It's going to cost how much?

Note: The DTH source article was incorrect; read Bob Hall's comment below. Thanks, Bob. -JB

Did anyone else read the article in today's Daily Tar Heel about the meeting of the Mayor's Committee on Campaign Finance on Monday? Below is an excerpt, which concerns me a bit..

The committee decided to include rescue funds as a separate provision despite concerns about complicating the campaign process, financing the fund and enforcing the necessary spending reports.

Benchmarks for matching candidates' spending with public funding also were also established.

Candidates for council office will receive $3,000 in public funds if they can raise $750 from personal contributions and $2,250 from other local avenues.

Mayoral candidates must raise $1,500 in personal contributions and an additional $4,500 from community sources to be matched with $6,000 in public funds.

"It does open up the field to more citizens who do have a real base in the community but may not necessarily have access to a lot of money," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a Durham-based nonprofit that advocates for campaign reform.

Surely I must have read that wrong. It sounds like to run for mayor under the pubic financing option, we're currently looking at a figure of a required personal contribution of $1,500, and half of that to run for council. Maybe that isn't a lot of money for the incumbents, but I look around my neighborhood and wonder how many of them would ever be able to cough up that much dough. Matching funds are great, but I'd prefer to see a scheme where 100% of the initial funds to be matched are coming from small donations of individual donors. I emailed the story's author, Ariel Zirulnick, who confirmed that this is the correct interpretation:

The $750 for council members is seed money which can come from the
individual and/or their family members. The $2,250 is qualifying
contributions, which are donations from community members in small
increments (typically $15- 20). You have to meet that $750 and $2250
combination in order to be matched with the $3,000 in public funds.

Do we really want to lock out low-income people from being able to participate in the public financing program? I'm sure some folks think that's a drop in the bucket, but for others of us, $750 is 2+ months of rent, the cost of our first car, or utilities for a year. Sure, public financing is opt-in, but it ought to be leveling the playing field, not creating more hurdles for entry. Don't expect students, retired folks on fixed incomes, or other people without a great deal of means (who in this community are often minorities) to be rushing into this system if it's approved with these numbers in place.



I'm so glad you posted this, Jason. I am a big fan of public financing, but am completely shocked at the expectation that a someone should have put ANY of their own money into a campaign to be considered a "serious candidate." And setting that minimum at a rate that could easily be higher than a month's rent is grossly unfair.

I think I put ina few hundred dollars to setlle my debt when I ran, but I also raised over $4,000 in donations of under $100 each and could never have met this requirement.

The point should be to measure community support, not personal resources.

I’d be shocked too – but it’s not true. Unfortunately, the DTH reporter got the facts wrong. I was at the meeting and have helped think through the framework for the proposal with council members.  

The proposal says a candidate is allowed to raise or spend up to $750 in the current manner for the campaign before making a decision to enter the public financing program and begin raising qualifying contributions.  It’s essentially seed money to explore if you want to mount a campaign and could, for example, help finance your first mailing.  On the other hand, you could declare immediately that you’re going to begin raising qualifying contributions and forget about the seed money stage.  To receive public fund, the candidate must raise at least 75 qualifying contributions (QCs) of $5 to $20 from residents eligible to vote in Chapel Hill, and the total amount must add up to at least $750 but not more than $2,250.  For example, you could raise $10 QCs from 50 residents and $5 QCs from 60 residents and you’d have $800.  You turn in the documentation of these QCs and receive a public grant of $3,000 for your council campaign.  The confusion probably came about because the number $750 is used twice in the proposal – once as the maximum of amount allowed for seed money and once as the minimum about to raise in QCs to receive a public grant.  Hope this helps.  Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina
Thanks for the clarification Bob. I couldn't imagine that the story I read was the actual set of conditions we intended to use.

Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.