Senator Sheehan introduces legislation that would make public funding available for legislative campaigns
STATE HOUSE — Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced legislation that would provide public funding for legislative political campaigns in addition to general offices. Participation in the program would be voluntary.
Public financing of elections is designed to ensure that no particular donor has an outsized influence on the outcome of any election.
“Holding elected office in state government should not be exclusively for those who are wealthy or can raise a lot of money,” said Senator Sheehan. “Our government is enriched when a broader set of candidates from different walks of life, experiences, and perspectives participate in the decision-making process of our society. That is why I, in partnership with Common Cause RI, am enthusiastically introducing legislation to provide public funding opportunities for candidates to the General Assembly as well as to increase public funding opportunities to candidates for statewide office.”
Under the legislation, candidates for general office and legislative office would be eligible to receive voucher funds in an amount equal to $500,000 for candidates for governor, $250,000 for candidates for other general office, and $150,000 for candidates for legislative office.
“This effort will help to get more voters involved in the democratic process by becoming contributors to campaigns,” said Senator Sheehan. “This bill is expected to increase the number of small dollar donors significantly so they would greater reflect the electorate as a whole.”
Public funding plans require the candidate to accept public money for his or her campaign in exchange for a promise to limit how much the candidates can contribute to their own campaigns. Under Senator Sheehan’s bill, candidates would be limited in the amount of personal funds they could spend or loan to their campaigns — $75,000 for gubernatorial candidates, $18,750 for other general office candidates, and $5,000 for legislative candidates, though it would not limit the total spending. The exception is the governor’s race, where public financing and a spending cap is mandated by the constitution.
Rhode Island is currently one of 14 states that offers some sort of public elections funding, though only for general offices. If the legislation passes, Rhode Island would join Arizona, Connecticut and Maine in offering vouchers to legislative candidates as well.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903