Ann Arundel County Executive Officer Stuart Pittman launched a second attempt to pass the Election Financing Act at the county legislature Monday night after an unsuccessful effort to get it on the ballot in 2022.
This measure would create a framework under which candidates running for county office could receive public funds matching their small donations. Candidates may not receive more than $250 in individual contributions or Political Action Committee funds in exchange for participation in the scheme. It was a campaign finance option, and while Pittman wanted to allow residents to vote in the 2022 election, the proposed ballot measure was and still would have required four Democrats and three Republicans. failed to obtain the necessary five-vote supermajority from the county council, which consisted of .
Pittman Chief Strategy Officer Pete Barron said the aim was to level the playing field so that candidates with ties to large donors or those with large personal fortunes would not have a significant advantage. rice field.
At the suggestion of Congressional Speaker Pete Smith (Severn Democrat) on behalf of Pittman, the bill received several amendments, almost all of which were proposed by Congressman Nathan Volke (Pasadena Republican), and the bill This was done for the purpose of limiting the scope of the filing procedure for Make county funds available to candidates.
“I think there are a lot of people who testify in favor of this bill who don’t want to subsidize my campaign because they don’t necessarily agree with me on certain things and Because I feel the same way about other people, ‘who will run for office,’ said Volke. “We are kind of being asked to fund the ideas of people we vehemently disagree with.”
Volke argued that it was unfair to ask taxpayers to participate in a political system they didn’t want to get involved with. But other supporters of the bill countered that many of the government-funded programs were not used by everyone in the county and were for the greater good of all residents. .
“There are so many things you might say ‘I never use’ like our county parks, our county police, our public schools, but your tax dollars are spent on them. It’s the essence of democracy and what good government is,” said Annapolis Democratic City Councilman Lisa Lodovien.
Barron explained that the system will allow anyone interested in running a campaign opportunity to spread their message to every voter they need to reach. A program like this would remove financial barriers for candidates, and Pittman has fought hard to make it happen. Pittman sponsored a 2022 resolution and a petition to put the question on the ballot later that year. The petition failed because the Ann Arundel County Electoral Commission rejected more than half of the 11,000 signatures obtained by the voters’ coalition.
“Where we are in this country, I think it’s a disappointment for the majority of the public that money has driven politics,” the Baron said.
If the bill is passed, Anne Arundel will become the sixth jurisdiction to adopt a public campaign finance program. Others include Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George County, Baltimore County and the City of Baltimore, all in various stages of implementation. It is also available at the state level and successfully recruited former Republican Governor Larry Hogan in 2014.
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To qualify for this program, county executive candidates must receive at least 500 individual contributions of $250 or less, totaling $40,000. A county council candidate must make at least 75 individual donations of $250 or less, totaling $7,500. Each small donation is matched by county funds. The smaller the donation, the larger the matching amount. Each election cycle, county executive candidates can receive up to $750,000 in public contributions, and city council candidates can earn up to $125,000, depending on the amount raised.
In the 2022 election, Mr. Pittman spent more than $1.6 million on campaigns, while his rival, Republican Jessica Hare, spent more than $2.2 million.
“It’s reassuring to know that the candidate doesn’t accept donations from large corporations or corporations,” Lodvien said.
If each candidate running for local council in 2022 had taken advantage of the program, it would have cost the county about $8.4 million, according to the bill’s financial report. Based on evaluations of other counties that have used the program, the County Budget Office estimates that the next election cycle will cost up to $3 million.
A majority of those who testified on Monday said the program would diversify candidate options, give voters more choices, and make residents more excited to vote and invest in local government. supported.
“The basic tenet of good government is to allow people to stand for election without personal property or corporate sponsorship. It will be like this,” said Matt Minahan, president of the county’s Growth Action Network, which advocates for sustainable land use. “As long as I can also support the public funding of Mr. Borke’s opponents, I will be happy to support the public funding of Mr. Borque’s campaign.”
Among other projects, the city council continued to amend bills restricting the use of plastic bags in the county. It will be voted on again at the next council meeting on June 5.