Fair Elections Ordinance Introduced to Limit Big Money in Politics in Chicago

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A landmark ordinance that aims to remove the influence of big money and special interests in Chicago municipal elections was introduced recently.

The ordinance, sponsored by Aldermen Joe Moore (49th Ward), Michelle Harris (8th Ward) and John Arena (45th Ward), creates a small-donor public-financing system for aldermen and citywide officials, including mayor, city clerk and city treasurer.

“The Fair Elections fund will provide for each candidate a $6-to-$1 match on each individual contribution up to $175 as long as candidates do not accept any donations more than $500 from one individual source,” Moore said. “Elected officials need to be laser focused on working with and for our constituents and not spend an inordinate amount of time on fundraising and meeting with those attempting to influence our political decisions.”

The ordinance will be heard by the City Council’s Committee on Rules and Ethics. “We need to create opportunities to empower citizens, benefit candidates that are not influenced by big money, and support stronger connections between elected officials and the people we serve,” said Alderman Harris.

“Following the Citizens United decision, unlimited contributions, PACs, Super PACs, secret money, corporate donors, lobbyists, and other special interest funders now dominate our elections,” said Alderman John Arena.

“All too often, well-funded lobbyists and large corporate interests determine who is elected and gain an extreme undue influence over public policy decisions including whether resources go to working communities and services for vulnerable populations or for privatization schemes and more corporate giveaways. This legislation will help working people to take back their city government ” Said David Hatch, executive director of The Reclaim Campaign.

According to Brian Gladstein, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, “We created the Fair Elections Illinois campaign because our political system is broken and does not serve the interests of the American people. Political campaigns have become too expensive – with about $7 billion spent in the 2012 presidential race and (more than) $40 million spent here in Chicago during the last mayoral race in 2015.”

“We know the people of Chicago support a public financing system similar to the systems that currently exists in such cities as New York City and Los Angeles. In fact, 79 percent of Chicago voters voted yes on the public financing ballot question last March. Now it is time for our aldermen to pass this ordinance and help us create fair elections,”Gladstein said.

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