A confession to make:
We didn’t come up with this on our own. Over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended public financing of federal elections in his State of the Union Address. The first legislation to pass at the state level was in Maine in 1996! As a nation we’ve come a long way since then, now nine states and municipalities have some form of full public financing of elections, and there is a vital movement supporting the Fair Elections Now act in the U.S. Congress, which would allow for public funding of federal elections.
On the State Level
|Arizona||statewide and legislative||initiative||1998||2000|
|Connecticut||statewide and legislative||legislation||2005||2008|
|Maine||statewide and legislative||initiative||1996||2000|
|New Jersey||legislative pilot project||legislation||2004||2005|
|New Mexico||Public Regulation Commission
|North Carolina||judicial elections
pilot project for select statewide races
|Vermont*||governor & lieutenant governor||legislation||1997||2000|
For more on Vermont, read this memo issued by Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz.
Full public-financing of elections is also instituted in several municipalities nationwide, notably Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon.
What does this mean for Rhode Island?
Here in the Ocean State, we’d like to see implemented a voluntary system of full public financing of elections for all statewide and legislative offices, passed through legislation in 2009. Under current Rhode Island law, candidates for statewide office who raise a threshold amount of money and agree to spending limits are eligible for public matching funds. Candidates are eligible for 2-to-1 public matching grants for contributions of $500 or less and a 1-to-1 match for contributions in excess of $500. Public finance candidates also receive free air-time on community antenna television and Rhode Island public television. This is enforced through the State Board of Elections.
More information about current law and approved reforms across the country is available at this Common Cause website.