Small Donor Public Funding Forum Oct. 28 6 pm

Berkeley hands w. titleThe League-supported small donor public finance proposal called the Berkeley Fair Elections Act will be explained at a forum on the UCB campus on Wednesday, October 28 at 6 pm at 2040 Valley Life Sciences Building.

The Berkeley Fair Elections Act is a proposed City of Berkeley charter amendment and ordinance that would establish a public financing system for Berkeley elections. It would allow qualifying candidates to run for office without raising large amounts of private funds. If a candidate chooses to participate in the system and  qualifies for public funds, the candidate receives matching payments from the City’s Fair Elections fund at a ratio of 6:1 for every small-dollar contribution (i.e., $50 or less) that he or she raises.

To participate in the voluntary system, a candidate would commit to raising only small donations of not more than $50. [The current limit in Berkeley is $250 from a single donor.]

Similar systems in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and elsewhere have increased the number of minority and women candidates and increased the participation of citizens in elections as small donors to candidates and as voters.

Common Cause of Berkeley, the UCB branch of CC,  Common Cause of California and the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville support the measure,  originally proposed by Dan Newman, CEO of Maplight before the 2014 election.

LWVBAE has supported this proposal since 2014 and wrote letters to the Council in support in 2014 and in spring of 2015. At its October Board meeting, the Board voted 7 to 1 to support putting this proposal before Berkeley voters by asking the City Council to place it on the 2016 ballot.  If the Council does vote to put the measure on the ballot, the board will consider whether to support passage of the measure in the form actually on the ballot.

The League supports this measure based on national League policy of support for public financing of elections and the broad policies on campaign financing:

Improve methods of financing political campaigns in order to ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and promote citizen participation in the political process.

In particular, the League states: The League’s position on Campaign Finance reflects continuing concern for open andhonest elections and for maximum citizen participation in the political process. The League’s campaign finance reform strategy has two tracks: 1. achieve incremental reforms where possible in the short term, and 2. build support for public financing as the best long-term solution.

The underlines indicate the policies most relevant to this Berkeley measure.

Nancy Bickel, President


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