Would you rather have your candidates raising money on the phone or out in the neighborhood, knocking on your door and figuring out how to deal with the issues that confront you? No matter how many campaign finance reforms we consider, we always find ourselves with a system that requires candidates to raise money day in and day out. But now the City Council has taken a step down the road to changing that.
With my colleagues Wendy Greuel, Bill Rosendahl, and Tony Cardenas, I joined Susan Lerner and Ted Williams from the California Clean Money Campaign to kick off our push for full public financing of city elections. The states of Arizona and Maine have clean money laws, and the city of Portland, Oregon is considering one (they call it "voter-owned elections"). In a clean money system, candidates demonstrate a base of support, for example by collecting micro-donations of $5 each from a few hundred supporters. After that, they receive froma trust fund the amount of money necessary to run a campaign. (With the amount of money we put into our election trust fund under the current system, we could fund most city council races.) If their opponents don't accept clean money or receive independent expenditure support, clean money systems also provide additional funds to match those expenditures. As a result, grass-roots candidates flourish on the basis of their community support, not their fundraising acumen.
Our motion today asked city staff to look at the systems that are out there and bring back options that could work in Los Angeles. Next it will go to the Ethics Commission. I'll let you know how this policy develops along the way; my hope is to enact a clean money law that lets candidates in the 2007 elections compete with full public financing—and lets all of us in government win back your trust in our democratic system.