According to a study by the Campaign Finance Institute, half of the money during the first six months of the 2016 presidential campaign came from 474 donors who gave $100,000 or more. Thirty-one percent came from just 56 donors giving $1 million or more.
Another study by the Sunlight Foundation showed that just over 31,000 of Americans – 1 percent of 1 percent – accounted for nearly 30% of all disclosed contributions in the 2012 elections.
In Howard County, according to a recent annual report filed by a prominent Howard County official, just seven individuals and organizations donated $42,000, which accounts for 10% of the total raised during the same time period by this official.
I am disappointed that the County Executive chose to veto CB30. The bill was passed by a 4-1 margin. Over 52% of Howard County residents voted for Question A.
We know the pernicious effects of money in politics. Well-intentioned candidates are forced to focus on raising money to cover expensive campaigns by spending time with interest groups instead of talking to their constituents. Even though once a candidate for office gets elected, his or her salary is paid by the constituents, we expect them to come up with thousands of dollars or in cases of federal elections millions on their own to be in a position to serve us. This is a skewed incentive system that we can begin to correct with this bill.
In the past, programs like this failed because the incentives created by the laws were not able to overcome the alternative private donor amounts that candidates raised. If elected, I would call for indexing the matching amount to the highest dollar amount raised in the previous election cycle to ensure that those who chose special interest donations do not undermine the public financing system.
Those who voted for this bill are on the right side of the issue because they chose to listen to residents who asked for the establishment of the fund. I hope the County Executive does the same.