Help clean up D.C. with ‘fair elections’ legislation

June 6, 2013

Regarding the June 3 editorial “D.C.’s pay-to-play swamp”:

The Post’s observation that D.C. Council members are dragging their feet on campaign finance reform — most likely because they have a personal stake in maintaining laws that allow them to continue raising big donations from special interests — is on the mark. But the editorial didn’t get to the core issue and push the D.C. government toward a solution that is on the council’s July agenda.

A bill introduced by council members David Grosso (I-At Large) and Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and cosponsored by seven others would give future candidates an opportunity to finance their campaigns with a base of small donations ($100 or less) provided by individuals and supplemented with public funds. This “fair elections” legislation is the subject of a July 11 council roundtable.

The McDuffie-Grosso legislation would allow participating candidates to receive matching funds once they raise at least $5,000 in small contributions. Qualifiers would get an initial payment from an elections fund and would receive additional matching funds of $4 for each $1 raised in additional contributions under $100.

Wherever fair-elections programs have been implemented, they have allowed non-traditional candidates — particularly women and minorities — to compete in and often win elections they otherwise would not have contested. Small-donor systems have also given some veteran officeholders an opportunity to continue serving while breaking their dependence on big-money donors.

Aaron Scherb, Washington

The writer is director of legislative affairs for Common Cause.

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