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

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

By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley

Not only is Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) right in calling it a waste of money, but also the measure is nothing more than a grand experiment likely to turbocharge the power of special-interest groups and incentivize fraud by candidates.

For starters, the proposal is biased in favor of a new form of political entity called a “Fair Elections Committee.” The fine print allows for contributions from “membership organizations” (labor unions) to count as small-dollar donations. Candidates who receive financial support from a “membership organization” may still receive public financing, but a candidate who gets a similar donation from, say, a small business won’t. The provision was so blatantly discriminatory that the ACLU of the District of Columbia rightly opposed that provision, saying, “Labor unions do not have greater First Amendment rights than other kinds of organizations.” …

In addition, the measure is obviously an exercise in incumbency protection. An incumbent with an established donor base and prior familiarity with D.C.’s political machinery would have a clear advantage over a political newcomer. The Fair Elections Act exacerbates that advantage by affording incumbents the chance to raise tax-matched donations earlier than challengers who emerge later in the election cycle.

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