It is proving pretty hard to get entrenched big money out of Prince George's politics. But there is a solid chance for change TODAY, Tuesday October 23, when the County Council votes on a bill providing for small donor contributions to political candidates who pledge to run without large contributions from the big donors who have played such a big role in county politics. Read about the possibilities for change in this account.
/By Suchitra Balachandran/ You would think that with the enormously successful showing of public financing in Montgomery County, the legislations that created public financing programs in Howard County and D.C., and the ballot question that will enable public financing in Baltimore City, it would be a breeze to get public financing passed in Prince George's. But that has been far from the case. After a year's struggle, which saw CB-4 morph into CB-99, the Prince George's Public Financing bill will be up for a hearing and a vote TODAY (Tuesday, Oct. 23).
To testify, call the Clerk's Office at 301-952-3600.
What’s it about? A small-donor matching program in Prince George’s County will:
- Make county government accountable to all of us by giving candidates the opportunity to reject big donors and special interests money and to instead seek support from everyday residents
- Amplify the voice of the average contributor through a tiered match system
- Increase participation in county elections by empowering small donors
- Break down the barriers to running for office by allowing county residents with strong ideas and a call to public service to run for office, regardless of their personal connections to wealthy donors or corporate contributors
Fair Elections/Small Donor program does not cost a lot -- The cost of CB-99 is on the order of $1 million a year: 0.025% of the county's annual budget.
To find out more, check out our Fact Sheet about the numbers and requirements for participants. This takes initiative and work; it is not a free ride for any candidates, as the Montgomery County participants will tell you. Still more is at our FAQ on CB-99.
GETTING TO YES: We need the support of Councilmember Deni Taveras (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The crucial vote for today's bill is Deni Taveras from District 2. She has expressed concerns about the cost to the public. This bill is enabling legislation only and appropriates no mandated funds -- a commission will recommend a budget to the County Executive, subject to Council approval. So the cost -- estimated at a modest 0.025% of the county's annual budget -- will be a matter of negotiation for each election cycle.
In the Our Revolution Prince George's endorsement questionnaire, we asked Deni Tavaras:
"Do you support CB-004-2018, legislation that would establish a small donor funded elections program in Prince George’s County?"
"I am one of the co-proposers of this legislation. I do and will vote favorable should it come up for a vote."
Deni Taveras dropped off the bill when it morphed from CB-4 to CB-99 in dramatic fashion and is now wavering. She has told several residents that she is a "likely no vote".
Email Deni (above) and remind her that she told us just a few months ago that she would vote for public financing. And ask her to vote for CB-99.
WaPo Editorial and The People's Fiscal Analysis
The Washington Post had an editorial Sunday morning in support of Prince George's County's public financing measure. Hooray!
And ORPG has provided The People’s Fiscal Analysis to counter the hugely inflated fiscal analyses that have been written up by two County offices: Audits & Investigations and Budget & Management.
It gives us all pause to think about how difficult it is to get entrenched money out of politics
A large number of bills are up for a hearing today and CB-99 is last on the agenda. So it may be a long evening, but there will be a lot of camaraderie as fans of fair elections and an end to big-money electoral politics meet and mingle outside the hearing room. So please join us.
Suchitra Balachandran is chair of Our Revolution Prince George’s.