Part 4: Why Clean Money, Clean Elections Works
There are several reasons why Clean Money, Clean Elections (CMCE) works:
- CMCE limits fundraising to the point of near-irrelevance.
- CMCE levels the playing field for all qualifying candidates.
- CMCE brings more people into the process, both as candidates and as active supporters.
- CMCE raises participation among women and minorities.
- CMCE reduces the power of incumbency.
- CMCE opens the race to people outside the two-party "machine" system.
- CMCE eliminates favors owed to large donors and fundraisers.
CMCE limits fundraising
Under CMCE, people who opt into the program can raise only a tiny fraction of the money normally needed to run a successful campaign. This "seed money" is used prior to any main campaigning, and only to run the petitioning operation needed to qualify for public funding. Once a candidate raises that small amount (in very small increments), fundraising is over.
CMCE levels the playing field
Currently, the candidate who raises the most money almost always wins. With CMCE, all qualifying candidates get exactly the same amount of money. Connections to large donors become irrelevant; all that matters is connections with constituents - i.e., voters.
CMCE brings more people into the process
In Maine and Arizona, there has been a significant increase in the number of candidates since CMCE was implemented. For example, the 1998 Arizona gubernatorial race had one Democrat and one Republican - there wasn't even a primary contest. In 2002, after the advent of CMCE, there were seven candidates - three Democrats, three Republicans and one independent - and six of the seven (including the eventual winner) opted in to CMCE.
Additionally, despite the strictly limited fundraising, the number of people who contributed during the 2002 Arizona gubernatorial race more than tripled, from 11,000 to 38,000.
CMCE raises participation among women and minorities
Historically, white men have had the greatest access to the large supplies of money needed to run a successful campaign. Under CMCE, when access to money is unnecessary, the door opens much wider to women and minorities.
CMCE reduces the power of incumbency
Incumbents generally have a far easier time raising money. First, they have already proven their fundraising abilities. Second, being incumbents, many people and groups are eager to contribute in exchange for anticipated favors once the incumbent is re-elected. Challengers, however, face an uphill battle, as many people and groups are reluctant to be on the "wrong side" after the election. With CMCE, incumbents no longer enjoy the fundraising advantage.
CMCE opens the race to people outside the two-party "machine" system
Since everyone who qualifies through petitioning gets the same amount of money, and since independent candidates don't face a primary challenge, many challengers can opt out of the two-party system without losing the fundraising benefits a political machine makes possible. Additionally, any money a political party spends on its candidates will be matched by public funding of independent candidates, so party organization becomes less of an advantage.
CMCE eliminates favors owed to large donors and fundraisers
Under CMCE, there are no large donors, and "soft money" becomes less useful. As a result, once the election is over, the winner owes far fewer favors to those who did favors during the campaign.
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