Public financing bill dies a merciful death in Maryland

A plan to implement taxpayer-funded elections in Maryland fell apart today, as the Maryland Senate sent the proposal back to committee with less than three weeks left in the legislative session. Click here for our release.

The story, first reported by the Baltimore Sun, is great news for those of us who oppose government regulation of speech and campaigns. So-called reform groups have said they hold the momentum in the taxpayer-funded campaigns debate, but this vote is a huge victory for supporters of campaign freedom.

An opponent of the bill, Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, has a brilliant quote in the Baltimore Sun explaining the opposition:

Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, led the charge against the bill in the Senate. He argued that the proposal would have diverted money from the state’s operating budget already straining from massive shortfalls. “People can’t find money for their [electricity] bills, and yet we’re finding money for campaign bumper stickers and yard signs,” he said.

The Maryland Senate overwhelmingly rejected the fear-mongering and alarmist rhetoric of groups like Common Cause. Regulation proponents employ hyperbolic rhetoric about money in politics to advance their cause, but they’re entirely devoid of any evidence showing that taxpayer-funded campaigns have had any impact on reducing corruption in states that have implemented them.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a previous opponent of the plan, reversed himself and indicated the plan would pass: “I vigorously support this proposal, and I am confident it will get an overwhelming majority,” he said.

Yet after a “fiery” debate today, the measure was sent back to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee on a decisive 27-20 vote. The bill failed by only a single vote in 2007, indicating a significant drop in support even with Miller’s backing.

The director of Maryland Common Cause and other supporters of the bill have declared defeat. Chalk up another win for the good guys.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.