29 Mar BLOG: Why I’m Not Using DC’s Public Matching Program
Hello — I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this global health crisis. Although politics is the last thing on many people’s minds, I am reminded how important our local leaders are as we navigate this crisis and work to stimulate a robust recovery for our residents and small businesses hurting the most. Because trust in our elected leaders is of the utmost importance to me, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I am not using the Fair Elections Program.
To be clear, I supported the Fair Elections program at its inception and I continue to support it today. In fact, I think that it should be expanded to include childcare expenses so that more parents and women can have the resources they need to get involved in politics. The reason I have declined the public matching program from the District is simple: I entered the race late, and there wasn’t enough time to raise sufficient funds through this option.
Let me explain. The Fair Elections program was established in 2018 to provide 5 to 1 matching for candidates who cap their individual campaign contributions at $50. For example, if a candidate is given $50, the D.C. government provides $250 to that candidate. I believe deeply that we need to get money and private interests out of politics. I decided to get into this race after Jack Evans announced he was running again for the same seat from which he resigned one week before to avoid a unanimous and unprecedented expulsion following numerous ethics violations. I was outraged at the flagrant disregard for the rule of law and disrespect for the rest of our Council. I knew I was the most qualified candidate to represent my neighbors and the best person to help bring integrity back to the Ward 2 Council seat; however, my opponents had been raising money for over six months before I announced my candidacy.
In order to be competitive, I simply did not have time to raise sufficient funding for my campaign in $50 increments. The Fair Elections Program does not provide matching funds until you meet a certain threshold of donors, and given the tight timeline of this race, there was simply not time. If I ever ran for office again, I would absolutely use the Fair Elections Program.
As an indication that the program is working, some of my fellow candidates will end up having significantly more money in the bank than our campaign despite not having raised as much from individual donors. This is fair. It demonstrates that our public financing programs make sure that money is not a barrier to meaningfully run or compete for a seat. I bring this up only to dispel the notion that having access to traditional money will give me a leg up — in fact, it will allow me to raise much less money than the other candidates in the field. Contributors to my campaign are limited to $500 maximums for my primary and special election campaigns. But, given the time frame of my campaign, traditional financing was my only option to be competitive in this race.