Why Election and Campaign Finance Reform is needed in Alhambra, CA
Equal representation is the cornerstone of democracy. No one person should have greater representation than any other person. The reality of unlimited money in politics challenges that ideal.
Unlimited money in politics facilitates a political environment in which those with greater means hold greater sway over the outcome of elections, and therefore greater influence in the policy-making process. This opens the door to unequal representation and a corruption of our political process.
Common sense reforms can minimize money's influence on elections and government policy. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that campaign contribution limits are a legitimate means of “dealing with the reality or appearance of corruption inherent in a system permitting unlimited financial contributions."
The State of California imposes campaign donor limits on candidates running for state office. In addition, over 100 California cities have adopted local campaign contribution limits and even more cities have adopted some type of campaign finance reform.
Alhambra has no campaign finance reform laws. The City currently operates under a system that allows campaign donors to give unlimited contributions to candidates for municipal office and requires district-based city council candidates to run in city-wide elections. This both increases the cost of running for elected office and the likelihood of improper influence, real or perceived, exercised by campaign contributors over elected officials.
In accordance with democratic principles, those with greater means should not have greater representation and/or influence in Alhambra government. The purpose and intent of this legislation is to improve our democratic process by:
1. Placing realistic and enforceable limits on the amounts persons may contribute to political campaigns in municipal elections;
2. Promoting integrity, honesty, fairness, and transparency in municipal election campaigns;
3. Providing opportunity for all citizens to become candidates for city office, unhindered by a need to raise exorbitant campaign funds;
4. Preventing corruption, or the appearance of corruption, which results from the real or potential influence of large contributions on the conduct or actions of candidates elected to office;
5. Placing a premium on messaging, qualifications, and good governance rather than fundraising and power brokering;
6. Better ensuring that the demographic makeup of the city will be more equally and fairly represented by their elected leaders;
7. Alleviating the time and financial burden of running for city council by decreasing the area within the city that a candidate must campaign in;
8. Diminishing the real or potential influence of money’s sway on the outcome of elections by granting candidates a more focused area of campaigning (⅕ of the city) which decreases the cost of candidate messaging;
9. Encouraging more candidates to run for city council by reducing fundraising barriers, thus fostering more competitive elections.