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  • Writer's pictureNathan Stewart

PGC Council Proposes CB-076-2023 to Revise the Fair Election Fund in the County

Recently, at a Prince George’s County Council meeting, CB-076-2023, was introduced, which would make revisions to the County's Fair Election Fund. The fair election fund was established by CB-099-2018 in 2018, and its purpose was to provide public campaign financing for a candidate for a County elective office, regulate campaign finance activity for candidates who accept public donations, and provide penalties for violations of public campaign financing.

Though available in 13 states, public financing is the least-utilized method to regulate money in elections. This is partly because of a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down a provision that mandated public financing for presidential elections. As a result, state public financing programs must now be optional for candidates. Private fundraising often provides financial advantages, leading candidates to opt out of public financing programs, typically with spending limits. For states that do offer public financing, the money is available for individual candidates or political parties.

What Would CB-076-2023 Do?

CB-076-2023 would revise language to CB-099-2018 regarding the Fair Election Fund, specifically Subtitle 10 concerning finance and taxation of county executive campaigns. Below is a section-by-section breakdown of the bill:

  • Section 10-322: This section defines terms used within the bill

  • Section 10-323: This section establishes the Public Election Fund. The fund consists of money appropriated to the Fund and any unspent money remaining in a certified candidate's citizen-funded campaign account after the candidate is no longer a candidate.

  • Section 10-324: This section establishes requirements for candidates before they raise any funds for their campaigns, sets contribution limits, considers the consumer price index and adjusts, and discusses regulations for candidates that have had campaign finance accounts that still have balances from prior election cycles.

  • Section 10-325: This section establishes requirements for certification for candidates.

  • Section 10-327 and Section 10-328: These sections establish mandates for distributing and using public contributions.

  • Section 10-329: This section outlines the process in which candidates may withdraw from participation in an election. Candidates must file a statement of withdrawal with the State Board and Commission in the form the State Board requires.

  • Section 10-330: This section outlines who candidates may not accept campaign contributions from, namely private contributions from any group or organization.

  • Section 10-331: This section establishes the fair election fund commission and outlines the terms and duties of commissioners as well as what to do in the event of vacancies.

  • Section 10-332: This section outlines penalties for violations of this bill. Any violations of CB-076-2023 are considered civil violations and are subject to a fine of $500.

  • Section 10-333: States that the first election cycle in which a certified candidate shall be able to receive matching public contributions should be the 2026 election cycle

Why Is CB-076-2023 Important?

CB-076-2023 aims to promote fair elections, which are vital for a robust democracy, ensuring that every citizen's voice, thoughts, and opinions are heard. It seeks to prevent undue influence from powerful corporations and organizations, which may not always prioritize the public's best interest. The bill addresses how campaign funds can be collected, distributed, and utilized. It seeks to create a level playing field for all citizens, as some individuals may find it challenging to compete with large corporate contributions.

Who Does CB-076-2023 Impact?

This bill would have an impact on citizens of Prince George's County from diverse backgrounds. It affects both ordinary citizens who fulfill their civic duty by voting and those who have the opportunity to run for public office and succeed. Additionally, the bill also has implications for private corporations as it restricts excessive funding of campaigns.

Next Steps for CB-076-2023

After its initial presentation to the Council, CB-076-2023 was referred to the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. As of today, no public hearing or meeting to discuss the bill has been scheduled. If more information is needed, contact Councilmember Thomas E. Dernoga to learn more.


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