TESTIMONY TO THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
HB 1269 Maryland Small Donor Incentive Act
BY: Susan Cochran, President
DATE: March 6, 2014
League members across Maryland believe that public funding will enable candidates to compete more effectively for political office, promote citizen participation in the political process and reduce the influence of campaign contributions on decision making by elected officials.
The League of Women Voters of Maryland supports HB 1269 which will create a voluntary system to publicly fund campaigns for all state offices. This bill would implement key provisions recommended in 2004 by the Study Commission on Public Funding of Campaigns: voluntary participation, qualifying contributions, and spending limits. The legislation creates a Public Financing Administration Board whose role is to determine if candidates are eligible for public financing and make sure they follow the provisions of the law. This Board would also be responsible for drafting regulations to implement this law.
Candidates seeking public funds would not be allowed to accept donations from a business entity, a political party, a regulated lobbyist, the campaign finance entity of a candidate, a political action committee or any other political committee. Donations from individuals must be no more than $250 in aggregate.
Funding would come from: funds remaining in the former Fair Campaign Financing Fund as of December 31, 2014; any money allocated by the annual state budget for this purpose; contributions made though a voluntary check-off on the individual income tax return; fines or penalties imposed on candidates who violate the rules of participating in this program, and investment earnings of the fund. Unspent matching funds that were distributed to a candidate who does not make it into the general election or who drops out of the race, or opts out of the Public Campaign Finance program will go back into the fund.
For many, many years, the League has been coming to you requesting passage of a public campaign financing program. This comprehensive legislation provides a good blueprint for an excellent system. With the introduction of HB 1401, you have the means before you to make this happen.
We urge you to give a favorable report to HB 1269.