Councilmember Silverman Statement on Bringing Transformative Public Financing System to the District

WASHINGTON, DC – DC Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) today released the following statement after the DC Council unanimously passed the Fair Elections Amendment Act of 2017 on the first of two votes:

“I am thrilled that Fair Elections passed unanimously, and I look forward to it being funded and becoming an integral part of our electoral process. It is an investment in the health of our local democracy, and especially given our lack of statehood, I think this is a very prudent expenditure.

It is hard for many DC residents to take $500 or $1,000 out of a bank account to give to a candidate. But they might be able to take $25 or $50, and with that, they might be as influential as a current “maxed out” big money donor.

Another significant achievement of this bill is that qualified small donor contributors must be people—real living, breathing people—not anonymous LLCs. This was the will of more than 23,000 District voters who supported the 2012 ballot initiative, Initiative 70. We did not make the ballot in the end, but this bill is confirmation that the efforts were not in vain and voices were heard.

It is unfortunate that money is a measure of candidate viability, and that has only gotten worse as another pillar of democracy, our local press, has gotten smaller. Given few resources, most reporters don’t have time to go in depth and use campaign contributions as a yardstick of support. Public financing will at least make this imperfect measurement more accurate.

Finally, I think this bill will enhance our democracy by making our Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) more muscular, more responsive to real-time violations, and more nimble. OCF will have to certify that candidates meet the donor and money thresholds and that will be a great improvement to our current system. In addition, the reporting requirements will make both contributions and expenditures much more transparent!

Thank you to everyone who worked to bring this bill to the finish line: DC for Democracy, DC Working Families, and all the other members of the DC Fair Elections Coalition. I also want to thank Councilmembers Charles Allen and David Grosso, and their staffs, for their hard work on the legislation.

I look forward to participating in the public finance system.”