According to Northeast Action, a New England-based organization that has been at the forefront of efforts to achieve Clean Elections in the U.S. since the early 1990s, women are underrepresented in American government due to many factors, including a history of discrimination and disenfranchisement as well as a relative lack of access to money to run political campaigns.
CNA released a study in September showing that big-money donors have spent $1.7 billion in the past five years to influence state elections. After analyzing 2.4 million records on file with the secretary of state, CNA found 52,000 contributions of $5,000 or more had been made to candidates for statewide offices and the Legislature and to ballot-initiative campaigns. The average amount of those large contributions was $33,000.
Clean Elections specifically reduces the influence of big money on elections and enables people of modest means to run for office. In California, Prop 89 supports candidates who reject private fundraising by providing them with a set amount of public funding. The cost is paid by a two-tenths of one percent increase in the state corporate tax rate.
Proposition 89 is patterned on Clean Money initiatives that are now law in Arizona and Maine. In Arizona, voters approved a Clean Money initiative in 1998. In every year since the adoption of Clean Elections, more women have run for the Arizona State Legislature and won. In 2004, women accounted for 40 percent of publicly financed candidates. Arizona’s current governor, elected as a Clean Money candidate, is only the state’s third female governor.