Phil Andrews on campaign finance reform

Phil Andrews speaks on campaign finance reform to Our Revolution Prince George’s and many others gathered at the College Park City Hall on September 28th 2017.

Our next speaker is former council member from montgomery county phil andrews and before he was on the montgomery county council he was the executive director of common cause maryland and i was looking at the mission statement for common cause and it says to work to create open honest and accountable government that serves the public interest promote equal rights

Opportunity and representation for all and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process so i think moving from being the executive director of common cars it’s no surprise that phil was the champion for public financing in montgomery county so he was the executive director of common cars from 1988 to 1994 and i was interested because i

Looked at this and i thought wow this is interesting among the accomplishments of common cause maryland during his tenure for campaigns that led to the prohibition of fundraising for candidates by registered lobbyists and the banning of payments of honoraria for speeches and articles about official business by public officials so i thought wow we’ve actually moved

A move moved a long way in the direction of where we need to be from where we were to where we are now after that phil was for 16 years council member in montgomery county an activists in montgomery county always told me with some oh and their voice that phil andrews is the person who knocked every door in his district before every election and during his tenure

He never accepted funds from any pacs or developers and if you want to single out one person who worked tirelessly to advocate for public financing in maryland it surely fellini’s thank you very much that well i think there are a lot of people in the room looking around who probably remember watergate well it was alluded to by by donna edwards and i think and i

Grew up in this area i was a washing toaster newspaper carrier during watergate so i was very influenced by it i saw first thing every morning before breakfast and and so that certainly was an event that created the first wave of campaign reform in the united states that’s what led to presidential public financing it’s what led to a number of other campaign reforms

Around the country it led partly along with some scandals in maryland the 70s to the public financing system for the state of maryland that exists for gubernatorial races and that’s been used but was used by governor hogan in his election so it has been used here but it’s it’s not available in the amount that’s needed now for the current gubernatorial election

And it’s never been able to be used there’s not been a system for the legislative so we heard a great presentation by by donna about what is not happening because we don’t have public financing and what it’s like to be an environment where you don’t have it and we heard from mary about what it’s like to to run for office without public financing especially as a

Challenger when you’re running as an outsider and so what public financing does is empower small donors it creates a more level playing field and it enables us to have candidates who are really funded by the people and not by a small group of of groups or individuals what my former colleague current councilmember george leventhal said about not even spent all the

Time on the phone it’s partly because you don’t have to be on the phone all the time to raise $50.00 donations but it’s hard to get people to give you $500 with a direct mail piece so it changes also where candidates spend their time as as he’s noting it’s i want to say it’s very nice to be joined by my former colleague valerie ervin and and i’m glad that senator

Rose is here as well who i know supports public financing so how do you get it done well it was a long effort in montgomery county it took 13 years to get the legislature to give us the approval to do it that’s what took so long but they did in 2013 the legislature did pass a comprehensive revision to campaign finance laws in the state that included a provision that

Allows counties to establish public financing systems and so as soon as that passed went to work what became montgomery county’s system and it is different than many public financing systems around the country in part because we needed to make it supreme court proof given the supreme court’s tendency to reach out and overturn public finance systems when they find

Any kind of tangential reason to do so for example the supreme court overturned arizona arizona’s public financing system because it included a trigger mechanism that said that if you’re a public financing candidate and you’re running at someone who isn’t in the system and they raise more than a certain amount of money or spend more than a certain amount then you

Can receive more public funds and they said no you cannot link the receipt of public funds how much is available to a candidate to what a private leave funded candidate is doing so we had to make sure we did not run afoul of that so in response to that one of the things that we did was to make sure that there is actually no limit in our law as to what a candidate

Can raise or spend and this may seem counterintuitive at first but when you think about it it’s not the amount of money that is the the problem it’s where it comes from all right there’s actually more money spent on advertising some commercial products than there is on all federal races in the united states so it’s where the money comes from it comes is that too much

The money comes from a very small group of people and groups so we want to broaden that to the maximum extent possible and we want to empower small donors and we want to incentivize candidates to go get them and you have to provide the right incentives to candidates because they respond to them like most people and so that really is the key is setting up a system

That provides the incentives that you want to get the behavior that you want which is accountability to constituents rather than to accountability to the biggest donors and of course there are some people out there who will you know who are very big donors in some states there are no limits on what they can give like in virginia so a maryland at least has always

Had individual limits on what a group or individual individually if not not until 1991 where their limits on pacs and that was something that took a while to get through but there have been individual limits for a long time although higher than some states so in a sense what we did in montgomery county was to create a system that is both attractive to incumbents

And challengers which is what you want you want it to be functional and you want it to be used by a lot of people there are at the moment about 31 it changes pretty regularly by the week or day there are about 31 candidates last time i checked who are seeking public financing seeking to qualify in montgomery county because you must reach a certain threshold you

Have to it’s not a grant you have to earn you don’t have to qualify for the match and then you have to keep raising funds to keep receiving more matching funds so for a district race you need to raise ten thousand dollars in contributions of one hundred and fifty dollars or less from at least 125 people to show you’ve got some significant public support because

Number one one of the criticism public financing from opponents is well we don’t want fringe candidates to receive public funds and it’s a reasonable argument that i can’t should have to show some significant public support before they get public funds so that’s the threshold for a district council race our districts are about two hundred thousand people so they

Are significantly larger than the districts here we have five districts and four at-large seats on the county council for an at-large seat you have to raise at least $20,000 from at least 250 donors no more than 150 from each and these all have to be county residents okay you cannot qualify with out of county money these are county residents individual county

Residents and for a county executive you have to raise $40,000 from at least 500 county residents in contributions and no more than 150 dollars each and then those will qualify for matching public funds now the match is also a critical provision and we looked around at a lot of the other places there aren’t a huge number but there are a significant number of places

That have had public financing over the years and we wanted to come up with a system that provided the most powerful incentives for candidates to find small donors and we have a i believe a unique system in that it provides a larger match for the smaller donations so the first 50 dollars for a council race from a county content are matched four to one in public

Funds so here’s where your $10 contribution becomes a $50 contribution and your $20 contribution with 80 dollars in public funds becomes $100 contribution your $50 contribution becomes a $250 contribution the second 50 for a council candidate is matched at at three to one so that second 50 becomes a hundred and fifty dollar contribution from the public and 200

Overall and the third fifties match to two to one so four to one for the first fifty three to one for the second fifty to two one for this third 50 so they’re still you know an incentive to go after those small donors who have already given you some money but there’s more of an incentive to go find a new small donor and to broaden your base and to be accountable

The constituents that we want you to be accountable to which are the people that are directly affected by your decisions the county residents for executive we have a six to one match for the first 50 so a $50 donation is worth three hundred and fifty dollars to a candidate the second 50 is matched at four to one and the third 50 at two to one now in exchange for

This the candidates who have to agree to pay it’s voluntary you have to partake if you don’t you know if you want this money you have to agree to certain conditions but you don’t have to participate and you can’t require candidates to to participate under the supreme court’s decision so you have to incentivize them through an attractive system like this but in

Exchange for that matching public fund system which can allow you to leverage three or four times in public funds which you raise in qualifying public funds private funds so if you raise 200 and private funds you can qualify for 800 or so in public funds and raise 20,000 in private funds from these donations you can get 60 80 60 to 80 thousand dollars in public

Funds so most your funding can come that way through the levy but you have to be willing then to forego any contributions at all from any groups and any individual donation of more than $150 so no money from pacs no money from unions no money from corporations no money from political parties no money from any group and this is advantageous to challengers because it

Is incumbents who are more likely to be supported by interest groups and wealthy individuals and groups in general which are more cautious about supporting outsiders and challengers than our small donors so you can predict that this will increase competition as a result of that and you’ll have people run for office who couldn’t run before because now they there are

Small donations which they are able to raise but not often by itself enough to run a competitive campaign are now going to the leveraging public money money that gives them the ability to run a competitive campaign and we are seeing that in montgomery county the combination we have term limits now montgomery county so that has ensured there are several open seats

On the council four to be exact and a new county executive but the county executive may have been retiring anyway and you may have had the same people run for that office even without term lutz but it certainly has ensured that there are those open seats but the the challenges are running and there are about twenty to twenty four people at this point running for

The four at-large seats on the county council the great majority using or seeking to use public financing a lot of those challengers would not have the likelihood at least of raising enough funding without a public funding system to get their message out so we’re going to see a lot more competition as a result we’re seeing most candidates five members of the county

Council five of the eight council members who are running for something are using public financing and a large majority of the challengers so it’s going to get a great test and it takes that kind of push we had a great support of this initiative from common cause from progressive maryland from other groups in the county like the aclu progressive neighbors the young

Democrats the civic federation and i’m probably leaving group or two out but we had a good coalition but we also had a powerful idea and we had strong advocacy within the council we had several council members who were really enthusiastic about it so i know that it is always a challenge to pass campaign finance reform in anybody but the time is good for this the

Time is ripe i hope the momentum from montgomery county will have some impact here it seemed to have some impact in howard county which adopted it last year or the year before combination of actions has brought it about in 2022 and so i think there is a good chance that prince george’s county has the chance to do this for the next election this being start of an

Election year or close to it we’re less than a year from the primary it is a great opportunity to advance this and to get candidates on record lots of people running for different offices the voices in this room are going to be powerful and i’m really pleased to see so many people here out on a night like this i assume that most of you are probably supportive of

This idea that is often the case that we preach to the converted but i hope that this will give you real hope that this can be accomplished here in prince george’s county i’ll just say one other thing and then stop and see what we can all see what kind of questions there are so one of the objections that sometimes you hear from critics of public financing as well

This is not a it’s not the best use of public funds we could take that six or eight or ten million dollars and we could spend that on many other things and and how do you justify putting that amount of money well first of all bad government or a government that’s dominated by interest groups is very expensive whether it’s special interest subsidies or tax breaks

Or legislation very expensive and it can drive tax rates for years and it can drive land use for decades and it can that can be very expensive too if you don’t have the infrastructure to go along with the development so it is a very good investment it not only will empower the people but it will also increase political competition which we are clearly seeing the

Result already in montgomery county and i would be really surprised if it doesn’t boost turnout and voter turnout in montgomery county has been anemic recently eighteen percent turnout in the last primary in – well in 2014 2016 it was in that range the 14 was the last state primary so it was terrible i believe it will be higher in part because if just the friends

And families of the candidates vote i think we’ll have a larger turnout but they’re going to be reaching out to all their supporters and and we’re seeing the power of the issue because the candidates that are participating the public financing are talking about that and the candidates that are not participating are not mentioning it that tells you a lot right there

So i think that the opportunity is ripe if i can help in any way let me know but you have a wonderful supporter in the council in councilmember layman and i’m sure she will be doing a great job with her colleagues but the support from the outside will be critical because elected officials do own over time at least respond to perceived public opinion and there’s no

Question in my mind that public opinion has been moving in this direction for some time and the onus silver lining of citizens united is that it has made the argument relic financing even stronger than it was before because it is the best alternative to at least in the in the short run to to that decision so thank you for your interest and i look forward to reading

About prince george’s adopting public financing within the next year and i’ll be glad to help if i can thank you

Transcribed from video
Phil Andrews on campaign finance reform By OurRevolutionPrinceGeorges