An unlikely measure to help lowly House and Senate candidates with their fund raising is being run by Colorado Springs Democratic Rep. Pete Lee, who wants the state to put campaigns on a more even footing.
“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about their disgust at the amount of money that’s controlling politics these days, and there’s a lot of people who are interested in making a change in that system,” Lee said. “If we don’t have the dialogue, it’s never going to change, so let’s start talking about it.”
Lee admits that the bill will almost certainly die in its very first committee hearing, but he doesn’t care. He wants to start the ball rolling.
The bill would establish a tiered system by which candidates for the Legislature could earn public monies, if they meet certain criteria. For example, House candidates would have to gather at least $5 in donations from at least 150 people before they would qualify, and Senate candidates would have to get $5 from 300 people.
The most a candidate could make in public money would be the average amount raised by the two winning candidates in the prior two elections. For example, if the winner in a House district in 2008 raised $65,000 and the winner in 2010 raised $63,000, then the 2012 candidate could earn up to $64,000 in public money.
There are lots of other provisions, as well. General election candidates receiving public money would have to participate in at least two hour-long debates and one during a primary race.
The bill would also restrict publicly funded candidates from self-financing campaigns — candidates and their family members could only donate $100 per person.
None of the money handed out would be from the state budget, though. Rather it would be funded by a commission that collects gifts, grants and donations.
According to Common Cause, some sort of public financing is available for legislative campaigns in six states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Gubernatorial candidates can get public funding in 10 states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Vermont.
Statewide candidates can get public funding in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, and Rhode Island.