Coalition Releases Letter Calling on DC Council to Support Fair Elections Act of 2017

Release Date: 
December 12, 2017

Washington, DC – Today, over 80 community leaders signed a letter urging Mayor Bowser and the members of the DC Council to support the Fair Elections Act of 2017, important legislation under consideration to create a voluntary, small-donor matching program for local elections. This legislation will strengthen local democracy by reigning in the influence of big money in our elections and balancing the scales in favor of the people who live and vote here, primarily people of color and women.

DC’s current donor class is whiter, wealthier, older, and more male than the District’s population. More than 60% of campaign contributions come from either individuals who don’t live in DC, or from corporations and PACs, while only 5% came from voters giving $100 or less. The Fair Elections Act of 2017 would establish a voluntary program available to candidates running for Mayor, Attorney General, DC Council or State Board of Education where they would agree to only accept small dollar donations in exchange for a five to one match on all eligible contributions, as well as a startup grant.

Emmanuel Caicedo, Demos Senior Campaign Strategist, released the following statement: “Passing the Fair Elections Act of 2017 would be a game changer for how people run for office and win. It would break down barriers to running for office, and amplify the voices of small donors, who are often drowned out by donors with bigger wallets. Supporting this legislation should show our community that DC City Council cares about democratizing elections and empowering small donors.”

Jeannette Mobley, Chair of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee,  said, “I want to see more people vote and participate in politics, and our current campaign finance system makes many people feel like their votes and opinions do not count. I support Fair Elections because it offers small donors, which quite often are people of color, women and seniors, an opportunity to contribute to qualified candidates. Moreover, candidates can spend much more time engaging with constituents on their issues and priorities instead of focusing primarily on campaigning to raise donations."

Earl Williams, President of the DC Federation of Citizens Associations, said, “There’s something wrong with the fact that more than 60% of campaign contributions come from corporations or people who don’t live in DC. No wonder regular folks feel like their votes and opinions don’t count. I know people who can’t afford to give more than $10 or $20, but Fair Elections would turn that into $60 or $120. That means candidates running office could raise the money they need for elections through the support of the community, rather than folks who live outside DC.”

Andy Shallal, Founder and Owner of Busboys & Poets, said, “As a local resident and business owner, I have witnessed elected officials succumb to the needs of big business over the interests of DC residents. Money talks, and DC voters are growing more cynical about politics. We need Fair Elections to rebuild voters' trust and re-invigorate our democracy. States like Arizona and Connecticut have been using it, and Montgomery and Howard Counties in Maryland are moving in that direction. It is time for DC to get on board!”

Dyana Forester, Community & Political Lead Representative for UFCW Local, said, “Having worked on efforts to increase the minimum wage, provide paid family leave and other campaigns that are overwhelmingly supported by working families, I have seen how donors with deep pockets water down or delay policies that would help DC workers. Fair Elections will amplify the voices of working people, especially women, people of color and low-income individuals in a way that our current campaign finance system does not.”

Markus Batchelor, Ward 8 Member of State Board of Education, said, "I know firsthand the difficulty of running for office without having the backing of a well-funded establishment or close ties to financial power brokers in our city. More often than not, it is both a barrier to participation and a barrier to success. It is especially a barrier for those good and able people who aren't independently wealthy, especially in communities where more political and civic engagement is needed most. The 5-to-1 match in Fair Elections would allow for those who want to serve our communities in elected office to focus their efforts on engaging and being accountable to our families, not their funders."

The DC Council is expected to host a markup on this legislation tomorrow. A super-majority on the Council introduced the legislation in March of 2017, with nine co-introducers, Councilmembers David Grosso, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Trayon White, with Anita Bonds co-sponsoring the bill. In June, the Council hosted a public hearing on the legislation.

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Read the full letter here.