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How Clean Money Campaign Finance Reform Works

The Clean Money Campaign Finance Reform approach is designed to provide a clear alternative to the current system of raising and spending largely special-interest money to finance election campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels. A Clean Money program is essentially an incentive program which rewards candidates for public office who limit their fundraising to small contributions ($5-100) from voters in their districts and accept strict spending limits.

Democracy South advocates for the passage of Clean Money programs at the state level throughout the South, focusing particular attention on North Carolina (link to NC page). It also serves as a regional partner with Public Campaign in the effort to pass Clean Money at the federal level.

The Clean Election program has four basic tenets:

Voluntary - Candidates can choose to run as clean election candidates. This keeps the program constitutional (clean election programs in Maine, Arizona, Vermont and Massachusetts were passed and upheld by the courts as constitutional). The Supreme Court has ruled that across-the-board, mandatory spending limits are unconstitutional, but that an incentive program to create spending limits is constitutional.

Qualification through voters, not donors - Candidates first must meet ballot access requirements and then must meet the eligibility threshold for Clean Money funding. Most proposals require candidates to collect, during a pre-defined qualifying period, a prescribed number of signatures (depending on the size of the office sought) and small, qualifying contributions ($5 to $100) from registered voters in their districts. This means candidates will actually have to talk to voters in their districts rather than campaign contributors from all across the country. In North Carolina's proposed Clean Money legislation, called the Voter-Owned Elections Act, a candidate for the state senate would have to get small contributions under $100 from 400 registered voters in order to qualify.

Clean Money Funding - Candidates who qualify through voter authorization must agree not to raise or spend private money during the primary and general election campaign periods and can take no contributions beyond the qualifying contributions. In return, these Clean Money candidates receive a set amount of money from a Clean Money Fund to run their campaigns.

Rescue Funds - In order to maintain a financially level playing field, Clean Money candidates who are outspent by privately financed opponents are entitled to a limited amount of matching funds.

Clean Money Campaign Finance Reform allows qualified candidates to run for public office without compromising their independence, since they won't have to go through an elite circle of campaign contributors to run for office. The Clean Money system is completely voluntary and candidates who do not wish to participate are able to raise and spend private money for their campaigns as they do today. However, non-participating candidates will have an incentive to limit their spending. If they run against and outspend a Clean Money candidate, their opponent can receive dollar-for-dollar matching funds for the amount they are outspent.

A Clean Money program allows voters, candidates, incumbents, and even campaign contributors to escape the escalating money chase. A Clean Money system will restore faith in the electoral process because voters will know that their interests are being represented rather than those of wealthy campaign contributors.

*Much of this information was provided by Public Campaign


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