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Press Releases - County Council

Council introduces changes to Public Campaign Financing system

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bill 31-20 would alter contribution limits, update carryover fund rules, require audit after general election and add penalties for willful violations

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 21, 2020—Today the Council introduced Bill 31-20, Public Campaign Financing – Amendments, which would improve the current public campaign financing system. Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Council President Sidney Katz and Councilmember Andrew Friedson are the lead sponsors. Bill 31-20 would do the following: amend the County public campaign financing system; alter the maximum contribution limits; allow participating candidates to carryover certain funds under certain circumstances; require an audit of the public campaign financing system after the general election in an election cycle; and alter the penalties for willful violations of the public campaign financing system. The goal of this legislation is to improve the County’s public campaign financing system.

In 2019, the Council committed to review the public campaign financing program, in an effort to make improvements where needed. The Council held a public forum on the public campaign financing system on March 26, 2019 where 11 speakers testified. Also, in 2019 then-Council President Nancy Navarro sent a survey to participants in the program, non-participants in the program and community groups seeking input as to their experiences during the inaugural cycle of public campaign financing.

“The 2018 election cycle demonstrated the positive impact that a Public Election Fund can have in a jurisdiction,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro, chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. “Montgomery County is often looked to as a national leader for our programming and policies, and we want to make sure that this Public Election Fund creates the same impact. While the fund led to increased opportunities for residents to run for office and received a national award, recognizing that there was still room for improvement, I led the effort to analyze where these improvements needed to be made. The bill introduced by my colleagues and I is based on a robust review of the program, that includes outreach to both participants and non-participants in the program, so that we could have a full understanding of what needs to be done to strengthen the program.”

“As a participant in the Public Election Campaign program, I saw how well it worked, and I also saw where there was room for improvement,” said Council President Sidney Katz. “These amendments will bolster the effectiveness of the already successful program. It is important to periodically evaluate these types of initiatives and make the required changes to ensure the effectiveness and success of the legislation.”

On September 30, 2014, the Council enacted, and the Executive later signed, Bill 16-14, Elections – Public Campaign Financing. Bill 16-14 established a Public Election Fund to provide public campaign financing for a candidate for a County elective office. Two additional amendments to the law have been enacted since then.

The program was first used in the 2018 election cycle. Some important facts regarding the inaugural election cycle are as follows: 68 candidates ran for either County Executive or County Council; of the 38 candidates that filed an intent to use public financing program for one of these offices, 23 candidates ultimately obtained public financing; and two-thirds of Councilmembers that won an elected office in 2018 chose public financing, as did the County Executive. The County ultimately spent approximately $5.2 million during the 2018 elections on public financing of which $4.1 million was spent during the primary election and $1.1 million was spent during the general election. Thanks to these successes, the County earned an achievement award from the National Association of Counties.

The Council is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on Bill 31-20 on Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m.

The Council staff report can be viewed here.

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Release ID: 20-317
Media Contact: Ikhide Roland Ikheloa 240-777-7968