CONCORD, NH — A survey of New Hampshire voters has found that large majorities in both parties believe big money is a problem in state elections, and support a current legislative proposal to fix it.
In the survey just released by Public Policy Polling, eight in 10 voters -- including 79% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans and 85% of Independents -- said they believe big money is a problem in Granite State elections.
House Bill 1773 would provide voters with four $25 “civic dollars” to donate to candidates for Governor, Executive Council and state Senate who pledge to limit their maximum donation from private donors to $250. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing, also includes other reforms, including stronger requirements to ensure financial transparency of SuperPACs and candidate campaigns, and tougher enforcement of campaign finance laws.
The House Election Law Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for January 16, 2018 at 10:50 a.m.
When the Civic Dollars proposal was described to the survey's respondents, 63% said they would support it -- including 50% of Republicans, 70% of Democrats and 68% of independent voters. Almost two-thirds of voters (64%) said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who used the system, rather than one who did not -- including 59% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats and 66% of independents.
“Civic Dollars will give New Hampshire voters a stronger voice,” said Olivia Zink, Executive Director of Open Democracy in Concord. “Our elected officials should work for all of their constituents, not just for the big contributors who put them in office.”
"My lengthy and varied experience in New Hampshire election campaigns has convinced me of the need for a public election financing system as a voluntary alternative for candidates," former state Senator Jim Rubens said in prepared testimony. "The present purely-private elections finance system seriously restricts participation by otherwise viable candidates for governor, councilor and state senate and narrows the range of debate and policy proposals during campaigns. The result is fewer choices for voters among candidates and slower progress in solving public policy challenges. Additionally, the current purely-private system tilts influence away from voters and toward those with money to spend on campaigns." Rubens has also served as chair of the GOP platform committee; chair of the 2000 GOP redistricting committee; and on two election finance panels which proposed public election finance legislation. As candidate for US Senate, he proposed voter tax rebates as a means to provide public finance mechanism for Congressional elections.
Other key findings from the survey include:
• A majority of respondents (63%) would be likely to contribute their Civic Dollars to qualified candidates, including 70% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans and 67% of Independents.
• 38% of respondents said they were even more likely to support the Civic Dollars program after learning that it would cost less than 1% of the New Hampshire state budget.
• A plurality of respondents (34%) -- including 37% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and 34% of Independents -- think wealthy campaign donors have the most influence in New Hampshire politics. Only 14% said they believe that N.H. voters have the most influence.