Local Group Talks Campaign Finance Reform for Iowa

Of the 50 states in our wee union, just 13 lack limits placed on state election contributions–Iowa is one of them.

Adam Mason, Policy Organizing Director for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), says “The fact that you or I could write a $50,000 check [to a candidate] scares me.”

Mason says that as a result of these unlimited contributions, campaign expenses in Iowa have more than doubled over the last few election cycles. With the 2010 elections right around the corner, his group is taking aim at Iowa campaign finance reform by lobbying for both campaign contribution limits and a public financing option for state politicians. With similar public financing options having already taken hold in Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, CCI wants to see Iowa join the short list.

“It’s hard to get legislators to reform the rules that put them there,” said Mason. But it is these legislators who will ultimately have to make the changes, as Iowa lacks the opportunity for citizens to affect policy through referenda. Mason feels that reform will only come through a critical mass of citizen demand. CCI hopes to achieve this through collaboration with a number of statewide interest groups including The Sierra Club, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association and the Iowa Citizen Action Network.

Such reform will not be a cure-all for Iowa’s political woes, Mason feels. After all, campaign contribution limits are a staple of the federal election cycle, yet controversy continues over the interplay of money and politics at the federal level.

“[Contribution limits] definitely don’t stop money getting in. We know that it’s not the final piece of the puzzle,” said Mason. “However, it is a step–one that we haven’t yet taken in Iowa. Taking that first step will help us raise the issue and keep it moving forward on to the bigger picture: public financing.”

Mason stresses that campaign finance reform is far from a partisan issue, noting that the amount of money spent on elections has continued to skyrocket regardless of which political party holds control.

The issue affects all voters, according to Mason, extending beyond party affiliation or political ideology.

“We want to tap into the cynicism and anger that’s out there and turn it into action,” Mason said.

Interested in Iowa campaign finance reform?

Familiarize yourself with the current laws
Read what those advocating change are saying