Washington Post: D.C.’s Fair Elections Act would give more power to the powerful (In the News)

Washington Post: D.C.’s Fair Elections Act would give more power to the powerful

By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley

The so-called Fair Elections Act of 2017, a measure that would provide a five-to-one tax financing match to small-dollar donations to D.C. candidates, cleared committee this month. The sponsor markets the proposal as “giving more people a bigger voice.”

That’s nonsense. The bill proposes a grand experiment with unpredictable impact. There’s a good chance that it will turbocharge the power of special-interest groups in D.C. campaigns, giving fewer interests a dominant voice. It also could incentivize fraud, which could lead to a collapse of public confidence.

The proposal is biased in favor of a new form of special PAC. The fine print allows for allocations from labor unions to count as contributions from individuals, and thus may be considered small-dollar donations. The provision not-so-subtly prohibits similar contributions from partnerships and small-business owners. The D.C. ACLU noted “labor unions do not have greater First Amendment rights than other kinds of organizations.” But the potential constitutional defect remains.

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