The states of Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont have recently passed comprehensive campaign finance and election reform laws. A growing number of other states are in the process of providing their citizens sensible reform laws in this important civic/political area.
Many state and nationwide polls show American citizens support these state-led reform movements at approximately a67% level. Vermont, similar in population to Delaware, had a 74% citizen approval rating for their reform act.
The proposed Delaware Campaign Finance and Election Reform Act was developed by Common Cause of Delaware and is similar to the reform acts already passed other states. It provides a public funding option for candidates who choose this route and meet the qualifying requirements spelled out int the act. Candidates may choose the present private funding route under this act but face contribution and expenditure limitations that will be upheld if challenged in court. Also, Delaware's current unlimited use of soft money is sensibly limited and controlled under this act.
COVERAGE AND COST FOR PUBLIC OFFICE CANDIDATES
In Delaware, this act will cover candidates for 91 public offices at state, county and local levels. The state-level offices of governor, Lt. governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner are covered. It includes all 62 House and Senate offices in our state legislature. At county and local levels, the following public offices are included: NCC executive and NCC Council president and council members; In Kent County, the seven Levy Court offices; and in Sussex County, the five County Council offices. The three local offices within this act are the mayor's offices in Dover, Newark and Wilmington.
An annual budget of $2 million will provide funds for candidates seeking these 91 public offices if all choose the public funding provision. This $2 million budget means the annual cost is approximately $2.70 pre citizen. There would be no need to use a penny of tax monies to fund this $2 million annual budget. In 1998 , Delaware gained approximately $90 million from abandoned property and forgotten bank accounts. The interest alone on this annual income would cover twice the amount needed to annually fund this reform act.
SOLID REASONS TO SUPPORT AND HELP ENACT THIS ACT
The following list explains some of the reasons this reform act should be understood, supported and enacted into law.
- It will implement more fully and strengthen the following provisions of our state Constitution; Bill of Rights, Sections 3 and 16; and Article V. Section 1 on elections.
- It will help eliminate the undemocratic influence of large contributions on our political process.
- It will help restore the rights of all citizens to equal and meaningful participation in the democratic process.
- It will restore the free speech rights of nonwealthy candidates and voters by providing candidates with equal resources with which to communicate with voters.
- It will help restore the core First Amendment value of open and robust debate in our political process.
- It will decrease the public perception of corruption and strengthen public confidence in the democratic process and democratic institutions.
- It will increase the accountability of elected officials to the constituents who elect them.<\LI>
- It will eliminate the danger of actual corruption caused by allowing private financing of campaigns for public offices to be the only source for funding political campaigns.
- It will save taxpayers hundreds of millions wasted each year due to legislative and regulatory decisions made on behalf of major campaign contributors.
- It will halt and reverse the escalating cost of elections.
- It will create a more level playing field for incumbents and challengers and create genuine opportunities for qualified residents of Delaware to run for statewide, county and local offices.
- It will improve communications with the electorate by candidates.
- It will free candidates from the time consuming rigors of raising money and allow them more time to carry out their official duties.
ADMINISTRATION OF THIS ACT
This act creates a governmental Ethics and Campaign/Election Practices Commission which will operate as pat of our State Department of Elections. The governor will appoint five commissioners from a list of n names provided by a nonpartisan, independent advisory panel. No one shall be appointed to the commission who, within the five previous years, has served as an official for any organization or committee required to file with the commission.
This act also creates a nonpartisan Voter Information Commission consisting of representatives of nonprofit organizations, political parties the media and interested citizens. This commission shall be authorized to establish a Voter Information Program for the purpose of providing voters with election related information and fostering political dialogue and debate. The publication and distribution of updated Voter Information Guides will be accomplished thru this commission.
Common Cause of Delaware is giving leadership to developing a statewide coalition for expanded understanding and support for passage of this act. This coalition is titled "Delaware Citizens for Campaign Finance and Election Reform. We strongly believe democracy is not a spectator process but requires informed active participation. We invite you, your family, friends and organizations to join our coalition which is dedicated to improving our civic/political involvement and representation. Information about this act and coalition has been sent to all the media, the Legislature, county and local organizations.
Anyone who wants more information about the Act, would like to have a coalition spokesperson meet with your organizations(s) or would like to join the coalition and add your support to this movement can do so by contacting John Flaherty, Common Cause of Delaware at JDF0000@aol.com.
Dr. Floyd McDowell
The Independent Party of Delaware
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