By: Daniel Ohiri
It’s election day! All across the country, people will be voting for governors, attorneys general, state house, and city council. Thousands will also be voting for several municipal propositions. I want to focus on one of these referendums in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Proposition No. 2 says,
“Shall the City of Albuquerque adopt the following amendments to update the language of the Open and Ethical Elections Code, which provides for public financing of City candidates: Vied eligible city residents with Democracy Dollars, to contribute to their choice of qualified candidates , which the candidates could redeem with the city clerk, up to a limit, for funds to spend in support of their campaigns, as directed by the City Council, and increased funds for publicly financed mayoral define family candidates?”
This simply worded proposition actually radically alters the way we finance elections. Following a 5-4 ruling from the Supreme Court, municipalities nationwide had to redo their public financing system. Paraphrasing Justice Kagan’s dissent, this ruling significantly weakens election authorities’ ability to combat the hold special interests have in our political system. No city is safe from high dollar donors corrupting their politics. In Albuquerque, Demos found that, “A small pool of donors contributing at least $1,000 each provided the majority of campaign funds in the last city election”. In a city, where the per capita income is $28,229, we are currently crippling, in a major way, the average citizen’s ability to participate in politics.
The rising cost of city council elections is damaging to our democratic process. Take for example this year’s election in Albuquerque City Council District 8. In this district one of the candidates has opted to pursue private financing while the other has chosen to be publicly financed. Trudy Jones, who is privately financed and the incumbent, raised $31,305 (mostly from the real estate industry) during Reporting Period 7 (09/03/ 2019 – 10/11/2019). During the same reporting period her opponent, Maureen Skowran, raised $0.00. The race in District 8 demonstrates the advantages that affluent incumbents have in financing their campaigns. In elections across the country we are seeing more and more that big money is unfortunately essential to a modern campaign, and without it challengers face an uphill battle to even get on the ballot, let alone mount a successful campaign. The reliance on big donor financing is damaging because it limits the entryway into public service to the affluent or affluent adjacent. Therefore, it limits the socioeconomic diversity of thought and people in the halls of power and decision making. It also affects access to policymakers, there is evidence that suggests that politicians will listen more keenly and respond to the policy proposals put forth by high dollar donors instead of low dollar constituent contributors.
Albuquerque voters have a choice in filling the public financing hole created by the Supreme Court. They have a choice in following in the steps of Seattle, WA, when they created a similar program. They also have a choice to continue the status quo. Ultimately, the choice is theirs.
OUR OFFICIAL BLOG
The Roosevelt Reader is a space where RI@GW members discuss innovative policy solutions to the pressing political issues facing the District, the nation, and the world.
WRITE FOR US
Your ideas matter. And we want to help broadcast them to the world. Learn more how to become a blog contributor.