we should institute full public funding of elections. Currently Minnesota has a Political Contribution Refund Program (PCRP), which has had a measurable effect on shifting the percentage of funds raised towards smaller donors, but we need to go further.
My proposal is that if a candidate can reach a certain number of signatures from the district they’re running in, then they get a predetermined amount of money depending on the office and the district they’re running for, and that amount of money is the spending limit for the campaign. This will have to be coupled with additional limits on ‘soft money’ spending in which a PAC or other 3rd party organization can do things like buy ads on the candidates behalf.
The benefits here are numerous and all aimed at giving power back to the people:
Candidates spend more time talking to all voters rather than focusing their time on those able to donate money.
Candidates don’t have to be independently wealthy in order to run for office. Everyday workers are much better able to get their start.
Once elected, candidates aren’t indebted to a small minority of big money interests and can instead focus on the problems of their whole district.
Elections are decided locally and not by organizations and people who don’t live in the district giving large sums of money.
Third party and independent candidates are better able to compete against candidates backed by a major party’s donors.
The most clear and obvious downside is that all of our tax dollars going into this combined pot will guarantee that at some point our money will go to a candidate whom we disagree with on some issues. This is understandably frustrating, but I think it’s outweighed by campaigns as a whole becoming more vested in the interests of all of us rather than a select few.
‘One person one vote’ is not upheld by our current system and this policy is one piece of fixing that so candidates are campaigning and governing for all of us, not just those of us who can afford it.
You can find additional information about Minnesota’s current PCRP program here.
You can find more research about the impacts of publicly funded elections here.