Policy

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NH Voters Have a Right to Know Who is Bankrolling Their Elections

THE NEED for FULL DISCLOSURE NOW (Eight Page Report)

Why Public Funding of Elections in NH Matter

2013 Priorities
* Disclosure: LSR 2013-S-0260-R and LSR 2013-H-2042-R
* Public Funding: LSR 2013-H-0743-R

2012 Priorities
* Disclosure: HB 1704 – passed the Senate, but died in conference committee
* Disclosure: HB 1559: Case and Summary – died in committee (ITL)
* Public Funding: HB 1684: Case – died in committee (ITL)

Common sense for the common good.

CITIZEN FUNDED ELECTIONS:

  • put politics back in the hands of voters, where it belongs;
  • are constitutional, because candidates choose whether or not to participate;
  • eliminate special interest money from campaigns by funding them only with small contributions from constituents and public matching funds;
  • help limit skyrocketing campaign spending;
  • allow candidates to concentrate more on issues and constituent concerns than finding big donors;
  • allow more qualified people with good ideas to run for office, not just the best fundraisers, providing more choice to voters and bringing new perspectives to the policy table;
  • allow elected officials to be accountable only to voters, restoring people’s confidence in government; and
  • encourage greater civic engagement by preserving faith in democracy.

Publicly funded elections systems in many states already enjoy wide support from voters and politicians across the political spectrum. With the Citizen Funded Elections Act of 2009, New Hampshire can join them.

Citizen Funded Elections Task Force

People need faith in our democracy. Legislators need the trust of their constituents, and voters need confidence that their government is working for them. We can no longer afford to wait to get special interest money out of our politics–the damage has already been too great. The Citizen Funded Elections Task Force, created by the New Hampshire legislature, sent a clear message to voters in the Granite State, Congress and the rest of the nation: even in tough times, especially in tough times, democracy belongs to the voters.

The Citizen Funded Elections Task Force was established through the passage of a bill during New Hampshire’s 2009 legislative session. The Task Force will:

  • Develop a detailed plan, including proposals for specific legislation for publicly-funded elections.
  • Solicit input from senators, representatives, the governor, executive councilors, the attorney general, the secretary of state, and any other persons deemed appropriate by the task force.
  • Hold public hearings at times and at locations around the state that are likely to elicit substantive input from the general public.
  • Make the schedule and minutes of meetings of the task force, and all testimony and materials presented to the task force, available to the public on a website.
  • The task force shall submit an initial report on or before November 16, 2009 and a final report on or before November 15, 2010 of its findings and any recommendations for proposed legislation to the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, the senate clerk, the house clerk, the chairman of the senate election law and veterans’ affairs committee, the chairman of the house election law committee, the governor, and the state library.

Members of the Task Force and other information about the Task Force including their meeting schedule and location can be found by clicking here. Members of the public are welcome.

History of Citizen-Funded Elections in NH

In 2008, the New Hampshire legislature voted to convene a bipartisan commission to study how citizen funded elections could be structured and funded in our state. Acknowledging the current challenge of funding a full program for all gubernatorial, executive council and state senate races, the commission recommended enacting a pilot program in 2009. See http://nhcommission.demos.org/NHfinalreport.pdf for the commission’s December 1, 2008 report.

Citizen Funded Elections (CFE) State Senate Pilot Program Proposed by the Bipartisan Commission

  • Candidates could choose to run under our existing, private financing system, or participate in the new citizen-funded program; since it would be voluntary, the new system would be constitutional.
  • To qualify for the CFE program, candidates would first have to demonstrate strong support for their candidacy by gathering 250 small contributions ($5-$25) from NH voters, 126 of these contributions from voters in-district.
  • Participating candidates would agree to accept only donations of $25 or less from NH voters and to limit the use of personal funds to $500.
  • Participating candidates would agree to take part in public debate/s.
  • For the primary election, participating candidates would receive a 2:1 ratio of public matching funds for every small contribution raised, up to a combined limit of $35,000. Beyond that amount, candidates would continue to raise and spend money, provided it came through contributions from voters of $25 or less.
  • For the general election, candidates would be allocated $50,000 in public campaign funds. Again, candidates could raise and spend additional voter contributions of $25 or less.
  • Voters could contribute up to $25 for the primary election and up to $25 for the general election to CFE candidates.
  • Based on recent campaign spending data, $85,000 provides even unknown candidates for senate enough money to successfully make their case to voters.

Enacting a pilot program now would demonstrate that this reform works and build support for future program expansion, while sending a strong message that democracy matters in the Granite State.

Filed by Senator Martha Fuller Clark during the 2009 legislative session, the Citizen Funded Elections Act codified the commission’s recommendation for a pilot program in six state senate districts over three election cycles. The bill called for raising lobbyist fees to generate the projected $382,500 annual cost of the program. The bill was based on the reform model developed by the commission with input and data from several NH legislators and party officials, national experts and experts from other states, and citizen advocates. Due to a global, national and statewide economic crisis this bill was not pursued. Instead, a new bill establishing a Citizen-Funded Elections Task Force was introduced and passed during New Hampshire’s 2009 legislative session (see above).

Previous Legislation

Voluntary Public Financing has solid support among NH Voters. In a several polls of NH voters, large majorities said they support campaign finance reform and favored voluntary public financing-style reform. A broad base of Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters throughout NH supports voluntary public financing.

Voluntary Public Financing has bi-partisan political support in NH. In the legislative session of 2000, a bill (SB447) to establish voluntary public financing of campaigns passed. SB447 was drafted by a bi-partisan coalition. Bill sponsors included both Republicans and Democrats. The NH Senate passed the measure resoundingly. All the Democrats and nearly 50% of the Republicans on the House Election Law Committee supported this initiative. SB447 lost by only 32 votes in NH’s 400-member House of Representatives. A similar initiative, SB 355, lost in a close 12-12 tie vote in the NH Senate on February 14, 2002.