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Sarbanes: Take big money out of elections

Kudos to Baltimore for taking an important step toward citizen-owned elections (“Baltimore City Council to consider public financing of city elections,” April 23). This kind of system would put Baltimore among the vanguard of cities and states – including Maryland’s own Montgomery and Howard Counties – that are leading the fight against big money in politics.

Around the country, we’ve seen the positive effect of citizen-owned elections. In places like Seattle, Connecticut, Maine, Arizona and New York City, people are reducing the corrosive influence of wealthy special interests and taking charge of their democracy. Citizen-owned elections are empowering everyday voters, giving them a greater voice in government and encouraging them to engage in the political process. Citizen-owned elections are also diversifying and expanding the candidate pool by enabling more people — not only those with access to large sums of money — to run for office and win.

Importantly, the success of these small-donor systems is helping build momentum for federal reforms like The Government By the People Act, a bill I've authored to create a citizen-owned elections system for Congressional candidates. This bold reform proposal would diminish special-interest influence and make Congress more receptive to the issues that people care about like gun safety, protecting our environment and lowering prescription drug prices. By pointing to places across America where clean elections have made a meaningful and constructive impact, we can create more energy and enthusiasm for national reform.

The citizen-owned elections system proposed in the City Council presents Baltimore with an opportunity to join a growing national movement to reform our politics. If we can build a democracy of the many, not the money, we can return to a government of, by and for the people.

John Sarbanes, Towson

The writer, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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