DELAWARE CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND ELECTION REFORM ACT

   Any informed Delaware citizen or elected State Legislator who supported the recent open government legislation should be ecstatic about supporting this far more important Act. By providing alternative public campaign financing for those who qualify, this Act will return our city, county and state governments to citizens as the rightful owners as contrasted with sole special interest funding and subsequent control. Eight states have very successfully passed and implemented similar legislation and nearby Maryland is only one legislative vote shy of joining this group of states. Paragraph three explains the  funding source that will provide these public campaign finance funds.

   A statewide supportive Coalition of organizations and individuals have endorsed our Forum's Act. It was developed with and through Common Cause of Delaware. Our Forum's Overall Facilitator researched and authored this Act and the Coalition was created by our Facilitator working with Common Cause's John Flaherty.  Seven other statewide endorsing organizations include the following: A Philip Randolph Institute; Citizens Coalition for Tax Reform, Delaware Chapter, National Association of Social Workers; Delaware NAACP; Phoenix Community in Delaware; and the Green and Independent Parties in Delaware. Poll after poll, at both state and national levels, show approximately 70% of citizens polled want the campaign finance reform covered in our Delaware Campaign Finance and Election Reform Act. Our Forum's efforts in Delaware indicate Delaware citizens support this Act at the same level.

   Any citizen or politician involved in helping pass the recent State Act banning desk drawer vetoes and helping provide more open, transparent state government should enthusiastically support  this Act.  Each year our state gets a windfall gift of approximately $300 million from abandomed property. For approximately  ONE PERCENT of this annual gift, our Act could fund three candidates in the Primary Election and three candidates in the General Election for every city, county and state elective public office covered in the Act. The Act provides for political candidates to choose and use private campaign financing but it also provides for all publicly funded candidates to match dollar for dollar campaign funds raised by those competing with private campaign funds. When our Forum's Act was introduced in our State Legislature a few years ago, it received a few co-sponsors and was then buried in Legislative Hall without a proper viewing. We will try to get co-sponsors to re-introduce this important revised civic/political Act in 2012 with the hope Delaware will join the other elevenstates that have enacted and ten that have fully funded and very successfully implemented similar campaign finance reform legislation.

   Many efforts have been made to provide candidates for our national and state elective public offices the option of being provided public funds for their campaigns. At the national level, the highest percentage of support from House and Senate members for campaign finance reform has been a 20% support level. In the states, eleven states have passed campaign finance reform laws similar to our Delaware act and ten have funded the implementation of these acts. Other states are near state legislative support for enactment of their reform laws.  In 2010, nearby Maryland only missed passage of their reform act by one vote. The reform on this and other issues such as single payer health care are being accomplished at the grass roots state levels. The two states that have had more experience with their implemented campaign finance reform acts are Arizona and Maine. In Maine, for example, 82% of their current state legislature's House and Senate members were elected with public campaign funds. Connecticut's State Legislators currently have 78 percent elected using public campaign funds.  Arizona had similar success with public campaign funding as have other states implementing their campaign finance reform laws.

   Our Delaware Forum believes the importance of this issue area and our reform act should be understood and strongly supported by voting citizens and ALL candidates for the 68 state level decision-making elective offices in both executive and legislative branches of our state government. When elected to public office with public campaign funds, this enables our elected politicians to be free to represent citizens' interests and not special interests who funded their campaigns. States implementing their campaign finance reform laws are realizing another significant benefit for improved democracy by having many more candidates vying for their elective public offices. Rarely is an incumbent unopposed on their ballots.

   Our Delaware Campaign Finance and Election Reform Act will be administered by a state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Campaign Practices. The Commission shall be composed of five commissioners with no more than two from the same political party. The Governor shall appoint all commissioners from a list of names provided by a nonpartisan, independent advisory panel. The Commission shall be included within the Delaware Department of Elections for administrative purposes only. Those candidates for city, county and state elective offices who elect to qualify for and use public campaign funding will be designated participating candidates and those who choose private funding will be non-participating candidates. To qualify as a participating candidate our act sets a number of registered voters within the election district to be served by the office sought who must contribute $5 to the candidate's campaign and sign a petition supporting the candidate. The act has limiting amounts all candidates can use for beginning seed money, use of personal funds, funds from political parties, special interests and amounts spent on campaigns by outside interests such as media advertising by supporters. Ongoing accountability for all sources of funding is built into our law. The Delaware Superior Court shall have jurisdiction over all offenses under our law. Based on campaign funds spent over the past three election cycles for all state, county and city elective offices covered under our act, amounts of public campaign funds allocated for each elective office were established. These amounts are for both the primary and general elections in each cycle. If a privately funded non-participating candidate exceeds the amount of public funds provided a competitive participating candidate(s), our act provides for the participating candidate(s) to match dollar for dollar the campaign funds of all competitive private funded candidates.

   Our act establishes a Voter Information Commission which will establish and administer a Voter Information Committee consisting of representatives of nonprofit organizations, political parties, print and broadcast media and interested citizens. The Voter Information Committee shall be authorized to establish a Voter Information Program for the purpose of providing voters with election-related information and fostering political dialogue and debate. A Voter Information Guide will be developed and distributed which will include important information about each candidate, including biographical material, whether candidate is funded by private or public funds, policy statements by the candidates on issues designated by the Voter Information Committee and when pertinent, candidates' voting records.

   Every year our state receives a windfall gift of $300 million or more from an Abandomed Property account. We can provide full public campaign funding for three participating candidates in the primary election and three participating candidates in the general election for EVERY city, county and state elective office in Delaware for approximately ONE/HALF OF ONE PERCENT of this annual windfall gift. It could be less than this miniscule percentage will be needed  as candidates will have the option of choosing private funding of their campaigns. If anyone doesn't believe this is a bargain, read our Association's Health Care page on this web site to understand funds being wasted and stolen because our current elected state officials represent special health care interests. Maine passed their single payer health care reform act after successfully implementing their campaign finance reform Act.

   Our nation's key resource for helping state level campaign finance reform laws and movements is Public Campaign. Their valuable web site is publicampaign.org. (Note one c in web site) State and national organizations such as Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen are all trying to get our state and national political decision-makers to support and enact legislation similar to our Delaware Campaign Finance and Election Reform Act.

   Our Association's Issue Area Facilitator for this important issue and contact resource person is Dr. Floyd E. McDowell, Sr.  He can be reached at (302) 832-2799 0r via email at flydmcdwll@verizon.net. Our Forum would like to acknowledge the contributions made by John Flaherty, former lobbyist for Common Cause of Delaware,  who helped inform and enlist a number of the organizations supporting our original Delaware Campaign Finance and Election Reform Act.