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Fair Elections Pilot Project

by Thomas Sbrega, published

Imagine if ANYONE could run for office, wouldn’t that be nice? When I say “ANYONE” I mean even people who do not have a million dollars. Yes, I know, it’s hard to imagine.  But what if candidates- under strict rules- received enough money from a state fund to actually win an election? AB 583 is authored by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D- East Bay) and intends to do just that. 

If you receive 7,500 contributions of $5 each, and neither accept money nor use your own money, you may qualify for 1 - 5.2 million dollars to use for your campaign. (One-million dollars is the acceptable estimate of what a realistic campaign would cost- in order to win, that is. This issue will still need to be addressed at a later date.)

The bill is sponsored by the California Fair Elections ACT (CFEA) and will appear on the June 2010 ballot, creating a pilot project for the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State.  If this project succeeds- as it has in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut- it is hoped to be applied to other state offices.

AB 583 is paid for by voluntary contributions and by a "registration fee of $350 a year on lobbyist, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers, the same as in Illinois. Currently lobbyist only pay $25 every two years," according to the CFEA, link above. Third party and independent candidates require twice the normal number of qualifying contributions to receive full funding. The reason? Because they "don't have primary elections involving millions of voters."


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