Public Financing of the Mayoral Race

adpostal's picture

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/31/BAGK1HFMAS.DTL

It turns out that one of the biggest donors to any candidate in the mayoral race maybe you, the San Francisco taxpayer.  The more money candidates raise from private sources, the more that the city will match.  I think that while public funding of elections is a very important way of making sure that politicians work for us, the amount of taxpayer dollars the city is about to shell out seems excessive.  The whole point of public campaign funding is to reduce the costs of campaigns.  This current system does not accomplish that goal. 

Thoughts? Should the taxpayers be an ATM for the city?

CJC's picture

I think there are lots of

I think there are lots of advantages to publicly funded political campaigns. One of these advantages is to limit the amount of influence that individual donors have on elected officials. The mayoral race does this by limiting individual donations to $500. 

However, another advantage of public funding is to limit the extent to which elections can be won by candidates blitzing voters with a big budget while other candidates have more limited war chests. The election regulations here fail to do this. Instead to trying to equalize the budgets of candidates, they are entrenching them further by offering matching funds proportional to what has already been raised. Thus those with access to a lot of money will see their budgets increase massively, leaving those with less cash struggling in the mud.

However, as we saw in the November Governor race, dollars alone do not win elections.  

Kate Maeder's picture

Campaign financing in SF

@CJC: you're right, money isn't everything. If you're blitzing voters with a dissonant message, then it's a pretty futile effort. And @adpostal: I don't think the point of campaign financing is to reduce the cost of campaigns - I think it's to incentivize a level playing field and to avoid so much special interest dollars. Campaigns can be quite expensive! That we know, but what's better: special interest money or taxpayer money? Thoughts?
adpostal's picture

True, but...

While both CJC and Kate have good points that money alone doesn't win races, this current system doesn't really change anything.  The candidates still need private funding, and the more private funding they get, the more public dollars they get.  So special interests never go away.  If San Francisco really wants to eliminate special interests, they should discourage candidates from raising private funding at all.  What if the system worked the other way, where the candidate with the least private money got the most public money? That might work better to achieve the city's goals. 

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