Clean Elections Week: August 21-25, 2006

What is Clean Elections week?

On Monday, August 21, a coalition of reform groups will ask their activists to contact their representatives’ district offices asking them to support publicly financed elections at the federal level. The groups are Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG. Together they have an activist base numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a state partner in this effort.

Why do we need Clean Elections Week?

Day after day, pay-to-play scandals revolving around elected officials and their too-cozy relationships with lobbyists are dominating headlines. The latest casualty is Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), the infamous “representative #1” from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s January plea agreement, who recently announced he would not run for re-election. Ney allegedly accepted a long list of favors from Abramoff in exchange for helping the lobbyist and his clients.

Despite these scandals, members of Congress have done nothing to pass meaningful legislation that would change the system. They have done nothing on campaign finance reform and have only dabbled with weak lobbying reform legislation. They are doing nothing to change the corrupt culture in Washington.

Why now?

August is the time of year when members of Congress head to their home districts. Most lawmakers spend too much of their time fundraising from powerful special interests. Now is the time for them to hear from ordinary constituents who are angry about the way that business is conducted in Washington. These constituents will let their members of Congress know that they support meaningful campaign reform and will not quickly forget about it.

What will these reform activists say?

Reform groups are asking their members to deliver a simple message to their representative and senator:

“I’m concerned about the role of money in politics and the scandals in Washington, and I think the best way to make elections fair and to restore accountability to the people is to implement public financing of elections. Clean Elections campaign reform is working in Maine, Arizona, and North Carolina and is law in four others states and two municipalities and is currently on the November ballot in California. Please support Clean Elections.”

How can I find out what happens during Clean Elections Week?

Throughout the week, the sponsoring organizations will post comments on their websites from members who have had interactions with their representatives in Congress.

What is Clean Elections?

Clean Elections is a practical, proven reform that makes elections about voters and not campaign donors. Two states—Arizona and Maine—have had Clean Elections programs since 2000 while North Carolina implemented their system in 2004. Arizona’s and Maine’s Clean Elections systems covers legislative and statewide races while North Carolina cover judicial races. All together, seven states and two municipalities have passed Clean Elections laws: Arizona; Connecticut; Maine; New Jersey; New Mexico; North Carolina, Vermont; and Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon. In addition, Clean Elections—also know as Proposition 89—is on the November ballot in California.

Clean Elections works by allowing all people to participate equally in the political process. Elected officials are no longer just well connected insiders or career politicians, but average folks from diverse backgrounds. In most instances, candidates would qualify for public funding once they show a broad base of community support by collecting a set number of $5 contributions. They then agree to take no more private money and to abide by spending limits.

Is there a federal bill for Clean Elections?

In the House, Reps. John Tierney (D-MA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), are lead sponsors of H.R. 3099, which would establish public financing of elections for House races. It is expected that a similar bill will be introduced in the Senate soon.

How about the states?

In California, voters will have the chance in November to vote for Proposition 89, the Clean Money and Fair Elections Initiative, which would establish public financing of elections for all statewide and legislative races in the state. Activists in many other states are also working to establish Clean Elections.

In Michigan, Senate Bill 1009 would create a system of public financing for Michigan Supreme Court campaigns. So far, SB 1009 has not been given a committee hearing.

Visit the sponsors of Clean Elections Week:

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