Today the Maryland Commission to Study Campaign Finance Law will hear oral testimony from Brennan Center attorney and Maryland native Mimi Marziani regarding ways the state can strengthen its campaign finance laws.
Maryland is building on the success of the groundbreaking new disclosure law it enacted in 2011. That law requires the disclosure of independent expenditures and electioneering communications in addition to requiring that corporations report political spending directly to shareholders. Although the new law was a major first step, in light of the continued negative influence that significant outside — and often anonymous — spending is having on both state and federal elections in the wake of Citizens United, Maryland is considering further strengthening its laws.
In written testimony submitted to the Commission yesterday, the Brennan Center recommended changes in four areas:
- First, robust disclosure requirements are essential to a functioning, 21st century democracy. Voters have a right to know the identities of those seeking to influence their vote. And, disclosure deters corrupt, back-room dealings and enables regulators to detect violations of other campaign finance laws, like contribution limits. Maryland’s existing disclosure scheme should be further strengthened.
- Second, small-donor public financing of elections offers a way to free candidates from the influence of special interests and boost democratic participation. Maryland should consider modernizing its presently unused public financing program to further these goals.
- Third, the state should prohibit campaign contributions by government contractors in order to thwart the possibility of corrupt arrangements.
- Fourth, the state should continue to modernize its voter registration system to ensure that all those who are eligible are registered and able to vote on Election Day. Ultimately, the best way to combat the influx of new political money will be through an empowered, informed, and active electorate.
Through these changes, which all rest on firm constitutional ground, the state will be better able to combat corruption and empower regular citizens by giving them a bigger voice in the democratic process.