NH Citizen Coalition - NH Public Funding of Elections

New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections

Correction to July 16 release

Abigail Abrash Walton, Independent (not Democrat) from Keene and faculty member at AntiochUniversity New England;

NH Citizen Coalition Announces Public Funding of Elections Commission

[Concord,NH] The New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections is pleased to announce the appointment of the Public Funding of Elections Commission.

Established by HB794, the commission will develop a plan to create and fund a voluntary system of public financing for election campaigns for the offices of governor, executive councilor and state senator. The commission’s report and recommendations are due December 1, 2008.

The commissioners were appointed for their expertise in public funding of elections, their knowledge of state budget issues, and bipartisan balance. They are:

Stuart Comstock-Gay, Concord Democrat and director of the Democracy Program at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action,

Abigail Abrash Walton, Democrat from Keene and faculty member at Antioch University NewEngland;

John Rauh, New Castle Democrat and president of Americans for Campaign Reform;

Jim Rubens, Republican, former state senator from Etna;

Martin Honigberg, Concord Democrat, attorney at Sulloway and Hollis;

Brad Cook, Republican from Manchester, attorney at Sheehan, Phinney, Bass, and Green; and

Barbara Hilton, Independent Citizen Activist from Portsmouth.

Comstock-Gay and Abrash Walton were appointed by the president of the senate; Rauh and Rubens were appointed by the speaker of the house; Honigberg and Cook were appointed by the governor, and Hilton was appointed by the secretary of state.

Research by the New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections shows that the cost of running a successful campaign for state senate can reach as much as $100,000. This effectively bars many qualified people from public service. Public financing of elections makes it possible for a wider range of people to run for office. Candidates qualify for funding by gathering a certain number of signatures and small dollar donations; once they agree to certain conditions, such as using no private money and participating in a certain number of debates, they are provided enough money to run a competitive race. The system is voluntary—no one is required to use it. But those who opt in can use the time they would otherwise spend with big donors talking with voters about issues. Once elected, officials answer onlyto voters, not donors.

Public funding of elections enjoys broad bi-partisan public support in New Hampshire, which is still poised to become one of the first states in the union to adopt it, after Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut.

Commissioners and legislative leaders alike agree that the commission’s greatest challenge will be to find a way to finance a public funding of elections system in the current economic climate. Undaunted by this challenge, Commissioner Rubens said, "The state's budget difficulties are no less pressing than our need for a campaign funding system that restores the primacy of voters over donors. I am confident that this commission has the ingenuity required to find the needed funding sources.”

The New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections includes individuals who have long fought for public financing—including Doris “Granny D” Haddock, and citizen organizations such as the League of Women Voters and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance.