Bringing Election Reform

By Moira Brennan, Letter to the Editor

A recent Marin IJ editorial and letter from the local League of Women Voters criticized Marin Clean Elections for educating Marin residents about publicly funded campaigns. Both insist that local campaign reforms should focus only on the regulation of Independent Expenditure Committees (IECs).

For better or worse, IECs enjoy the highest constitutional protection as political speech. But Justice Brandeis famously pointed out that the remedy for allegedly bad speech is not regulation, but more speech.

Publicly financed campaigns help create more free speech through "fair fight" funds. Saying that publicly financed elections will "have no effect on IECs" ignores the evidence in Arizona, where IECs against Clean candidates dropped almost 60 percent between 2002 and 2006. Could this be because their Clean Election system allowed candidates to respond to IEC attacks within 36 hours?

In its official position statement, the League of Women Voters-U.S. articulates a two-track campaign finance reform strategy. The first, "to achieve incremental reforms where possible in the short term," reflects the worthy steps that Marin's league is taking to improve IEC disclosure and reporting.

The second is to "build support for public financing as the best long-term solution." Clearly, the league and Marin Clean Elections are natural allies in driving election reform.

Public financing enables candidates to compete more equitably, to exercise their free speech rights more vigorously, and it combats undue influences in our election process, including the influence of IECs. We look forward to working with our local league colleagues to achieve this long-term solution.

Moira Brennan, San Rafael,
Northern California Director,
California Clean Money Campaign

See the article on Marin Independent Journal website

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