Clean Campaign Financing

I was very surprised to read two articles (Phil Stanford, Promise King) in the Portland Tribune criticizing the Clean Money Campaign Finance Reform proposal put forward by Erik Sten’s office.

The basic premise is that there are qualified people who do not run for office due to the enormous amounts of money required to run a successful campaign. Just because someone is smart, talented, experienced, and ready to be a city commissioner, it doesn’t mean they have deep-pocketed friends who can generate two or three hundred thousand dollars.

The solution proposed is public campaign finance. Any candidate who can demonstrate broad support, by collecting 1,000 small contributions, would receive $150,000 for a primary campaign, or $200,000 for a general election campaign.

Yes, that’s out of the city’s tax revenue. But hang on.

Candidates elected through this process would not be beholden to big-money — after receiving public campaign dollars, a candidate is not allowed to raise money from outside donors, whether they’re private individuals, rich corporate donors, developers, or special interests. Make no mistake: there are projects the city is paying for right now that never would have happened if not for big-money donors. It’s quite likely the city would actually save money with this proposal.

Stanford calls it the “Incumbent Protection Act.” Who’s he kidding? Is it easier for an incumbent to raise the kind of money necessary to win a race, or a challenger? This type of public campaign financing should terrify incumbents — which is probably why there are only a few other examples around the country of this type of law. It requires brave, forward-thinking legislators to create it.

I’m glad we’ve got some of those in Portland City Council.

1 Comment so far

  1. Josh Berezin (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2004 @ 3:21 pm

    For more information and research on this method of campaign finance reform, check out

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