Putting power back into the hands of Cuyahoga County residents is the cornerstone of this campaign, and to do that we need to curtail the excessive influence of corporations in our government and politics. For residents to have a chance, the playing field must be even. And one significant, commonsense step we can take is to enact campaign finance reform at the county level (and hopefully on a county scale).
Currently, a candidate for an elected office in Cuyahoga County government can receive unlimited financial contributions from individuals. That’s right. A person could give their very last dollar. In the case of many wealthy donors, they don’t have to worry about their last dollar. Thus, an uneven playing field is ensured.
Steps We Can Take
- Maximum individual contribution limits
- Increase transparency around donors’ identities (especially with PACs and other shadowy entities)
- Limit corporate contributions
- Cumulative yearly limits by individuals, PACs, & corporate entities
To empower residents, and get more people engaged in local elections, cities like Seattle are experimenting with practices like “democracy vouchers,” which give voters money to back political candidates of their choosing. Denver, New York, Portland, and Los Angeles are all utilizing steps like this, or considering them, and we can’t afford to fall behind in this area. For example, Cuyahoga County residents could receive a “voucher” for $25, deductible from their property taxes or municipal income tax, to foster greater involvement and give residents power equal to the wealthy while making them literal stakeholders. After all, it’s the people’s government to run.
Potential Results of Campaign Finance Reform
- Instead of dialing for dollars, elected officials can better engage with their constituents
- Making them more responsive to the needs of average residents, and not just the rich
- Increased transparency over who gives
- Enable more candidates to run, representing a true cross-section of county residents, not hindered by socioeconomic status. This will give grassroots candidates and issues a chance to be heard.
There are too many naysayers in our region who say we can’t do something just because it’s not the way we’ve always done it in the past. To preserve the status quo on campaign finance, amongst other issues, will only validate the continued corporate control of Cuyahoga County. I believe wealthy, corporate interests simply do not represent the best interests of our county’s residents. If we believe people and not money should govern, and that residents and not corporate interests should be the ones choosing our elected leaders, enacting campaign finance reform gives us a chance to regain control of our county government.