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Politics / Issues

Election Law Professor: Public Financing Encourages Diverse Candidates

Florida’s Speaker of the House wants to the state to stop funding political campaigns with taxpayer money. But an election law expert says public financing is vital to diversifying the ballot.

Credit Thomas Hawk via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

Whether they know it or not, Florida taxpayers are matching small donations, up to $250, for statewide campaigns. Not every candidate opts into the program, but those that do agree to cap their spending in exchange. House Speaker Richard Corcoran says this protects the “insider political class”. But Stetson University Law Professor Ciara Torres Spelliscy says public financing actually does the opposite.

“The public financing system is meant to encourage a broader variety of candidates to run in the first place so that you don’t have to have a link to big donors before you even consider running for public office,” she said.

Torres-Spelliscy believes private fundraising has too much sway over which candidates are deemed viable.

“And that could be one metric, but it shouldn’t be the only metric. So having some public financing in our electoral system really should encourage better candidates from more walks to life to actually use their talents to run for office,” she said.

But not everyone can participate in Florida’s public financing system. In order to be eligible for the matching funds, cabinet candidates must raise $100,000 and those running for governor must raise $150,000.

Efforts to repeal the state’s public finance system failed to win necessary voter approval in 2010.

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