Dear Elected Officials,
We write to you today in support of publicly financed campaigns for state legislators, and urge you to re-institute a program like those described by Common Cause. The Citizens United decision severely restricted the states’ ability to regulate campaign finance, leaving these programs as one of the few mechanisms available to counteract the distortive effects of money in politics. Publicly financed campaigns amplify the voice of small-donors, incentivize a more responsive legislature and help to rebuild public trust.
Moreover, Massachusetts voters have unequivocally demonstrated support for publicly funded campaigns, including for state legislators. In a 1998 ballot measure, 58.4% of participating voters backed new laws to implement public financing of elections and to establish clear spending limits for candidates accessing public funds. The Clean Elections Law was adopted the same year and began a program to fund state legislative campaigns. It only lasted a few years, as the legislature repealed the Law in 2003 as part of the compromise to pass the state budget. Public funding remains available to candidates running for statewide office, but notfor those candidates running for the Legislature. However, even the current statewide program is underfunded.
Under Common Cause’s citizen-funded campaign proposal, candidates who meet donor and fundraising benchmarks would receive matching public funds for their campaigns. This additional support would incentivize closer relationships with constituents, who are best positioned to give the required small donations, and would enable more Massachusetts residents to run for political office. Candidates receiving public funding would be required to participate in at least one debate before the primary and at least 2 debates after the primary. These debates will allow candidates to share their policy priorities and serve to inform voters.
Research and data from other states indicates a clear correlation between publicly funded campaigns and robust, constituent-focused representation. When Connecticut implemented publicly financed campaigns, legislators were able to spend less time fundraising and spend more time with constituents. Recognizing the increased impact of their financial support, citizens educated themselves on policy priorities and started donating to campaigns. The influence of lobbyists declined, more bipartisan bills were passed, and bills passed were more closely aligned with public opinion. Public financing also empowered more people to run for office and shifted the demographic representation in the Legislature to more closely reflect the make-up of the state. In Arizona, after public financing was passed in 2000, the state saw a 20% increase in the number of voters between the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections. The people of Massachusetts deserve to be represented by legislators who reflect the people and the policies of the people they serve; adopting public financing would help achieve that goal.
For these reasons, we urge you to consider bills like SD.122, and re-establish public funding for the campaigns of state legislators in Massachusetts.
The Good Governance Project