There is more to last night's election results than just what they portend for Trump and Trumpism. From Washington to Virginia, wealthy campaign donors saw their power wane yesterday.
- In Seattle, WA, candidates running under the city's new Democracy Voucher Program swept their elections. All three candidates -- Lorena González, Teresa Mosqueda, and Pete Holmes -- raised more than half of their campaign money from the $25 donation vouchers distributed to every Seattle resident as part of the program. Private donations to these candidates were limited to $250 per person. In its first year in operation, the Democracy Voucher Program is already meeting its goals by producing historic numbers of small donors, increasing the diversity of the donor base to better reflect the people of Seattle, and limiting the power of big donors. Post-election analysis of participation in the program will be available early next week.
- In Virginia, there will now be a governor and a strong bloc of state legislators who have promised to pass policies to reduce the power of big money. The national money-in-politics group Every Voice endorsed 19 state candidates. All of them won. "Northam’s goals in office also include ... campaign finance reform," according to The Virginia Pilot. Northam's victory also protects the voting rights of previously disenfranchised state residents who could have seen their rights rescinded once again under Gillespie.
- In Washington, Manka Dhingra's state senate victory opens the door for legislation to eliminate secret money from state elections. Republicans in the senate have previously used parliamentary procedures to block a final vote on the disclosure legislation. Democrats now control the senate, house, and governor's office.
- In New York, the mayor and seven of ten city council winners ran under the city's small-donor matching funds program. Three of those candidates -- Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, and Diana Ayala -- were non-incumbents. The program has for years successfully boosted the power of small donors and kept candidates focused on talking to voters instead of spending all of their time at big-dollar fundraises. On average, the seven city council winners participating in the program raised nearly half of their money from small donors.
- In Manchester, NH, campaign finance reform advocate Joyce Craig beat incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas. Craig has proposed "citywide campaign finance reform to end unlimited contributions to candidates and stop the pay-to- play culture at City Hall."
In 2018, voters will have even more opportunities to pass policies that give everyday Americans a bigger voice in our democracy.
- In Missouri, the left-right Clean Missouri coalition is supporting a ballot initiative to increase integrity, transparency, accountability in government. The initiative tackles campaign finance, ethics, gerrymandering, lobbyists gifts, and open records.
- In South Dakota, a left-right coalition has submitted signatures for a government ethics constitutional amendment. "The amendment would tighten campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, create an independent ethics commission and require that laws changing the ballot question process pass a public vote, among other provisions."
- In Denver, an initiative to institute public financing and drastically lower contribution limits for city elections has already been approved for the ballot.
- Other cities and states are also exploring 2018 ballot measures to reduce the power of wealthy donors. Coalitions will announce those campaigns in the coming months.
As voters around the country agitate for a democracy that works for all of us, Congress remains a constant reminder of the price everyday voters pay for a political system rigged in favor of wealthy donors. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) yesterday admitted the obvious: the Republican Party is pushing their tax plan at the behest of wealthy donors. The same was true during the healthcare debate earlier this year. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if donors were synonymous with everyday constituents (like in Seattle), but we know congressional donors do not at all look like average voters. They are overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and male. As a result, the privileged and powerful are the biggest winners of the proposed tax plan.