Friday, October 28, 2016

Washington’s Voucher Program Could be Trans-Formative

Small Donors and Vouchers Would Replace Interest Groups as the Key Donors; The Most Important Interest Groups Are Likely to Shift from Being Donors to Donor-Mobilizers.

The voters of Washington this year will decide the fate of Initiative 1464, a proposal that would affect many aspects of Campaign Finance and Lobbying law.

I-1464 Reforms the Campaign Finance system to:

- Require transparency in Lobbying and Campaigns by forcing political ads to include information about who is really paying for them.

- Crack down on coordination between Candidates and SuperPACs.

- Bar Lobbyists and Public Contractors from making big contributions to Candidates they are trying to influence.

- Stop the revolving door of Government Officials taking jobs as Lobbyists as they leave office.

- Strengthen enforcement of Ethics and Campaign Finance laws, and impose stiffer penalties for violating them.

- Let you decide if you want to direct State funds to a Candidate of your choice.

- Give every Voter across the State a stronger voice by making politicians focus on smaller donations from regular people instead of big donors and special interests.

This initiative will limit donations from Lobbyists to Candidates to $100. I-1464 also sets up a voucher system, sending three $50 vouchers, called Democracy Credit contributions, to every voter in the State of Washington. As a voter, you decide if you want to contribute these vouchers to a Legislative candidate. So instead of begging for $1,000 contributions from affluent residents, candidates would be motivated to request $50, $100 or $150 contributions from regular citizens, and actually give them a reason to make these donations.

To be a qualified candidate to receive Democracy Vouchers, the candidate must receive at least seventy five cash contributions of between $10 and $50. If they choose to participate, they cannot accept other contributions to their campaigns, be those from Boeing or Comcast or Jeff Bezos.

They cannot contribute more than $5,000 of their own money for their campaigns. Their campaigns are limited to $150,000 to raise and spend. So they can’t buy their Elections, and neither can the corporations and their lobbyists in Olympia.

A new report released by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) analyzes the provisions in the Initiative that relate to “democracy credits”, state-funded vouchers, and contribution limits. The analysis is based on methodologies and projection techniques CFI has developed in seventeen years of nonpartisan, peer-reviewed research on money in politics.

The author is Michael J. Malbin, CFI’s Executive Director. He is also a Professor of Political Science, University at Albany (SUNY). The report’s goal is to inform public deliberations about Initiative 1464 and similar proposals. However, the initiative has many more provisions than the ones analyzed in the new report and CFI does not take positions in support of or opposition to specific pieces of Legislation.

Because voucher systems are new to U.S. Elections, there are no direct comparisons to use for predicting likely outcomes. Instead, CFI constructed two fully transparent, hypothetical scenarios to help understand the range of plausible possibilities.

Based on these scenarios CFI concludes that Initiative 1464 could well have a trans-formative effect on Washington politics. At a minimum, it would reduce the Electoral importance of the business-oriented interest groups that give the bulk of campaign contributions today. In 2012 and 2014 Non-Party organizations, such as PACs, corporations and labor unions, gave more than half of the money that went directly to Washington’s State Legislative candidates. With the system proposed in this initiative, CFI estimates that vouchers and small donors would become the most important sources of funding. Interest groups would not disappear, but their role would shift toward becoming donor-mobilizers rather than donors themselves.

CLICK HERE to read the 24 page (PDF) report.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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