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Report: Citizens' Election Program Sets Standard for Clean Elections


Friday, September 18, 2020   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut is setting the standard for publicly funded elections fueled by small donors, according to a new report from Common Cause.

The state's voluntary Citizens' Election Program bars participating candidates from accepting donations from PACs and other big-money groups, and limits the amount they can accept from lobbyists to $100.

Beth Rotman, national director of Common Cause's Money in Politics and Ethics program, said candidates' willingness to rely on small donors has made a huge difference. The study found with 85% of candidates for the General Assembly committing to it in 2018, 99% of funds that year came from individuals.

"You can prove that you get more policies that favor large swaths of the American public after the small-donor programs get going," said Rotman. "As compared to the past, where specific laws were going - over and over again - towards special interests."

And the report found public funding of elections encourages more people of various socioeconomic backgrounds to run for office, as campaigns become more and more expensive.

Rotman said many Americans don't see these kinds of structural changes as priorities - but she believes big money in politics creates such a problem, that it needs to be part of the solution.

"These wealthy special interests can find themselves getting multimillion-dollar benefits out of that," said Rotman. "But the truth is, it's we the people who need the return on the investment. This is the kind of change that makes all these other changes possible. This, too, is a kitchen-table issue."

She said some local municipalities in other states are adopting similar policies to reduce the influence of money in politics -- and she hopes to soon see a federal program.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an anti-corruption bill -- the "For the People Act," HR 1 -- but it's since been stalled in the Senate.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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