By Julianne Heberlein
About 30 students attended a teach-in on getting money out of Prince George’s County politics hosted by Our Revolution and MaryPIRG in the Co-Op on Nov. 16.
Activists in Prince George’s County are pressuring the county council to create a small donor matching program for county elections. The teach-in educated students on the small donor matching program and encouraged them to push PG Councilwoman Danielle Glaros to support the program.
A small donor-funded election program gives candidates backed with community support a chance to win elected office without relying on corporate donations. The program requires candidates to only accept monetary donations below a certain dollar amount from residents instead of accepting large donations from wealthy individuals.
The program aims to hold candidates accountable to their voters. Instead of seeking donations from large corporations to fund their campaign, candidates can run a grassroots campaign and collect small donations that can be matched. Stories Beneath the Shell reported on this earlier in the year at the College Park town hall advocating for the program.
“This is an investment in our democracy because candidates would be encouraged to run on public support instead of money,” said Our Revolution Outreach Coordinator Michael Brennan. “It will change the culture of people running for office in PG County.”
In 2014, the state of Maryland passed legislation allowing counties to pass their own public financing legislation. Montgomery and Howard Counties have already passed the small donor matching program.
“It’s a really clean system with no PACs,” said Suchitra Balachandran, chair of Our Revolution Prince George’s County. “This is something we should definitely push in every county.”
MaryPIRG Democracy Campaign Coordinator Matt Aird said he wants Glaros to vote for the program. Aird said she sees the importance of public financing, but is not sure if there is enough community support. He wants to start a petition to prove that the community wants public financing. Aird urged attendees to email Glaros to tell her they attended the teach-in and want her support.
“I have free time tonight so I’m going to send Councilwoman Glaros a few sentences about what I’ve learned through this experience and why I’m convinced that this is the right way to go forward,” said junior English and environmental science and policy major Deanna Stephen. “This [teach-in] was really helpful and inspiring going forward with petitioning.”
Our Revolution President Christopher Walkup, a public policy graduate student, said he hopes to invite Glaros to an event where students can speak about why public financing is important to them.