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WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1107 into law, enabling California cities, counties, and the state to enact small donor matching programs that amplify the voices of voters in local elections. Under a small donor empowerment system, candidates who voluntarily opt in and agree to turn down large contributions receive limited public matching funds for each small contribution they secure.
“Our elections should be about connecting with everyday voters, not just mega-donors,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “This week’s bill signing gives California communities a chance to enact proven solutions that amplify the voice of everyday people in our democracy. Americans aren’t going to wait for Washington to act. Across the country, we’re seeing communities fight big money with innovative solutions that put voters in the driver’s seat of our elections.”
The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) supported the passage of SB 1107. Earlier this month, CALPIRG Executive Director Emily Rusch published an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee highlighting the need for citizen-funded election reforms.
“SB 1107 opens the door for small donor empowerment programs,” said Emily Rusch, “permitting all cities, the county and the state to use public funds to establish their own campaign finance solutions.” See Rusch’s full statement on the passage of SB 1107.
Small donor matching programs have a track record of success in areas where they are in place. New York City’s program allowed participating candidates in the 2013 city council race to raise 61 percent of their contributions from small donations and matching funds. That year, 92 percent of candidates running in the primary participated in the program.
Similar programs have been proposed at the national level, including the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) and the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 1538). Both of these bills propose a program that would match small contributions with public funds at a rate of six-to-one or more and establish lower maximum contribution limits for participating candidates.
Last November, voters in Maine and Seattle passed ballot initiatives to create and strengthen their own small donor empowerment programs. On Election Day this year, voters and lawmakers have an opportunity to enact citizen-funded election reforms in Washington state, South Dakota, and Howard County.
U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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