Campaign reform is key to fair elections

If we want government that will seriously address the glaring issue of economic inequality and recognize that social justice is an integral responsibility of government, we must elect people with integrity who will serve the best interests of the whole nation, as well as their constituents. In today’s toxic political atmosphere, worsened astronomically since the infamous Citizens United decision, too many politicians are beholden to special interests that flood campaign coffers and fund the super PACs that have tainted our elections with negative, scurrilous ads. Trying to find truth in today’s elections is like wading through quicksand.

We deserve better. Not voting at all because you’re disgusted with the process is not a solution. Shrugging your shoulders and thinking you can’t make a difference is not a solution. It doesn’t matter if you are “red” or “blue” or any shade in between. What matters is the civic responsibility to vote.

Last year, the Assembly passed the Fair Elections Act; it was not passed in the Senate. It will be brought up again in the current legislative session. It gives candidates for statewide offices the option to use public funding, and provides for limits on contributions, disclosure requirements, penalties for noncompliance, and a new Campaign Finance Board charged with oversight and enforcement. It will be funded by (a) an optional $5 check-off donation on state tax returns, (b) a 10 percent surcharge on fraud convictions, and (c) if needed, the general fund. In my opinion, the most significant element is the 1-to-6 match, which means if an individual donates $50, it is worth $300 to the candidate. This empowers small donors. It also improves the ability of a person interested in public service, but with limited financial means, to run for office. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if the “general public” provides the largest share of campaign funds, those elected will be more responsive to the needs of the “general public?”

Barbara A. Rogers

Common Cause