Friday, February 23

Help Iowans Get a VOICE

From former Iowa Representative/Gubernatorial candidate and current John Edward supporter/consultant Ed Fallon's I'm for Iowa to subscribe, go here

It's exciting to see legislation making its way through the Iowa House. But lawmakers need to hear from us. I put together this Q & A piece that might prove helpful.

Q: What is VOICE, and how does it work?
A: VOICE is a campaign finance system that lets candidates run for office without relying on special-interest money. VOICE is voluntary, and it gives candidates a choice on how to finance their campaigns. If a candidate wants to run a conventional campaign, (s)he can still raise money from PACs, lobbyists and big donors. But in states like Maine and Arizona, more people are choosing to run using the clean elections system, and a majority of them are winning.Under the proposed Iowa law, participating candidates limit their fundraising to $5 donations from residents of their districts. If they're a House candidate, they need to raise 100 $5 donations. For Senate candidates, the requirement is 200 $5 donations. A candidate for governor must raise 2,500 $5 donations, with 20% coming from each congressional district. The bill applies to all statewide and legislative offices.When the candidate raises the required number of $5 donations, the money is deposited in the state's clean elections fund. The candidate then receives from that fund:
-- for a House candidate, $15,000 for the primary and $30,000 for the general;
-- for a Senate candidate, $22,000 for the primary and $40,000 for the general; and
-- for candidates for governor, $750,000 for the primary, $3 million for the general.
If a VOICE candidate has an opponent who raises money from conventional sources and who exceeds the initial amount of money allotted to the VOICE candidate, the VOICE candidate receives an additional dollar for dollar match. This allows the VOICE candidate to remain competitive. And because VOICE candidates no longer incur fundraising expenses, the money they receive from the clean elections fund tends to go a lot further.

Q: Is there a VOICE bill before the Iowa Legislature?
A: Yes. It's called HSB 105. The bill is in the House State Government Committee, and there is a companion bill in the Senate. To read the bill, visit and type "HSB 105" in the upper right hand corner in the box marked "Quick Find: Bills and Iowa Code." This web page also allows you to find committee members and to obtain contact information for any representative or senator.

Q: How much will VOICE cost?
A: It depends on what elections the bill covers. If VOICE is available to just legislative candidates, the price tag will be around $3 million per election cycle. If it also covers all statewide elections, as in Arizona, it will cost around $10 million per election cycle.

Q: How will VOICE be financed?
A: This type of legislation is often referred to as "public financing," and to some people that implies raising taxes on the average person to pay for political campaigns. Under HSB 105, that's not the case. Most of the money would come from a sales tax on advertising – so corporations and others (like politicians!) who spend a lot on advertising would foot the bill. Additional revenue for the fund would come from the $5 qualifying contributions, an income tax check-off and other voluntary donations.

Q: How will VOICE improve the political process?
A: VOICE lets candidates focus on meeting voters as opposed to wining and dining lobbyists and big donors. By drastically reducing the role of money in politics, VOICE returns power to the people that government is supposed to represent. In Maine, State Senator Ed Youngblood, a retired bank executive, wanted to spend time with voters instead of raising money. "I wanted to be able to say 'I'm not accountable to anyone but you, the voter.'" He defeated a sixteen-year incumbent.
In fact, 83% of Maine legislators were elected using the clean elections system. In Arizona, nine of eleven statewide office holders were elected using that state's clean elections system, including two-term governor Janet Napolitano. Ultimately, if lawmakers no longer are beholden to big donors and special interests, they are more likely to focus on issues voters want to see addressed. For example, in recent years in both Maine and Arizona, significant health care initiatives were enacted, despite opposition from lobbyists in the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Q: What effect would VOICE have on third-party candidates?
A: In Maine and Arizona, the clean elections law has had no noticeable impact on third party participation in elections. There are still some third-party candidates who run and qualify for clean elections funds, but with only a couple exceptions, the candidates who win are either Democrat or Republican.
Many prospective candidates don't run for office because they are intimidated by the huge amount of money they need to raise. Now that candidates in Maine and Arizona have a viable option to big-money campaigns, more people are willing to run, and this is healthy in a democracy. Yet the threshold for viability in a clean elections system (i.e., lots of small donations from residents of the district) is high enough to discourage truly fringe candidates, but not so onerous to discourage legitimate candidates of any political persuasion.

No comments: