From the Campaign Finance Reform Drawing Board

From the NYT:

The Congressional race between two incumbent Democrats in the redrawn 30th District in California is one of the most expensive in the country, but it is hardly unusual in reflecting the influence of big donors. Howard Berman has raised $3.5 million, while his opponent, Brad Sherman, raised $2.7 million. For both candidates, only 1 percent of their money came from donations under $200.


On Wednesday, two groups with outspoken records in favor of campaign finance reform proposed a plan that could restore a voice to ordinary citizens. Based on the very successful New York City campaign finance system, the plan would match contributions of $250 or less at a 5-to-1 rate with public funds. If someone gave $100 to a candidate, the program would add another $500 in public funds, magnifying the importance of the small donation.

The plan — proposed by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Democracy 21, a campaign finance watchdog group — would be voluntary, but participating candidates would have to accept a $1,250 limit on all contributions, half the current level of $2,500. There would be a ceiling on public matches to candidates and a $50,000 limit on the amount a candidate could contribute to the campaign but no limit on spending.

The two groups estimated that such a system would cost about $700 million a year. But consider the benefits New York City has enjoyed from its program: more than half the donors to city candidates in 2009 were first-time givers, and more than 80 percent of those contributions were $175 or less. The percentage of residents contributing to a city campaign was more than three times higher than in New York State, and they were far more diverse (a good reason the state needs a similar system).

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