Thank you for your article on the July 2 public forum [Abu-Taleb: Public financing of campaigns gives more choice, News]. This forum was an opportunity for the community to start a conversation about whether a small-donor matching program would be good for Oak Park. As one of the forum’s facilitators, I would like to offer some additional observations:

What is a small-donor matching program?

At its core, a small-donor matching program requires participating candidates to raise a certain level of small donations from local residents, which are then matched from a publicly-financed fund. A matching program, if successful, would:

encourage qualified residents to run for office, regardless of their financial situation

increase public engagement in local elections

decrease reliance on, and influence of, large donors or special interests

allow candidates to spend more time campaigning on issues and less time fundraising. 

How small is “small”?

That depends on a number of factors, including type of public office covered, size of the municipality adopting the program, etc. The parameters would be set by village ordinance with public input. The purpose is to achieve donor diversity and reduce reliance on large donors, personal wealth or special interests. A successful program should include the following components:

matching of small donations up to a cap on amount per donor, as well as an overall cap on total donations

small donors must be residents of the municipality/district for which the candidate is running for office

candidates who participate would agree to accept limits on large contributions and/or overall expenditures. 

Where do the matching funds come from?

In a word: You. You put the “public” in “public campaign finance.” The matching funds would come from taxpayer dollars. When you combine multiple small local donations with public funds, you reduce the potential for corruption and favoritism and increase the potential for well-qualified public officials who are accountable only to the taxpayers.

Who would run the program?

A department or agency of the village would administer the program, including determining that the matching criteria have been met, distributing matching funds, and reviewing required donation and expenditure reports by candidates. The details would be provided in an ordinance or regulations.

I hope the conversation will continue. If you would like the village board to consider adopting a small-donor matching program, be sure to let them know (email Wouldn’t it be great to have a bunch of great trustee candidates to choose from in the 2015 election?

Marie Jordan is a 14-year resident of Oak Park.

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