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Councilmember Michael Brown, whose current campaign is missing nearly $114,000, wants to the public to pony up funds for future D.C. campaigns.
Brown introduced legislation today that would set up a task force to study publicly financed campaigns. Brown says he envisions the city adopting a similar system to the one used in New York City, with matching donations focused on helping candidates who take in smaller donations be more competitive.
Brown also says he’s no johnny-come-lately to the idea just because his campaign is missing some funds.
I have been discussing public financing of our elections 4 years , I’m glad it’s now part of the campgn finance reform dialogue/debate.
— Michael A. Brown (@CMMichaelABrown) September 19, 2012
Once again, LL does a long, slow clap in admiration of the District’s elected officials’ chutzpah. According to Brown’s version of events, his former campaign treasurer was allowed to steal nearly $114,000 over several months because Brown wasn’t checking his campaign’s bank statements. If that’s true, and Brown’s former treasurer denies it, then that’s a pretty good argument against publicly financed campaigns: after all, at least no public money went missing.
Keep in mind that Brown’s 2008 campaign also had massive bookkeeping errors. Among other things, an audit by the Office of Campaign Finance found that Brown’s campaign had 121 “expenditures totaling $126,960.56 in which the proper documentation (checks, invoices and/or vouchers) was not provided to substantiate each disbursement.” Those problems were later rectified, but, again, that’s not a very reasurring track record for a guy pushing for public funds to be spent on campaigns.
Brown’s proposal comes on the heels of Mayor Vince Gray‘s campaign finance overhaul. The mayor is suggesting that provisions that would hold candidates “more accountable” for what their campaigns do while at the same time saying that he was unaware of all the illegal and shady things that happened during his 2010 campaign.
Here’s the full text of Brown’s release on the bill:
As the Council of the District of Columbia reconvened today following the summer recess, At-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown introduced a bill to examine and establish a model of financing District elections with public funds. The “Public Financing of Elections Act of 2012” will establish a task force consisting of relevant agencies and qualified stakeholders to draft a set of implemental recommendations for a public financing system similar to ones used in other jurisdictions around the country.
While researching the bill, Councilmember Brown reviewed multiple models and found the “Small Donor Match” program used in New York City elections to be a premier example of how to even the playing field and allow greater participation in the election process. Working with experts, including those at the Brennan Institute, Councilmember Brown believes we can build off the New York City template and reduce the influence of corporations and lobbyist, while giving a greater voice to the people.
The New York City program matches every dollar of the first $175.00 of donations from residents with $6 in public funds. The program excludes matching donations from Political Action Committees (PACS), Lobbyists, Corporations, Unions, and non-city residents. The New York City model also requires participating candidates to adhere to specific qualifying criteria and spending limits.
The proposed bill directs the task force to explore these and other specific program components and develop a tailored program to fit the District’s needs. If enacted, Public Financing could be in effect by the 2016 Presidential Election.
“Public financing of elections has been a platform policy of mine since I first ran for public office many years ago and which I advocated throughout last year’s Initiative 70 debate.” “As the Council considers stronger election reforms, I continue to believe that public financing is the most comprehensive and effective approach,” stated Councilmember Michael A. Brown.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery