Two County Council Candidates who support Campaign Finance Reform in Anne Arundel County
Have you ever had a dream where you’re on a bed covered in money? Crisp bills are thrown into the air and slowly fall, returning to your cash mound like snow flurries. It’s a pretty whimsical scene. Now, imagine that same scene, but instead of you being the person surrounded by green, imagine that person is a politician, such as my county representative Michael Peroutka. Focus on that image. Take a reading on how you feel. Has the magical feeling been ruined? Has a snarl rather than a smile entered your face?
If so, it is quite possible that you are one of the 84% of Americans who, according to a New York Times poll, believe that money has too much influence in political campaigns. You do not like the image of money surrounding your politician because so many of their voting records seem to reflect that money. Due to this, you may feel like your opinions aren’t prioritized by those in office, and that your concerns do not match theirs. The effect is disenchanting and frustrating. I hear you.
County Council candidates James Kitchin (D, District 7) and Lisa Rodvien (D, District 6) both agree with you on this issue. These two candidates intend to get big money out of political campaigns in Anne Arundel County.
Lisa Rodvien describes the ideal result like this, “Fairly financed campaigns would ensure that elections are contests of ideas and not contests of funding. Voters deserve to hear the messages and ideas of all candidates, not just those with deep pockets.”
It is worth noting that the state of Maryland already attempts to limit the power of those with deep pockets. The state has campaign contribution limits in place for individual donations- $6,000 to be exact. However, this rule can be, and is, circumvented by those using Super-PAC fundraising groups. These groups are not subject to such limits according to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the case of Citizen’s United v. the FEC. This means that for every $5, $50, or $6,000 dollars that you donate to the candidate that resonates with you- an anonymous donor can donate $50,000 covertly via a Super-PAC. The donor does this with the hope that that exact same politician will ignore you.
It’s a broken, unfair system and James Kitchin has a plan for how we can fix it. Here’s what he would like to see happen:
…Each four-year election cycle the county creates a pot equal to $50 dollars for each registered voter. As of December, 2016 there were 387,369 registered voters in Anne Arundel County. This means that the pot of money would be $19.3 million dollars over a four-year election cycle – so $4.8 million per year. This comes out to 0.3% of our County’s budget. I think that we can prioritize less than half of a percent of our budget to made our democracy work for us. Once the fund is established, each registered voter gets to direct $50 dollars to the County Council candidate of their choice.
This system isn’t new. Kitchin notes that it is based on the work of Lawrence Lessig in his book Republic Lost. Plus, it is a plan that already exists in practice elsewhere. The city of Seattle has adopted this plan and can provide a case study for Anne Arundel County. Local examples exist as well. Montgomery County and Howard County both have alternative public financing systems that can be learned from.
Rodvien explained how Montgomery county’s system works like this:
Montgomery County, Maryland has recently created a system where candidates may opt to use public matching funds if they are able to raise a certain amount with donations of $150 or smaller. Their system has already encouraged newcomers to seek office, including many who would not have run otherwise given the financial barriers of an election campaign.
Howard County is a fascinating case. The county is looking to get their donor pools functioning by the 2022 election. Their plan is similar to the one instituted in Montgomery County, with funds being unlocked for candidates who raise small donations from many donors. What makes this county so fascinating, however, is where the impetus for the donor pools came from. In this case, Howard residents voted directly for such a solution on a ballot referendum. The people, not the politicians, brought the issue forward.
It’s Anne Arundel County’s turn to take local control of their elections. The sooner we get irresponsible money out of politics, the sooner that politics will reflect the people’s needs in the county. More qualified people will be able to run for office and will have sufficient resources to make their voices heard- and win.
I know why this issue is important to me. This past year in the Maryland State Senate, bail-bond-paid Democratic committee chairs Bobby Zirkin and Joseph Vallario blocked a strong bail reform bill from leaving their committees. The move went against the Democratic party’s stance and instead played out perfectly for their bondsman benefactors. These two men shattered my faith in political integrity, and I have been quite bitter ever since.
James Kitchin and Lisa Rodvien aren’t bitter like me, however. They’re hopeful, and looking to make change from within. I asked both county council candidates why they feel that campaign finance reform is an important issue.
“Campaign finance reform can help remove the money factor from elections, allowing candidates’ messages more equal space in the public conversation. Candidates will not have to be wealthy themselves or rely on wealthy donors to effectively run their campaigns,” explains Rodvien.
“Campaign finance is important to me because it is the one issue that affects all the rest,” concludes Kitchin. It is indeed.
For more information and to support James Kitchin’s candidacy in District 7, you can go to www.jameskitchin.com or www.facebook.com/james.carl.kitchin. James Kitchin has official endorsed the Anti-Corruption act created by Represent.Us.